Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lessons from exhibit halls, part 4: Giveaways

One key aspect of exhibit hall booths are the giveaways. Are they themed to the product or service? Are they just more junk to toss? Are they worth taking home? Worth saving? Do they provide a benefit to the recipient? When they are separate from the booth, do they speak on their own about the company?

Let's take a look at some successful giveaways, most from the NeoConXpress show in Los Angeles.

This fuschia handbag from AIS was the hit of the show, as the great color and hip shape (it has aluminum handles) was fun, highly visible, and rapidly sucked up by the design professionals in attendance. Note that it matched their booth color scheme. Thanks to Rob Lazarus for pulling one out of hiding for us.

Here is the opposite extreme: a seed packet of California poppies from Haworth, another office furniture group. While Haworth has a wonderful commitment to sustainability and green design, I have no idea why they were giving out seeds. No tag line, no link to their message, not even their website on the packet. They missed the opportunity, while custom-printing these, to carry their message of green practices home.

This giveaway from the American Association of Museums show is clever, but missed the mark a bit. It's from the Triad Creative Group, a company that does... what? A LOT of work went into making these up: the "cure from your museum headache." (They contain white M&Ms.) But what kind of headache do they solve? Exhibit design? Museum planning? Marketing and branding? They do have their phone number and website on the bottle, which is great. If the gentleman working the booth had actually talked to me, instead of shoving this into my hand while emphatically stating, "The cure for your museum headache!" I might have learned more. So much time and effort went into this clever concept, I'd like to see it be a home run for them.

This is one of the most perfect giveaways I have ever seen. Pilkington makes specialty glass; their booth was demonstrating their truly remarkable non-glare glass for display cases. The giveaway reminds me of what they do, provides a benefit to me (so I will save it indefinitely), and has their website on it.

Now for my favorite co-booth of NeoConXpress: Shaw Contract Group/Architex. Their booth was beautiful, wonderfully themed, and offered the most unusual and fun giveaway I've seen. They have a series of tag lines, including "Design is imagination," and "Design is soothing" on the lip balm.

Here's Holly Carter, Regional Vice President, who "accidentally" dressed to match the booth perfectly. (Look at her sweater, the carpeting, and the photo behind her. Amazing!)

Great job, great booth.

For the rest of this series, read part 1, part 2, and part 3: the tips apply to all sorts of businesses, not just exhibit halls.

Tips of the day: Every single piece of your experience tells a story. Anything that's going home as a memento should be high-quality, stand on its own, carry your theme, and be worth saving. If it can also provide a benefit to your customer/visitor/attendee, even better.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lessons from exhibit halls, part 3

These booths, from the NeoConXpress show in Los Angeles, offer some great lessons on experience design. Read part 1 and part 2 for more tips.

The clean, bright airy colors welcome you in. The modular blocks of the booth design carry the modular furniture message that is Steelcase's hallmark. The rep told me that Steelcase has a "customer experience group" at headquarters, which I plan to investigate further, hopefully for a future post and in my next book. Stay tuned.

This booth does a perfect job of selling decorative concrete tile. my only suggestion would be to de-clutter the table, and perhaps have a table drape that says "Concrete tile." Note the oriental carpet they brought it to enrich the decor.

The casters on the components in this carpet booth allow the reps to arrange the booth as they need. They use the carpet to delineate the boundaries of the booth. Smart!

Best treats: so much nicer than a bowl of wrapped candy. I also appreciated the one other booth that offered a cheese tray. More protein!

The design of this lighting booth is striking and demonstrates their product line well.

At Dunn-Edwards Paints, a faux-finishing paint demo. I was expecting more of this at a design trade show.

Tips of the day: Create clean uncluttered spaces that welcome customers in. Differentiate yourself by offering better quality items, like your snacks. Consider your audience and develop something unique that targets them, like a hands-on demo.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lessons from exhibit halls, part 2

In part one of this series, I showed some successful trade show booths from the American Association of Museums conference in Chicago. I just attended NeoConXpress, a design showcase in L.A. In this post I'll show some less-successful examples of booth design (or execution) with the eye to helping you improve your experience. As I'm trying to teach, not embarrass, I've hidden the company names or identifiers.

There is so much happening in this booth that I don't know where to look or what to focus on. The result in a busy exhibit hall? I move on.

This booth is confusing because the King Tut print is a giveaway, having nothing to do with the work this company does.

This booth is felled, not by design, but by the mess the sales rep has created.

It's common to want to stuff as much printed material onto a table as possible. Instead, consider how to make an impact with less. Can you offer these pieces as downloads on your website? Think of the paper, printing, shipping, and waste you would eliminate. (The exception is if you are selling books or pamphlets. but still consider how to reduce clutter.)

This booth is a little cluttered, but the real problem is the table visually blocking access. If you need a surface to work or offer handouts, put it against the side to open up your space.

We've gone from too many messages to no message at all.

Finally, I thought it was amusing that their tag line is "human design," but there is only a dog in the photo.

Tips of the day: Design from across the room. Design walking by. Have one clear message and make sure everything in the booth supports it. Consider what you yourself do with handouts and other giveaways; plan accordingly to eliminate waste and reduce the environmental impact.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lessons from exhibit halls: part 1

These are the last of my photos from my Chicago trip in May to the American Association of Museums annual conference. Exhibit halls, especially one this size (over 1,000 booth spaces) are a microcosm of experience design. Let's take a look at some successful ones.

In a big hall with so much visual stimulation, booths have to have a clean, simple, clear message from quite a distance away. This one features incredibly life-like mannequins. (The woman in the blue shirt is real.) My suggestions to improve this booth: Cover the entire back of the booth with black. Skirt the table in black. Simplify the sign by removing 2/3 of the text. Let the figures speak for themselves, as they are compelling. Provide simple, clean takeaway literature.

This is a nice example of clean graphics tied in with a themed giveaway (packets of wasabi peas). Just make sure your giveaway (if it gets home), really carries your core message.

People give away lots of junk in exhibit halls. These were fun ribbons you could add to your name badge, with sayings like "cool scientist" and "rock on." Again, just make sure your giveaway carries your core message once people leave the booth.

This booth for exhibit riggers/fine art installers Methods and Materials was my favorite. The booth actually told a story of "installation" and the guys working it were essentially in costume. I walked away knowing what they did, and that they are creative and pay attention to detail.

Tips of the day: Design your booth from 50 feet away. Create the entire space; don't depend on the backdrop that is given you. Theme everything, but keep it simple. Giveaways need to work once they leave the exhibit hall.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

American Girl Place, part 3: Cafe

In previous posts here and here, I showed some of the aspects that make this store for girls such a special experience. Today we'll look at their cafe. This is a stunning example of attention to detail. The cafe decor is unique, setting it apart from everything else in the three-level store.

Girly, classy, fun.

Carpet, upholstery fabric, chair details...

The chair buttons repeat above the mirrors.

The flowers on the tables repeat from the light fixtures.

The prix fixe menu (brunch, lunch, dinner) features items themed to American Girl stories, including a chocolate mousse flowerpot for dessert.

Tip of the day: Study these photos for ideas on how to theme your interior. Can you repeat elements or use a strong color palette to create drama? Can you play with scale, like with the over-sized buttons? Can you use striking patterns to play off each other, like the polka-dots and broad stripes?

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Whose job is it to create a good experience?

I recently had to re-register my car after an accident. The accident was minor, but the insurance company totaled the car. I opted to keep the car with a salvage title. My insurance company sent me this DMV brochure explaining the process.

My question for you, readers, is:
Whose job is it to make this a good experience?

Anyone who actually reads the brochure will quickly determine that it is unclear and downright confusing. The insurance company probably thinks it's being helpful by sending it along. Is it their job to write a better brochure so their customers don't get confused? The person from the insurance company gave me incorrect information relating to the DMV procedure. Whose job is it to make sure they're giving out the correct information about someone else's policies?

I muddled my way through the brochure, determining that I needed to have two inspections done by a California Certified Brake and Light Inspection Station. The brochure informed me that these could be found in the Yellow Pages. They cannot. After calling around and locating one, I made my appointment. Whose job is it to make an accurate listing easily available, maybe searchable on the DMV website?

After those were completed, I called several numbers on the brochure (one is wrong) to make an appointment with the Highway Patrol. This helpful woman told me I needed to contact the DMV instead. I might need to come to the Highway Patrol inspection station, but only after the DMV appointment She, however, was only available by phone from M-F from 7:30 to 11:30 AM. Her phone does not have voicemail. She is the only person in San Diego County who makes Highway Patrol appointments. Whose job is it to fix that?

Today I arrived at the DMV for my appointment, made (easily) through their website. Here is the line you wait in with an appointment. Fixed or broken?

The TV above the desk (and a regular loudspeaker) tells you which tickets are being served at which window. That worked well. My "appointment" got me a 5-minute wait in this line, where the man looked at my paperwork, told me I was missing a smog check, and issued me a numbered ticket.

The ticket got me a 15-minute wait to talk to a helpful young woman on the other side of the building who told me I did not need a smog check after all. Whose job is it to make sure everyone in the DMV office understands all the procedures? All I had to do now was drive around to the south side of the building, pull up, and ring the doorbell for my inspection. Couldn't I have done this first, before I parked?

After another 15-minute wait and two doorbell presses, my inspection was done. Park the car, walk back inside, pay the helpful girl. Go to another window on the other side of the building, wait to pick up my plates. Walk back out to the car, change the plates with my trusty screwdriver, take the old plates inside to the helpful girl. Why couldn't the helpful girl give me my plates?

While the whole thing took just over an hour today, it's been weeks overall.

Tip of the day: Are you part of a customer service "supply chain" like this? If so, how can you step up and fix things for your customers, even if it isn't your job? I'm not angry with my insurance company, but they would have gotten incredible blog word-of-mouth in this post had they improved this experience for me.

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