Top 5 Ways Consumer Brands Make an Impact at Medical Meetings

The 2024 American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Annual Meeting was a feast for the senses. The larger-than-life exhibit hall with sights and sounds mimicking a high-end Vegas casino. Some of the best dressed and brilliant minds in the academic world exploring hot topics in skin care and latest dermatological advancements. The scent of the newest face creams, body butters and sunscreens as attendees tested product samples. Countless networking moments filled with delicious dinners, delightful drinks and even a “walking taco.” And all of this, set in the breezy Marina district of sunny San Diego.

When it comes to how consumer brands make a splash at a meeting like AAD 2024 — which had record-breaking attendance of nearly 20,000 people — there are a few key takeaways that stood out for me:

  • Slice and Dice That Data: We know that consumers today are seeking scientific evidence behind their beauty and skincare products. Submitting abstracts and presenting science at medical meetings like the AAD is the foundation for credible efficacy claims that can build trust among today’s discerning consumers. We’re seeing brands not only present new research on their latest innovations, but also providing different cuts of existing data to ensure they can continue to stay relevant and support current brand priorities.

  • Out-of-the-Box Stands Out: Some of the most impactful consumer brand moments were quite literally outside the conference center’s four walls. But it can’t just be a PR stunt for stunt’s sake, it needs to be true to the brand’s identify and product priorities. For example, we saw a sunscreen application station outside of a local CVS from a brand with SPF products. We also saw a food truck that handed out lattes featuring the brand’s hero natural ingredient.

  • Crafting Experiential Connections: In the exhibit hall, the most successful brands had an engaging experiential component to their booth. Everything from live facials to makeup artist stations to self-serve testers on a string offered a hands-on sensory experience for attendees, which is critical in a world where the touch and feel of a product is so fundamental to continued use. Sparkly backdrops, stunning nature walls and life size product replicas were popular photo backgrounds and drew attendees to further engage with the brand.

  • From Experience to Expertise: While experiential elements may draw attendees into the booth, the clinical research and data is what gets them to stay. For consumer brands looking to further establish credibility, it’s important to have your clinical data come to life at the booth in an easy to process manner and have someone from the R&D team on site to “talk the talk.” Demo stations, product theaters and interactive touchscreens provided an engaging forum for dermatologists to dig deeper into the science, which ultimately helps build trust and drive referral to their patients.

  • Maximizing Moments Using Multi-Channel Tactics: Beyond a brand’s physical presence at the meeting, it’s important for companies to maximize this moment in time across communications channels. A true 360-degree communications approach—including paid, earned, owned and social media—can amplify a brand’s presence and reinforce credibility among key audiences. Social media in particular connects those on-site with those participating virtually around the globe, and really makes the most of the world’s largest dermatology meeting.

And, one more bonus tip—samples, samples, samples! We know dermatology professionals want to test and experience products before they can recommend them to their patients. Consumer brands are at an advantage as they can provide mini or full-size products, unlike pharmaceutical company exhibitors who can’t sample prescription medicines. Samples are undoubtedly the biggest draw in the AAD exhibit hall (some attendees pack an extra suitcase to bring all of their samples home!), but a brand needs to be intentional. Products should be tied to the data that is being showcased at the meeting in order to prompt meaningful conversation about the product and how it works. Additional “bonus” samples can be used to incentivize deeper engagement with the brand as a prize after, for example, answering a quiz question correctly or listening to a product demo.

The 2024 AAD Annual Meeting epitomized the fusion of science, innovation and consumer engagement in the dermatology industry. As companies continue to evolve their strategies, these key insights will serve as guiding principles in navigating the dynamic landscape of medical meetings for consumer brands.

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