CES Loses Clout as New Products Launch Pad

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The New York Times reports that the monster Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is no longer the dominant launch pad for the hottest new gadgets.

In our industry, neither IBS, nor KBIS are the big launch pads for new products as they once were.

So do we even need trade shows? Our answer is yes, because trade shows bring people together. But does the model need to change in order to support this new raison d’etre for trade shows?  We report, you decide:

A really bad trade show.

Comments from designers in a private Facebook group:

Designer #1: I remember having this discussion at IBS last year with somebody from (a major building brand). She commented as we were walking the show floor that the median age at that show was 50 and she was right. Shows that do well recruit younger people and students and offer programming geared to the younger set. Some of the more traditional (and fading) shows just don’t do that and are content to be the equivalent of spring break for middle-aged people.

Designer #2:  The last few times I have been to KBIS, I was not impressed really. It was just the same ole same ole stuff. I have continued to attend these traditional shows in hopes of being impressed and continue to be disappointed. I want to be inspired and educated about products in a way that I get a personal connection. With those experiences it allows me to share my inspiration with my clients in a much more meaningful and informed way…I know in my business I feel like I need to be continually changing and evolving to keep current and to take my business to the next level. Needs to be some changes in the traditional trade show, for sure

Designer #3: I think a lot of American shows are still slow moving behemoths. Its a culture that has been around and working for 50 years….People want an experience - an adventure to remember. Pop up events. cross pollination. Imagination fire and ice. Energy that draws down deep and evokes our collective memories from the past that have a certain meaning.

“The show visitor/buyer used to be the ‘audience” based on the ‘if you show something cool, they will come,’” noted Veronika Miller of Modenus, founder of BlogTour, an innovative new model for brands to bring customers together. She continues:

“Trade shows are still important but organizers and exhibitors need to understand that what once was captive audience that was easily wowed…has likely seen the product prior to the show, thanks to something we like to call the “Internet” and may even have some brand/product knowledge already. This means the show has to transition from presentation to interaction and from demonstration to conversation.”

Does this sound like the death of trade shows? Hardly. This same Facebook group notes the power of European trade shows, echoing our POV after attending ISH last March.

Designer #1: All of the larger booths at shows such as ISH, IMM, Cersaie, Salone, etc., have cafes in them. Those booths invite people in to linger, have a cocktail or a snack or what have you and in the process of lingering, the lingerers become a captive audience. They also enjoy themselves and equate fun with the brand that treated them to a sandwich and a glass of wine.

Full disclosure: I worked on the KBIS brand during my tenure at NKBA and it’s a personal passion for me to get this show going again.

In the meantime, I’m going to check out Coverings this year.  Kitchen & bath designer and social media pro Paul Anater says to observe the mini villages set up by the Italian and Spanish trade consortia. The Italian pavilion is always set up around a large cafe and they serve breakfast and lunch. The Spanish pavilion is always set up around an amphitheater with seating for at least 50.  Paul notes that the ROI of these niceties is selling Italian and Spanish tile by the container full.

I’d also love to see more folks experience BlogTour. Check out the ROI on that.

Let there be fun!



5 comments… add one

  • Leslie Clagett January 9, 2012 — 11:02 am edit

    It is interesting—but hardly new—to compare shows on the basis of scale and schedule. Mega-expos [ISH, Eurocucina, LivingKitchen] are often on a biannual calendar, giving exhibitors a chance to engage in quality R+D between shows; while middle-size events [KBIS, IBS, Coverings, LightFair] are held every year, regardless of product innovation or financial conditions. Lighting & surfacing producers can keep pace with the shorter cycle, while majaps have a problem with it. And those fixture/fitting folks—well, they’re always busy. [Thank god.]

  • Nora DePalma January 9, 2012 — 11:52 am edit

    The biannual thing has been hotly debated for every year I’ve been in this industry, and I’m not sure I want to own up to being that old. But it’s still a valid point, Leslie, and almost certainly has to be in the mix of changing the way the industry gets together for mutual benefit.

  • AlexandraFunFit January 9, 2012 — 1:45 pm edit

    This is such an interesting post because it really portends changes for all industries I think. And the BlogTour looks fabulous.

  • Nora DePalma January 9, 2012 — 2:06 pm edit

    Alexandra, you are so right. I liked your comment on Facebook about fitness trade shows been having “experiences” for years. The focus being on “doing” not “seeing,” and especially the comment about the companies that just pass out info having empty booths, vs. the interactive ones being jammed. I personally want to see IBS and KBIS grow and succeed, because they have a lot of value. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if we didn’t see the need for them. And I like how we’re keeping the dialogue positive. We want to affect change, not controversy!

  • C.B. Whittemore January 10, 2012 — 8:33 am edit


    This is such a rich subject for discussion… There are cultural angles: as you highlight, European show booths emphasize the relationship building and encourage hanging out over coffee [or beer in Germany at DOMOTEX]. US trade show booths feel more transactional and focused on what’s new. If new products get introduced based on a different schedule [i.e, not based on the show date] and the information gets communicated differently, then the show becomes less critical.

    Social is the element that makes getting together in real life invaluable. Especially if it is nurtured and amplified before and after the show.

    Might that be the way to reenergize KBIS?

    I’m delighted you’ll be at Coverings.


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