As a first year GlobalShop booth judge for VMSD magazine, my judging hat was on, and I was ready to name the standout winners at the annual trade show and conference in Las Vegas, March 23-25. Clipboard and iPhone in hand, I ventured out to the show floor and check marked the boxes on my “to-judge list” for The Visual Merchandising and Store Fixture Shows. After poring over a range of booths from the show’s opening to close, there were a great number of awards I was still itching to hand out. Countless booths caught my attention for different reasons: thoughtful details, impressive strategy and “hero” products. Read on for some trends these booths showcased during the annual event. (And check back with VMSD to find out who the 2016 GlobalShop booth award winners were; they'll also be featured in the May 2016 issue!)
The “One Voice” Award: On the flight to Vegas, I scanned all of the advertisements in VMSD prior to stepping out on the expo floor, a regular strategy of mine. I can tell immediately if I’m a match for a company simply by looking at their ad.
I hoped to see a consistent brand message about what was being advertised in some of these company’s physical booths. The result? There was one stand-out winner: A manufacturer that created intrigue and mystery in their VMSD ad, which featured a simple string of light fixtures (or was it a necklace?), a logo and no overarching promises. I wasn’t holding my breath, but the booth did not disappoint. The entire thing glowed with the same vibrancy in a multitude of applications! It was sophisticated enough for Vogue. Take it from learnings from a dating profile: Your picture should match reality!
The Social Butterfly Award: In the most challenged of locations, a tiny pink booth sat in a corner with a huge, loud voice. At the back of the At Retail Marketplace Show, Fitbit wearers surely hit a milestone step count en route to this company’s booth.
When I began posting to Instagram with a live feed, this company immediately began commenting to me to “get over here to see them.” Multiple times, they reminded me throughout the day with a fun exciting momentum that finally drew me there to see what and who they were. They were a pink beacon, a happy bubblegum slice. I reciprocated the social media nod to my followers and urged them to come to the little pink booth, make a mark with them and, well, blush a little. (Or leave a little more blushed.)
The Shining Star Award: Holiday spirit is a hard thing to muster in March. But a few booths decked the halls and showcased holiday trim and exciting new products well. Some had natural-looking Christmas trees with modern, red velvet-flocked bases, while others featured wooden and mixed-metal abstract trees. But the standout was one company’s felt trees, which were displayed to tell a story in a variety of designs. I promise you, Scrooge would not approve of this booth’s whimsical, feel-good display!
The “Outside the Box” Award: What does the circus, confetti and glitter all have in common? A mess. (In the best possible way, of course!) One manufacturer encouraged organized chaos within a playground of fun visuals and interactive displays. Fun confetti spilled out from the parameters of the booth, where attendees could be a part of the display, where they were offered crown props, noisemakers and little confetti cannons in the booth’s corner “room” with see-through walls. The perfect setup for a social media video, guests were encouraged to use the company’s designated hashtag – fittingly, #followtheconfetti – to share and see others’ glittery masterpieces. Kudos to them for going the playful, child-friendly route – it was the only booth I could bring my kids to!
The Team Awesome Award: One company’s booth was on my must-see list, and not because of any advertising, or existing vendor relationship, but because their personal designer reached out to me on LinkedIn and wanted to meet me. I made it there early, excited to meet them and make new connections. I was relieved that the booth was as impressive as my contact, and the entire team coordinated with white pants and gray shirts. They followed the retail principles of a good store design in their booth: on-trend materials and colors, the option to meet-and-greet with the booth designer, social media buzz, millennial appeal and intuitive brochures – all speaking the same brand language. Winner!
The Taste the Rainbow Award: There was a close tie for best use of color this year. One company knocked it out of the park with their booth design based on Pantone’s duo colors of the year: Rose Quartz and Serenity. Mannequin heads were displayed together on a booth wall in a grid-like gradation of rose, and the styling was done in such a professional manner. This attention to detail is what I’m obsessed with: Attention to the outside world, attention to trends and attention to what their audience will resonate with.
Overall, I noticed many of these winning booths had a clear point of view that answered the question ‘why?’ Why does fashion go hand-in-hand with retail design, why is social media important, and why is peeking into the design process such a great story? These details build connections and connections build experiences. We can all agree that the experience goes way beyond the product, and there is no better place to see that than at a trade show. Experience is what we seek; you just can't get that online.
Faith Bartrug of FBD Studios (Columbus, Ohio) has more than a decade of experience in transforming national brands. Her background includes brand strategy, environmental design and visual merchandising, and she has been able to practice what she preaches with leading design firms and clients such as Starwood Retail Partners, Neiman Marcus, and JCPenney.