A tale of two tradeshow booths

In Marketing 101 by Laura StockerLeave a Comment

Laura: It was the best of tradeshows, it was the worst of tradeshows… It was the European Coatings Show in Nuremberg, Germany – a show with more than 1,000 exhibitors and 30,000 visitors. It was maddening, fantastic, mind-blowing and exasperating, Sometimes all at once.

Our primary goal was to support our clients on-site, but we couldn’t help but admire – and despair – over some of the booths that caught our eyes. And, at one of the largest industrial shows in the world, there was plenty to catch our attention. There were structures that looked like they could be featured in Architectural Digest, pop-ups that looked like a slight breeze could knock them over, and everything in between.

But at the end of first day, it was easy to select our favorite and least favorite booths. (To keep it honest, we did not choose any booth that we played ANY part in designing or deploying.)

The best of the best? Easy: A company called IMCD (chemical distributor) and its “Our House, Your Home” concept.

This company quite literally constructed a two-story house in the convention center – complete with backyard grass, a car in the garage, walk-up front door and a fire burning in the virtual living room fireplace.

Each element in each room contained a red medallion that simply and succinctly explained how one of IMCD’s represented products contributed. A master back-lit map outside the “home” gave further explanation.

It was, quite simply, extraordinary – particularly in a tradeshow filled (literally) to the rafters with monochromatic, modern, seeming to be inspired by IKEA designs.

The booth conveyed warmth and showcased products and markets – for an industrial company, no less – in a compelling manner. I found myself returning again and again – and each time “discovered” something I had missed before. I’m pretty sure several of the sales reps thought I was a “booth stalker.”

My least favorite booth was also quite beautiful, in a totally different way. I don’t doubt that many hours of design went into it – not to mention dollars. And it was cool, really cool. I’m just not sure it helped them sell their products – you’ll recall we were at an industrial coatings show.

I’m not going to mention the company by name – but it was a large, well-known European company that specializes in automotive coatings.

The booth was well-designed and eye-catching. It featured larger-than-life toys.

Yep – the central area of the booth was filled with a huge chess set. Each corner of the booth featured a larger than life children’s toy – Pick-up-Sticks in one corner, a Connect-Four style game in another. All gorgeous and colorful.

But the booth always seemed fairly empty to me. Oh, folks were lining up to take photos of the chess set or the Pick-up-Sticks – but the sales reps never seemed busy, and the large chess set took up so much real estate that there wasn’t a large amount of room to navigate around it.

It also wasn’t clear what the toys had to do with the product line. For example, a floor sign next to the chess pieces said “automotive coatings.” But the chess pieces did not seem to be coated with anything resembling an automotive coating.

Again, let me be clear: this booth was beautiful. The toys were oversized and grand. I enjoyed watching people photograph them. I’m sure this booth was very expensive. I’m just not certain how it supported the companies branding. A trip to the company website confirmed my assumption (no toys – or even the same color palette in sight.)

Two booths out of more than 1,000 – both gorgeous, both surely took much time, effort and euros. But I’d be willing to bet that the IMCD folks had a much more successful show.


Laura Stocker
Like her comic book idol, Laura’s Super Strength is her heart. When she’s not saving the corporate world, she’s busy saving the rest of us. In her spare time she has served on the board of directors for the Sexual Assault Resource & Counseling Center and regularly fund-raises for the American Cancer Society through participation in Relay for Life.

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