The Designer’s Notebook

Trade Show Displays: Reducing and Reusing



The Red Deer Homeshow,  this weekend at the Westerner , is one of the biggest trade shows in Red Deer, and we’ve been bustling all month preparing numerous projects for the “really big show”. One could argue Trade Shows are one of the more wasteful marketing activities one could pursue – you need large flashy booths, lots of give-aways (read: print destined for the trash) and if you are a large firm at the Calgary Oil-show, you might even need beer girls to spice things up. All of this amounts to a lot of extra raw materials being used and a lot of it is unavoidably wasted, trapped in the bottom of someones show-bag, never to be seen again.

I always recommend a “use what you actually need” approach to marketing. Buy the right amount of brochures, even though they get “cheaper” when you purchase by the pallet. Drive customers to websites where they can get further information rather than printing a large catalogue. These are all earth saving tips for an industry that is wasteful by it’s very nature. (Does the world really need another tri-fold brochure?)

A good piece of hardware might last 10 or 15 years! The average message might last 1 year.

Trade shows are the opposite of this ethic: you need lots of material, it has to be compelling, and messages are almost always timely – they don’t carry over year-over-year. Shows are messy, busy and you need to set up and break down fast, which usually increases waste. So what can you do?

Case study: Bruin’s Plumbing.

Bruin’s had a pop up display that’s been around for a while. Years in fact, but is still a sturdy, useful little unit. In the boom years of ’07-’08 we likely would have tossed it aside and purchased a new one and laughed like Scrooge McDuck swimming around in gold coins in his Money BIn. But we are all being smarter now. Bruin’s wisely decided to buy a refreshed graphic package for the display and now has a terrific, newly designed display for a fraction of the cost. Sounds like a pretty good idea:

  1. Less financial outlay leaves more cash in the bank.
  2. Re-using the display saves shipping, fabrication and raw materials of an entire new booth, not to mention printing
  3. Looks great and people will love it – it has a giant teddy bear on it! What’s not to love?

Red Deer: Forward thinking = preparing to reuse

We do work for the City year round relating to trade show banner stands. They are careful to buy hardware that is easy to re-use and easy to change graphics for. This reduces overall costs down the road, as well as making it easy to update messages. Another win-win. But this last month, we had the opportunity to go even further. We took a different piece of hardware (one we didn’t supply and a few years old) in perfect condition and manually removed the dated graphics and inserted new ones to re-use yet another piece of hardware that would have been destined for the landfill. Costs are reduced, materials are reduced. Another wise decision.

We can reuse all sorts of trade show hardware. It usually not a problem to output new graphics and find replacement parts. It makes the investment in trade show hardware a little easier to swallow. A good piece of hardware might last 10 or 15 years! The average message might last 1 year. That’s a lot of time wasted if you don’t recycle that hardware. It’s a good thing to think about when planning that next show – the message might be useless, but the hardware is an asset – and well worth using once again.

Let’s get started!

We’d love to talk with you about your company and where you want to take it.