What happens when you, as a company, take a stand on an issue important to you on the tradeshow floor?
As with pretty much everything, the answer is: it depends.
I don’t see it all the time, but there are a few examples where supporting a cause is a big part of a company’s tradeshow exhibit. A part of their public-facing stance.
The first one that came to mind was a recent update to an exhibit we did for Dave’s Killer Bread. Dave Dahl, the famous Dave of the namesake brand, had a, shall we say, interesting history. As a result, in 2019’s updating of the exhibit for Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, DKB focused a large part of their messaging on an issue important to them: making sure felons have a second chance. Their main counter and backdrop behind it were graced with statistics and images offering their take on the issue.
Another recent project seen at Expo West was Kashi’s spare booth warning of the lack of organic farmland in the U.S. There was no product to taste or see, just a simple 20×20 exhibit that displayed their concerns.
Another client, Bob’s Red Mill, made a change to their overhead banner touting that the company was an employee-owned company.
Once you start looking, it’s not hard to see the causes that companies support in their tradeshow booths. World’s largest B Corp. Zero waste to landfill. 100% organic. Save the Bees. The free-from market. And on and on.
Sure, you could say that especially in the natural products world, showing off your bona fides is just good marketing. And that’s true. But many companies go beyond that and plainly support causes as part of their tradeshow exhibit that a few years ago would be rare.
It’ll be interesting to see how this continues to unfold, and if it’s as obvious in other industries.
When Natural Products Expo West was cancelled on March 2, just a couple of days before the doors were to have opened to 80,000+ attendees and 3500+ exhibitors, there was a sense of “what did we miss by not being able to exhibit, by not being able to attend?”
And it happened for everyone. Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we had several clients who had done modest upgrades to their exhibits. Upgrades that would have showed off new products, new brands, you name it.
But I thought they should see the light of day, so that followers could at least get an idea of what they missed. Plus, knowing that companies often change year over year, there’s a good chance that none of these exhibit revisions would be used in 2021. We worked with several other clients at the show, mainly to assist in installation and dismantle, so there was nothing new to show. I reached out to the clients involved, and many of them said, YES, please share those concepts; the artwork and revisions that we would have shown our visitors at Expo West. And one client declined to show off their new look, opting instead to save it for the future. Here’s a short video of those changes:
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!).
(Warning: self-promotional blog post. Not recommended more than once or twice a year…)
It was my 11th year at Expo West as a representative of a company that provides exhibit booths for exhibitors.
First: 11 years? Kidding, right?
No. The first booth client I had way back in 2003 was Kettle Foods of Salem, Oregon, which lead to doing a booth for Nancy’s Yogurt / Springfield Dairy, Natracare, Hyland’s Homeopathic, gDiapers and many others.
Besides having to basically eat your way through the day with the glut of food samples, I spent time meeting exhibitors and making connections.
And making sure that my new projects were working.
The two new booths my company, Communication One Exhibits had this year were from Bob’s Red Mill and gDiapers. The Bob’s Red Mill was a custom 30’ x 30’ booth, designed by Greg Garrett Designs of Vancouver and fabricated by Classic Exhibits. It was a stunner and was definitely well-received by the company – including Bob Moore, who called it ‘impressive’ – and show visitors. The exhibit had three structures – a main company info-display area, a product display area and – in a new move for Bob’s Red Mill – a food sampling station. The main structure was capped with a 4’ cupola high atop a structure that echoed their mill store in Milwaukie, Oregon. Either end of the main structure had 52” video screens that continuously showed informative videos.
Bob has a great way of making an entrance. Bring along a Dixieland band! Check out the video from Day One:
The other booth was at the other end of the scale. gDiapers, of Portland, Oregon, is a company that offers reusable diaper covers with disposable inserts. Years ago, when I was VP of Sales and Marketing for Interpretive Exhibits, we designed and constructed a 20’ in-line booth for gDiapers that had plenty of display space, slat wall and a fabric banner across the top. As their clientele needs evolved, so did the company’s desire for a simpler display that was easier to set up. So with the help of Portland’s Boothster, we designed and built a 10’ inline booth that had a small display area and a large 10’ fabric back wall, along with cardboard chairs and cardboard tube-constructed counter with wrap-around graphic. The booth looked great and gDiapers loved it!
Yes, I blog about social media and tradeshow and event marketing, but my company Communication One Exhibits has a ton of great capabilities to design and fabricate tradeshow booths to suit any need.
Let me now step off of my soapbox…thank you verry much for your time!
If that headline mystified you – because you don’t know what the heck a ‘spurtle’ is – you’re not alone.
For starters, a spurtle is is a Scottish kitchen tool that dates back to the fifteenth century. The ‘Golden Spurtle’ is awarded each year in Scotland to someone who cooks some darn fine porridge in the World Porridge Making Championship, in Carrbridge, Inverness-shire, Scotland, on ‘World Porridge Day’. As the website states, “The title of World Porridge Making Champion is awarded to the chef deemed to have made the best traditional porridge using oatmeal, water and salt.”
From what I can gather from talking to the folks at Bob’s Red Mill, the competition, which is put on by the Scots, is usually (if not always) won by a Scot.
Not this year. In October of 2009, Matt Cox of Bob’s Red Mill (an Interpretive Exhibits client), claimed the title and the Golden Spurtle. The follow six-minute film of the event is a bit of a kick.
Our congratulations to Matt and Bob’s Red Mill! Our big question is: you are going back to defend your title, aren’t you, Matt?
Interpretive Exhibits designed and fabricated a shelving back wall with signage (photo below) for gDiapers a year or two ago, and since then have gotten to know several of the great folks in the company.
Just last week gDiapers had a grand opening of their new location on MLK Jr Blvd in Portland. One reason we love working with gDiapers is because they expend a lot of effort doing good things in the world: they have a family-like atmosphere at their office where kids come to daycare; strong pro-environmental policies are a way of life, and its obvious that a lot of love and passion is floating through the building.
Business Name: gDiapers
Person responding to questionnaire: Jason Graham-Nye
In the old days it seemed a tradeshow was an excuse to party half the night and wake up in the hot tub.
But with an eagle eye on budgets being the norm today, how can you stretch your bucks? Let’s look at five ways:
1. Plan ahead. The sooner you know details of your show set-up and travel plans the better. You can usually save by submitting show paperwork early, and booking flights and hotels months, not weeks, ahead of the show.
2. Buy a nice carpet and take your own trash cans instead of renting.
3. Know the rules. Some shows will enforce codes that can be very costly, or penalize you if you break them. Your trade show manager should have the show books nearly committed to memory.
4. Ship early. Last-minute drayage costs can shoot the moon.
5. Avoid high cleaning fees: take your own carpet sweeper.
These are just thought-starters. With a little brainstorming you come up with your own $$-saving list.
Business Name: Mountain Rose Herbs
Person responding to questionnaire: Irene Wolansky
Title: Marketing Director
Years in business: 22
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Approx number of employees: 65
Website Address: www.mountainroseherbs.com
Main target market: Our target market is fairly large, and includes almost everyone! We sell retail to the public as well as wholesale to stores, co-ops, manufacturers, resellers, etc.
Most successful marketing strategy/tactic or method: We don’t believe that there has been a single successful marketing strategy for us. Rather, we believe that it is a culmination of everything that we do which has led to our marketing success. This includes print and web advertising, sponsorships of festivals and conferences, postcard and catalog mailings, e-newsletters, and our presence at tradeshows with our beautiful booth made by Interpretive Exhibits.
What is the best thing you get out of tradeshow marketing? We enjoy the opportunity to meet our customers and suppliers in person, make new contacts, and show people who we truly are. For us, tradeshows are not about making sales, they are about strengthening new and existing relationships.
Biggest complaint? Our only complaints are sore feet at the end of the day and greedy attendees who grab everything in sight including our display materials!
Favorite Quote: Attendees often tell us that our booth is one of their favorite at conferences, but our favorite is when they tell us that they “find our booth an oasis in the middle of a hectic show.” People comment that it feels so relaxing and inviting at our booth that they don’t want to leave! We let them stay as long as they would like.
Biggest Lesson Learned: Find a reliable company that you trust to set up your booth. Interpretive Exhibits assisted us with this, and we are forever grateful to them. We will never hire show labor again!
Most extreme thing you ever did? Business or personal?
The most extreme thing that Mountain Rose Herbs has done was eradicating conventional products entirely from our product line. We offer over 3,000 products, so this was no small task!
On a personal level I can’t think of a single most extreme thing that I have done, but it might be backpacking alone throughout Southeast Asia. I spent 6 months in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia, and it was one of the most rewarding and amazing things that I have ever done.
All-time favorite movie? I don’t watch too many movies, but “Office Space” is definitely one of my all-time favorites.