Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

Outdoor Retailer

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Recap (and Awards)

Outdoor Retailer is so big sometimes I wonder why it’s not in Vegas. But no, Salt Lake City is the perfect setting for this fun, extravagant and energetic national tradeshow. With mountains only a short drive away, SLC is positioned perfectly to host this confab of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country (and around the world). There’s so much going on in the outdoor industry that they hold the show twice a year: once in winter and once in summer.

The recent OR Summer Market took place the week of August 4th at the Salt Palace Convention Center. On Tuesday, attendees were invited to an Open Air Demo at Huntsville, Utah’s Pineview Reservoir, tucked neatly in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest just down the road from Snowbasin Ski Resort. The OAD was packed with 100-plus small exhibitors crouched under branded canopies, many of them offering free tryouts on kayaks, paddleboards and more. After a brief downpour mid-morning, the rest of the day turned into a fun, engaging and playful event.

As for the tradeshow itself, several acres of floor space at the convention center are occupied by the biggest show of the year in Salt Lake City, resplendent with top-notch exhibits, some as large as 100’ x 70’ that dominate the area. Keen, Merrell, Thule, Timberland, The North Face, Cascade Designs, Mountain Hardwear, Columbia and more came to Outdoor Retailer ready to show off their new goods – and no doubt spent a pretty penny with HUGE exhibits.

So what caught attendee’s eyes? For me, it was solar power. Lots of solar chargers: foldable, portable and powerful. Solar power is coming into it’s own and in the next half a decade or so it should explode as the cost of creating a kilowatt of power via solar will continue to plunge below that of the cost of typical energy. It seems that every time I turned a corner there was another solar-powered gizmo.

And the booths? Well, let’s have a little fun with some awards, shall we?

Best brand representation: Keen Shoes. Yes, this is a category with a lot of tough competition, but Keen is so over-the-top with recycled pallets for walls, recycled windows, hand-made booth elements and funky swagger that how can you NOT give this award to Keen?


Walking Dead Re-birth: Kelty. Yes, the Walking Dead were used as inspiration for having to carry around a crappy backpack, so you’d better get fit with a really good Kelty Pack!


Best Use of Stuffed Dogs to Show Off Your Products: Ruffwear. You might be surprised, but there were a LOT of stuffed dogs used to show off gear. Ruffwear managed to do it with style with gear made exclusively for dogs. Talk about focus!


Best Tent Campground. Lots of tents at OR, but The North Face took over nearly a quarter of an acre with tents. Lots of tents. It felt vaguely like a Grateful Dead concert, missing just the tie-dye and herb.


Best use of Brick: Carhartt. The faux brick surface made it look like the two-story booth that represented a storefront had been built one brick at a time. Beautiful.


Best ‘Stop Dead in Your Tracks’ Booth: Brunton. Use of bright colors, back lit panels and shapes that grab your attention did indeed stop people in their tracks. Hard to capture in a photo, but I gave it a try.


Best Product Demo Video: Coast Portland. It took a little patience, but after viewing the video shot near Oregon’s Coos Bay showing off the company’s flashlights, you came away convinced that they were the best you could buy.


And finally, Most Iconic Use of an Icon: Leave No Trace’s Bigfoot, who posed for photos and invited attendees to tweet selfies for a chance to win footwear!


I spent two days of the show jotting notes on my clipboard, doing booth assessments: subjecting almost two dozen booths to a closer exam that I call the Tradeshow Booth Performance Test. I’ll be sharing that information with those companies in the few weeks – always a great learning experience for both (I hope!).

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market on the Horizon!

Hey, I’m heading to Outdoor Retailer in early August. Salt Lake City hosts this fun and engaging national show twice a year: one for winter market (think skiing!) and once for the summer market (boating, hiking, bicycling and more!). Thousands of exhibitors and tens of thousands of attendees take over the Salt Palace Convention Center the first week or so of August.

…and I’ll be there doing some tradeshow booth performance tests. You know, a look at how companies are using their tradeshow booths to live up to the promise of gathering leads, attendee engagement and delivering a brand message.

Check out my invitation:

7 Surefire Ways to Energize Social Media at Tradeshows – #1: Look at What Others Are Doing

(See the first post in this series: The Basics)

When I first sat down to a computer back in, oh, the early 90s, I had no idea what I was doing. But my friend Rich did know and he loved figuring stuff out on his computer. Over the next few years whenever I wanted to find a shortcut to learning something new on my PC, I just went to his house and looked over his shoulder. Believe me, watching others do something is the best way to pick up a skill or at least some valuable tips and tidbits on how things work. In large part due to his willingness to try new things and let me look over his shoulder, I got pretty good at working with those old clunky computers, back when they were brand new and needed some focused attention to get things to work properly.

Apple Computer, 1983 (Lisa)

Same thing when I was in college when I took a tennis class. I wasn’t that good at tennis, although I was a decent athlete. I found that when I played tennis with someone better than me my skill level would rise significantly. When I played with someone worse than me, I played worse. That was an eye-opener to me.

As a kid learning to ski, I never took lessons. But that didn’t stop me from lurking 50 feet away from a class and trying to pick up some pointers, which helped me find more shortcuts to learning. Hey, I guess I’ve been hacking education in some shape or form since I was just a sprite!

In other words, you should never discount the value of watching someone that’s better than you. Or worse. Because you’ll likely learn something along the way.

So first, look at what others are doing in their social media/tradeshow engagement efforts. Examine to find out what works, and copy or adapt ideas.

It may take a little effort to find out what works. Just because someone is tweeting out promotions for a tradeshow booth doesn’t mean it’s working well for them. If you can do a little digging, though, you should be able to find out how things worked out. You can see if they posted photos, videos or blog posts about the tradeshow. Then do what you can to uncover how successful it was. Often a quick phone call to someone is the easiest way. Just ask how their promotion went and what they’d do differently next time!

To re-cap:

  • Watch what others do
  • Learn what works
  • Avoid what doesn’t work
  • Copy or adapt ideas
  • Learn from their success and failure

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 photo credit: Alan Light

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