All-Purpose Marketing for the International Baking Industry Exposition

A lot has changed since the last International Baking Industry Exposition was held in 2019. Here’s how the 2022 edition took a fresh approach to marketing.

Authors: Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes       
Kate Ammerman       

International Baking Expo branding

Baker attendance at the International Baking Industry Exposition 2022 rose 25 percent compared to IBIE 2019, thanks in large part to a clever marketing campaign showcasing baked goods in unexpected situations.

The International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) — which is produced every three years and jointly owned and produced by BEMA (Bakery Equipment Manufacturers and Allieds) and American Bakers Association (ABA), with support from the Retail Bakers of America (RBA) — is anything but stale. Each edition of the largest industry event in the Western Hemisphere, which brings together 23,000 participants from all segments of the grain-based foods industry, reflects the most current trends, highlights the latest innovations, attracts the hottest celebrity chefs, and features new competitions, education sessions, and demo areas.

As a result of a marketing campaign that constantly evolves to reflect market forces, the shifting media landscape, and changing audience behaviors, IBIE’s attendance has continued to grow over the last few editions — including at its most recent event, Sept. 17-21, 2022 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, despite industry consolidation, the proliferation of low-carb diets, and the aftermath of the pandemic. In fact, baker attendance rose 25 percent compared to IBIE 2019. Here are the ingredients that contributed to that growth.

Baking Expo reg desk

The marketing concept for the International Baking Industry Exposition 2022 helped transform the lobbies and registration area at the Las Vegas Convention Center into an artful celebration of grain-based foods.

1. A targeted international outreach program. With ongoing domestic consolidation among wholesale bakeries, selling to foreign buyers is consistently cited by many exhibitors as the most viable channel for their growth. As such, a dedicated team of international marketers, a healthy budget, and a sustained strategic approach were directed at this goal. Anjia Nicolaidis, international marketing strategist at mdg, attributes much of this year’s success to a strong international delegation program, a tailored multilingual marketing campaign, and a unique approach to influencer marketing. The results speak for themselves: IBIE attracted 22 delegations and visitors from 106 countries. International baker attendance rose by 34 percent, including a 52-percent increase from Mexico and a 40-percent increase from Canada.

2. Robust influencer marketing activities. IBIE activated macro- and micro-influencers to drive awareness, reach new audiences, elevate the brand, and increase event exposure. In addition to showcasing celebrity chefs like Buddy Valastro and Duff Goldman, along with other stars from Food Network, Bravo and HBO, this year, four macro-influencers were recruited to engage in pre-show marketing, present demonstrations on site, and even add value with post-show content. The macro-influencers’ social posts garnered more than 3 million impressions and 70,000 engagements. IBIE also called on the power of micro-influencers by encouraging attendees to use a referral marketing tool upon registering. Additionally, speakers were provided with personalized graphics and a branded video-production tool to promote their sessions. These micro-influencers were responsible for nearly 5,000 mentions reaching 6 million people.

3. Betting big on digital. Since the last show, IBIE’s database had fallen victim to the “great reshuffle” in addition to the natural attrition that happens over a three-year cycle. IBIE shifted strategy to include more paid and earned channels to supplement the data decay within its owned channels — and a budget shift from direct mail to digital marketing delivered more than 10 million impressions with more than 5,500 conversions attributed directly to the campaign. IBIE also revamped its media partnerships to expand reach, partnering with 50 media outlets and working very closely with editors to generate content.

Baking Expo merchandise booth

IBIE organizers created another revenue stream using the “BAKED IN” marketing campaign in merchandise.

4. An adaptable event brand. Reaching and appealing to the ancillary market segments of the grain-based food industry — including retail bakers, pizza, biscuit and cracker, snack, tortillas, and more — is a huge growth opportunity for the show. As such, the campaign creative had to be easily adapted to the various segments and stay fresh and exciting over a three-year cycle. This year’s “BAKED IN” concept not only checked all the boxes but also helped transform the lobbies of the Las Vegas Convention Center into a beautiful celebration of grain-based foods. The campaign was so popular that it was used to create swag, which created another revenue stream for event organizers.

International Bakers Cannibas pavilion

IBIE targeted attendees interested in adding cannabis-infused baked goods to their product mix with a new pavilion, exhibits, and a dedicated education track.

One More Ingredient: High Collaboration

The IBIE team takes a cross-disciplinary approach to event planning, ensuring that sales, operations, and education are all aligned with marketing on growth strategies. For example, upon learning that U.S. sales of cannabis edibles were valued at $3.6 billion and expected to exceed $8 billion by 2025, IBIE decided to target the growing number of food professionals interested in adding cannabis-infused baked goods to their product mix. A dynamic new pavilion was created that offered exhibits and a dedicated education track. This offering helped the event expand to new audiences and sparked the curiosity of loyal attendees.

Kate Ammerman is marketing lead on IBIE and Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes is president and chief marketing strategist at mdg, a Freeman Company, a full-service marketing and public relations firm specializing in B2B events.