Issue #36

The Anti-booth at Trade Shows

Exhibitors embrace the anti-booth in the battle over show floor clutter.

Trade show booths typically follow a set of criteria: they have an architecturally eye-catching style, they have bold signage, they have a lounge or meeting space, and they are stocked with knowledgeable, outgoing staff. But in trade shows, where these traditional booth criteria are a dime a dozen, exhibitors are going a different route. They’re subtracting from the criteria. In some cases, following no criteria at all.

Take RAB Lighting and its ioNature “non-booth” at Lightfair, created by Think Create, which was a grassy field in the middle of the show floor made up of 1,500 pots of grass, each mounted on its own “motorized pendulum” that allowed it to “sway back and forth.” A weaving path through the center of it contained sensors that, as visitors walked through, set the grasses in motion. It drew a “record number” of qualified booth visitors and won a Lightfair “Best in Show award.

CPG brand Kashi, along with their agency partners at On Board Experiential Marketing, activated a booth that was more of a statement than an environment. Their booth at Natural Products Expo West offered no technology, no sampling and had no brand ambassadors staffing it. Instead, the “1%”-shaped structure told the story itself, that farmers need support in transitioning to organic farming via the Certified Transitional initiative Kashi supports that aims to “improve the three-year transition period required of farmers to achieve USDA Organic Certification.”

Then there is the anti-establishment anti-booth strategy, like game publisher Devolver has implemented during E3, the annual video game conference and show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Rather than join the masses and big-budget experiences activated within the show, it sets up shop in a parking lot across from the convention center (and next to a Hooter’s). This year it also poked fun at the traditional E3 press conferences with an “insane” Big Fancy Press Conference 2017 of its own.

Device battery pack maker Mophie was ahead of the curve at CES a couple of years ago when it constructed a giant black box booth structure in the middle of the show floor, added a few display cases of its products around the outside for general attendees—and then conducted invite-only business inside a 1920s speakeasy environment inside, accessible by password only.

As you plan exhibits for 2018, think: simple, alternative, clever and secretive.

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Trend Exhibitors embrace the anti-booth in the battle over show floor clutter.

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