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

Tradeshow marketing

Stranger in a Strange Land: the New World of Tradeshows

If you’re a fan of Robert Heinlein’s classic science fiction book “Stranger in a Strange Land,” you know the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who was born on Mars, raised by Martians, and comes to Earth in early adulthood. He ends up in a political power struggle and as the title suggests, he’s a little lost in the whole thing.

I sense that many people are feeling a similar way when it comes to returning to the tradeshow floor. Exhibit designers, builders and exhibitors are looking to the future when things will return to normal and they can get back to the action of exhibiting and all that entails.

Except…

This morning I see a post in a tradeshow group on Facebook that a client has canceled an appearance in an upcoming show in early August. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the resurgence of the delta variant of the virus and the continued resistance by a significant portion of the population to getting vaccinated.

Another commented that they also had a cancellation at the same show, and a second cancellation by another client at another show in October. Also due to uncertainty of the virus numbers.

But for some exhibitors who are looking at shows in late October, the assumption is that everything will be fine and they’re proceeding with plans for new exhibits. So they’re forging ahead on designs and are getting ready to put significant money down on new exhibits.

I get the sense that with all the players involved – organizers, exhibitors, attendees, designers, fabricators, labor and support services – no one is sure of which way to jump, and unfortunately we’ll all have to jump several times before we learn where we’re going to land.

In the TV show “Billions,” one of the questions that come up now and then is: “Are you certain?” And the response is meant to be “I am not uncertain.”

But I don’t think anyone has much certainty right now about the tradeshow world and when it might return to normal. Or even settle into a “new normal,” which will be different but at least predictable.


Tradeshows Help Take New Brands to Store Shelves

In all the years I’ve been attending Natural Products Expo West (and Expo East a few times), one of the things that I see time and time again is the number of small unknown brands looking to get a toehold in the crowded natural foods industry, and then to see them a year or two or three down the line as they start to appear on local grocery store shelves. And then some of them become much bigger brands, and a small number are sold to larger companies. And it seems like suddenly (although it’s been a years-long effort) that the brand is ubiquitous.

And I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few of them: Bob’s Red Mill, which was a growing brand when we started to work together around 2006. They’re world-wide now and Bob’s iconic face has appeared on billions and billions of product packages. Or Kettle Chips, which was a well-known regional brand on their way to national and international status when they became my first client in 2002. Since then, they’ve been bought and sold at least two or three times (okay, at least four – I looked it up) and are currently part of the Campbell Soup Company as of March, 2018.

We started working with Schmidt’s Naturals five years ago. At the time they were an up-and-coming Portland brand started in a garage. In the handful of years we worked with them on tradeshow exhibiting, they went from that small company to being purchased by Unilever and are now, as they say, ubiquitous.

There are plenty of other examples of brands that made their first appearance at Natural Products Expo West (this is getting to sound like a commercial for the show, isn’t it?) that I see on grocery store shelves: Brazi Bites, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Castor and Pollux Pet Food, Boom Chicka Pop, Rule Breaker and more.

I have no doubt it’s not a straight line from the tradeshow floor to the grocery shelves, but I firmly believe that many of these brands would not be where they are now without the benefit of consistent tradeshow marketing.

Check out this gallery of photos including exhibits from the show floor and how those products appeared this week on grocery shelves of a local store.

Tradeshows are Returning, But Not Everywhere

A quick scan of my Linked-In feed seems to confirm it: shows are returning to a lot of areas in the country. This morning I saw the news that Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said that Nevada would be “100% open” on June 1st. This is definitely good news for shows in Las Vegas. I also saw a story last week, speaking of Las Vegas, that Tesla’s Boring Company had completed the mile loop under the Las Vegas Convention Center. Not really related to Vegas opening up, but cool nonetheless.

The Las Vegas Convention Centered recently showed off their nearly $1B expansion with the debut of the new West Hall, touted as a 1.4 million-square-foot West Hall expansion.

Trade Show Executive published an article last month detailing the return of tradeshows to Orlando, Dallas, and Atlanta, which has also been shared extensively on Linked In.

So yes, no doubt shows are slowly coming back. And I think the key word is slowly. You might add “randomly” as well to that description since many states are still experiencing increasing COVID cases (hello, Michigan!), which means some areas will open sooner than others. And yes, politics plays a part. Pandemic fatigue also is a big part.

My big question, though, boils down to how exhibitors and attendees will balance their desire to get back to the show with their desire to believe they’re safe when they do. That may change in the next few months as more and more people are vaccinated and the country edges closer to herd immunity, but of course there are always flies in the ointment, like virus variants, refusal among many people to wear a mask in certain situations, and so on.

Bottom line: shows will return, but it’ll be months or at least another year before the whole country can say that we’re getting close to normal.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, March 29, 2021: Jeff Quade

One of the ongoing challenges I find with exhibitors is working with show services. There seems to be some sort of mystery about what they do and don’t do, how much they charge, how to save money on it, and much more. I caught up with Jeff Quade, EVP of Exhibitions at GES to talk about all of these topics and more. We started with the news that shows are moving back into Las Vegas.

Find GES here.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Mr. Mercedes, the TV series based on the Stephen King book.

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, March 15, 2021: Rama Beerfas

Last April I had Rama Beerfas of Lev Promotions on the show to talk about how the pandemic had affected her world. Thought it was time to check in again and see what has changed in the meantime. Yes, at least some things have changed, including the challenges of promotional product vendors to bring items in from across the sea. Check it out:

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