Please welcome Joanie Nelson! Joanie is our Marketing Assistant and since this is her first post on the site I thought I would give her a proper welcome. You’ll be seeing more posts from Joanie in the coming weeks.

There have been discussions among security professionals over the last week on the practice of using booth babes at tradeshows to attract foot traffic. We’ve also been discussing the issue internally and I asked Joanie to share her thoughts in a blog post. What follows is her post.

The number of booth babes at RSA is too damn high

The concept of “booth babes” has been around since 1967, when the first Consumer Electronics Show was held in New York City. Back then, they were known as “CES Guides,” a title that has been replaced with a less discerning one, “booth babes.” Since then, the marketing ploy has drifted into other technology trade shows and events, such as RSA.

Chenxi Wang, Ph.D., is the VP for Market Intelligence at Intel Security. She and many others are tired of this “old school” practice and she wants change. Tired of seeing booth babes year after year show up at the RSA conference, this year in particular, she was wholly turned off by the booth babes. After a year of controversial stories and news directly affecting the security sector, she was surprised to still see booth babes. She took to her blog, where she states her case for why booth babes need to go. Instead of the yearly rants and commentary on the presence of booth babes, she wants actual change. For women who are wanting to enter IT (like myself) and for future generations of girls, changing the dialogue could represent a powerful change in dynamic.

The security industry is dominated by men, something that is widely known. The purpose of these conferences is for companies to show off their new products and solutions. In 2014, the norm for conferences and trade shows should be to focus on the product and not market to majority using booth babes. At what point do companies realize they aren’t promoting their brand, but they are hurting their brand when they objectify a gender.

Winn Schwartau made his opinion known last year after the 2013 RSA Conference, where he states that he is, “offended that vendors can come up with amazing technologies but still find it necessary to resort to tickling the male amygdala to attract traffic to their booths.” He also states what is probably a more popular thought on this marketing technique in the security sector, is that most people are more interested in the technology and don’t want to see scantily clad women at booths.

Moreover, using these booth babes to draw in people, often brings the lower level professional, who isn’t there to buy services, but to check out the booth babes. Spencer Chen noticed this, when he put the booth babe marketing tactic to use. He found that his theory that booth babes don’t bring in more deals, leads, or foot traffic to be true.

For the security industry, it’s fair to say that most professionals want to be impressed by the technology. They want to know more about it and in detail. When wanting to know how a product can help protect your business or interests, who can take a woman in platform shoes and barely there clothing very seriously? In fact, it’s fair to assume most security professionals at RSA or another technology event would see through this kind of marketing and wonder what’s wrong with this product that they put it behind booth babes and not market it for a more technical oriented crowd; a crowd intelligent enough to see through the booth babes.

The bottom line on booth babes is they don’t add value to a booth. The focus should always be on the product. Attention should never be taken away from the brilliance of a solution. Staffing knowledgeable people, whether men or women, should be priority for companies who want to sell their technology to people who understand technology.