Attending a trade show can be a stimulating experience. The sheer number of booths filled with all the latest and greatest can fill one with anticipation and excitement. However, when very few booths go beyond the traditional design formula, visiting a trade show can become monotonous and leave one physically fatigued and emotionally uninspired. Not the experience businesses hope for when they invest in booth space.
But how difficult is it to design a booth with an engaging story to tell? Woodlove, a curated space at the latest Interior Design Show in Toronto (IDS16) had many. Thanks to the unconventionality of the booth design, all the incorporated products made every visitor’s heart open up. Most likely their wallets as well, as the concept of the space was to help consumers identify and purchase locally made wood products. What the Woodlove booth had ultimately done was encourage imagination—it told a true Canadian story in an environment we could all fantasize about. Who would not smile at that?
Woodlove was a collaborative project between a multi-disciplinary design practice Citizens and Collaborators and the governmental agency Ontario Wood. The space paid homage to Canada’s heritage and “wood’s role in shaping our diverse history”. The irresistible wood cabin that was central to the display represented not only the spirit of the Canadian landscape, but also the essence of Canadian northern elegance that we seldom get to see together.
Undoubtedly, Woodlove was created with a budget that many small brands simply don’t have. Modest budgets are one of the main reasons trade show booths have become ubiquitously bland and undifferentiated from one trade show to the next. However the Woodlove space capably delivered a couple of crucial lessons for other exhibitors to take away, regardless of budget.
FIRST, PROMOTING CURIOSITY & NOT PRODUCTS IS WHAT GETS ATTENTION. Whether in social media or directly on trade show floors, word-of-mouth is hard to beat. When promoting products or services, it is the context that matters, as much as the content. For example, displaying a door handle integrated in thought-provoking and imaginative surroundings is much more enticing and eye-catching than a door handle displayed on a panel with a bunch of other door handles leading nowhere.
SECOND, STORIES, NOT PRODUCT DISPLAYS ARE WHAT MAKE US CURIOUS & WANT TO TELL OTHERS. For example, a door handle on a door made of gingerbread will immediately remind us of the Hansel and Gretel story and connect us with our own childhood memories of the legendary fairytale. It can be as simple as that, or as complex as we’d like it to be. Needless to say, the spirit of a gingerbread door could transform a basic trade show booth into a world of magic, just like the Woodlove space turned a few square meters of tradeshow floor space into the magical north.
Bottom line? Trade show booths need to become vibrant storybooks to spark our imaginations and impress us enough to tell others about them. Brand managers need to think beyond displaying their products to create the magic consumers desire. Finding the right design collaborators is in many cases, all that it takes. After all, it’s the stories that stick in our heads, not the business cards or marketing booklets we’ll come back to when all is said and done.
In our next post we’ll turn our eye to a few collaborations we thought didn’t quite make it. See you then.