What is a step and repeat banner? It's the backdrop thing with logos on it that you see behind celebrities in pictures at red carpet events – or at least, that's its technical definition.
We prefer the marketing-specific explanation: step and repeats are an inexpensive way to increase brand awareness by getting your logo and company name featured in the backgrounds of images that'll be used everywhere, from newspapers to Facebook profile pics. A step and repeat banner also adds a distinctly hip factor to any event, and gives off the impression that you represent a legit company. If you've got a step and repeat, your shindig is officially swanky – and worthy of Instagramming selfies from.
You don't need to roll out the red carpet for a step and repeat to work its magic – they're just as useful at trade shows, conventions, demo days, grand openings and every other kind of event that you want your company to have a real presence at.
Here's everything you need to know about finding, buying and using the perfect step and repeat for your business.
How Much Do Step and Repeat Banners Cost?
For the purpose of comparison, let's assume that you'll purchase the smallest standard size banner: 8' x 8'. You can expect to pay between $98 and $500. Why the big spread? The price will be dictated by the quality of the step and repeat you choose, as well as its material. When it comes to the material, you've got two primary choices: vinyl or fabric.
Vinyl is both the most common and the most inexpensive. Its major drawback is that it can give off a glare from camera flashes, though some manufacturers offer what's called "matte vinyl" that helps mitigate the problem. The glare issue can also be addressed through your choice of lighting and ink, which we'll discuss below. Vinyl can also crease and wrinkle, which will give off even more glare (and look like the step and repeat equivalent of linen pants that've been worn on a hot and humid 8-hour bus ride).
Fabric, on the other hand, will never reflect light – unless you go for some sparkle-woven monstrosity. And depending on the material, it can even be 100% wrinkle-free.
Stickers-Banners sells a vinyl backdrop for $98. StepandRepeat.com offers a fabric backdrop that comes with a stand for $550. Event Step and Repeat conveniently combines a vinyl backdrop, stand and fancy red carpet for $295. If you want to go crazy, you can even order custom red carpets that feature your branding (although it's unlikely that the carpet will make it into many images, so feel free to skip this add-on).
What You Should Look For When Buying a Step and Repeat
There are several key points you want to consider when you buy a backdrop, and you should make your decision based on what will get you the most mileage out of your step and repeat. If you've got a bigger budget, you may even want to buy several options to rotate through, depending on the space limitations of the events you attend.
The standard height for a backdrop is 8', and the width can be customized to your preference (the widest we found without going custom is 16', but there's really no limit). Another alternative to a traditional step and repeat is a 4' x 8' panel stand with your company's logo and information printed on it – this will fit in more spaces, but unless you're only taking close-up photos you'll be able to see the edges of the backdrop.
Reasons to spring for a wider step and repeat:
- You're less likely to see the edges of the backdrop in images
- They allow multiple people (or even groups!) to be photographed at once
- They provide a striking visual at your event – think the entrance "wow" factor
Reasons to go for a smaller step and repeat:
- They fit in smaller spaces, like behind your booth at a trade show
- They're more portable
- They're more affordable
We often say that the best of two options is usually both, unless the they're mutually exclusive. If choose a panel design for your step and repeat (like the image at the top of this post), you can combine two or more to form a wider step and repeat. If space is tight, you can opt to set up only one panel.
The main consideration is that your logo be small enough to fit – readably – in the frame, regardless of the number or height of the people being photographed. This usually results in logos that're 9-11 inches wide and 5-7 inches tall, set in a repeating pattern across the full length of the backdrop.
Ink is far more reflective than the white vinyl itself, so the more white space you leave, the less you'll have to worry about glare. And in most cases, that white isn't actually white – the pros recommend that you ask for a slight grey tint instead to further reduce glare (don't worry, it'll still appear white in the photos). If you prefer that your background have some color to it, go with fabric – that much ink will be wildly reflective on vinyl. Whatever color you choose, make sure you pick one that will help your subjects pop off of the background.
Ease of Assembly
The last thing you want to be struggling with at an event is the setup of your step and repeat (and you definitely don't want it to crash on people). When buying a backdrop, consider the ease of assembly and quality of the stand that will be supporting it. Have you ever tried to put together an IKEA filing cabinet? That's not the kind of experience you want to have with every setup and takedown.
Most step and repeats will roll up nicely for storage, and if you can get your hands on a carrying case it may be worth the extra cash to keep your backdrop clean and wrinkle-free. And can you even carry it yourself, or will you need help? You're going to be schlepping this package around airports and convention centers, so make sure you can get it from Point A to Point B on your own if you don't expect to have help on hand.
Why Should Business Owners Invest in Step and Repeat Backdrops?
They provide free advertising for your brand. Location, location, location – that's what you'll get with a step and repeat banner bearing your company's branding. How? It's prime advertising real estate as Facebook and Twitter profile pictures, which often remain in place for months at a time. Or even just as general photos that're uploaded to profiles – they tend to get a lot of engagement (read: eyeballs). Social media users like to see and be seen, and a red carpet-esque shapshot says, "Check out my enviable social and professional life!" While making their friends jealous, they'll also be promoting your business.
They can give you expensive photos on the cheap. A step and repeat is also a clever way to get recognition for your business from whomever poses in front of it. Grab pictures with thought leaders, industry executives and/or celebrities in front of your backdrop, and you'll walk away from the event with images you'll use for years to come.
They make your company stand out at trade shows. Step and repeats – or smaller standup banners if the space is limited – make for impressive backdrops to your booth or table at trade shows and conventions. You'll look more professional, attract more people to your space and earn the envy of other exhibitors. You don't want to have to say, "Look for my competitor's huge backdrop, I'm three booths to the left of it…" when telling people where your booth is – and we've actually heard people say that at trade shows before.
They provide a fantastic return on investment. You're going to own a giant advertisement that people actually want to spread around for you, so the possibilities for using it will begin to pop up all over your radar. Charity events that you co-sponsor, grand openings, trade shows, conferences – if there will be camera-happy people present, your step and repeat should be there as well. Plus, you can use the same one for years (you'll only have to buy a new one if you lose your old one or rebrand your business).
Pro Tips for Buying and Using a Step and Repeat Banner
1.) If your budget is limited, get another company to help you pay for it. You'll notice that many events feature multiple sponsor logos on the same backdrop (like the above pic of the Cartier/Mercedes-Benz banner). Want to save some money on yours? Offer to feature complementary companies' logos on it in addition to your own, and see if you can split the cost. Co-branded step and repeats are less likely to be reused, though, so keep in mind that this will likely be a one-and-done purchase.
2.) Don't skimp on the lighting. If you're opting for vinyl, the best way to avoid glare is to provide ample lighting yourself, which will discourage photographers from using their own camera's flash. Professional umbrella lights are ideal. Remember: the better the people look in their photos, the more likely they'll be to share them. Consider hiring a professional photographer who will make sure that the lighting is right and the subjects of the photo look amazing. Encourage people to like your company's Facebook page on the spot by telling them that the images will be uploaded en masse after the event.
3.) Preserve your investment. Trust us – keep your backdrop rolled neatly in a case when it's not in use. If you don't store or transport it correctly, you'll end up with wrinkles and stains (which can be difficult to get out). You want your step and repeat to be clean and crisp, just like your image.
If you're looking for more ideas on how to get the most out of attending trade shows and other events, check out TCF's free Guide to Marketing Your Business at Trade Shows. Traveling and tickets to these shindigs aren't cheap, and this guide will help you squeeze out every dollar of ROI possible.
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