If your organization uses trade shows and exhibitions for business development, you know the value and stress of delivering on a successful show. Planning for a trade show often begins on the days immediately following the current show. Booth design and location, sales focus, show marketing and more are all big projects with multiple deliverables and intersecting timelines.
For brands that compete for business in the commercial interiors industry, NeoCon is one of the most recognized and attended trade shows. It takes place annually at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and showcases over 500 leading brands. NDP has been attending NeoCon for more than a dozen years with clients.
This year, our team helped our client, Universal Fibers, prepare and deliver a very successful NeoCon event. On the team attending this year were a couple of “newbies” including, Amy Smith, account executive, Chelsea Smith, project manager and Grace Viertel, art director.
We asked Amy, Chelsea and Grace to give us their perspective on the show and to highlight some of the more memorable experiences. We also wanted to know their thoughts on how Universal Fibers was able to distinguish themselves in such a crowded and competitive environment.
Grace, Art Director:
NeoCon, which takes place on several floors of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, is the ultimate showcase of the best of the best in products catering to interior architects and designers. Without an agenda of who or what to see, it is overwhelming, exhilarating and total sensory overload. As such, it attracts thousands of people, both potential customers and vendors, all excited by new products showcased. As a conference overall, it is inspiring. Booths range in size from half of a floor to 10x10 spaces. Compared to other brands on the same floor, as well as to some larger brands on other floors, Universal Fiber’s show offering was polished, professional and impressive. Crisp white, offset by wood texture and bright accent colors, Universal Fibers’ booth showcased their new product, Thrive, which was introduced at NeoCon. We designed and produced print collateral that supported and elevated this new brand. The collateral included binders, brochures, invitations, and booth giveaways, all of which helped make an impression on NeoCon visitors of who Universal Fibers is and what they stand for.
Amy, Account Executive:
I would describe those first moments at NeoCon as something similar to walking up out of the subway into Times Square — the people, the color, the rush of visuals. You, along with 10,000 others, are there to discover the latest trends and designs. For me, it was a crash course in all things that make up the commercial interiors business segment. What’s happening in the industry? Who cares about it? What’s trending now? Answers to those questions and more were slowly pieced together over my 24 hours wandering the Mart. Because Universal Fibers is a significant contributor to the carpet industry, my focus was there — going in and out of the booths of the major carpet mills. Sustainability and natural patterns were large trends this year, with booths alternating between amalgamations of colors and soothing natural scenes. I found NeoCon to be both inspirational and educational. It was exciting to see our work and the work of others come to life.
Chelsea, Project Manager:
Stepping out onto each floor at NeoCon is an eye opening experience. For the first ten seconds, it’s somewhat overwhelming because you can’t really even see everything showcased because there’s just so much - flooring, lighting, wall coverings, furniture, and people … so many people. The term ‘stampede’ repeatedly comes to mind. However, once you get past the initial throng, you really start to take in your surroundings, and honestly, you begin to see and learn a
bout some very cool stuff. On all floors, the spaces were phenomenal, designed from top to bottom, all geared to show off brands and sell product. There was sleek, funky, playful, artsy, and practical down every corridor. Universal Fibers was displaying their booth on the 7th floor and it was a stand out among competitors. It was elegant, well-designed, clean and modern with cool pops of color against a mostly white background; the perfect stage for the launch of their new product, Thrive. It was very rewarding to finally see our marketing efforts in action – brochures, sales sheets, warranties, and yes, that awesome Thrive binder! Throughout the day, I’d made it my mission to find other companies’ marketing materials to compare it to the work from our team, and I was proud to find that ours was well thought out, well-designed and stands up well - so very rewarding to see!
Talking with Amy, Chelsea and Grace, it’s easy to tell that the opportunity to attend NeoCon was not only inspiring, but also informative. After the conclusion of the show, they collectively shared several discussions about exhibitors liked and disliked, brands remembered and brands easily forgotten. “As it turned out,” stated Chelsea, “all the spaces we liked and remembered were not only visually interesting, but they were also well-organized, had people to talk who were genuinely engaging, and offered some sort of take away - a brochure, a press card, or even just a link - something that gave you a sense of who owned the space and what they were offering.”
The exhibitors they disliked were ones that, despite neat surroundings, offered no real information and no real way to interact with the brand or people. These spaces, and according to Chelsea, there were many, forced the visitor to best guess what it is they produce or offered no real information other than a cool bag or some other giveaway. These brands left no lasting impression and became a part of the overall blur.
Think about your next trade show or major industry conference that is coming up this fall. Imagine taking in your show with a fresh set of eyes. What could you learn that would improve the value of your presence? How could you enhance the design experience? How about the opportunities to engage customers and suppliers? How about the ability to tell a story? In the case of Universal Fibers and NeoCon, the marketing program produced by NDP has a life beyond the trade show due to the sales team’s success in its use. If you want to hear more about how NDP is creating other fresh experiences for our clients at trade shows or to promote your brand and leave a lasting impression on visitors and potential customers, drop us a note.