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