The sea of Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Sustainability and Manufacturing professionals who flooded the Javits Center in New York City for AIA '18 was incredible — a lot is changing in our industry, and you could feel the buzz in the air as these groups interacted with each other.
While 25-30k people were in attendance, many weren't able to make the trip, so we wanted to provide feedback from the floor as to what was going on and report back on what caught my eye / seemed to be noteworthy to the attendees at the conference. For those who didn't make it, I hope you'll join us next year in Las Vegas for AIA 2019.
Over 800 Manufacturers exhibited — the following handful were some of the best that I saw as a marketer:
The Behr bear was brilliant in my mind. It brings out the creative juices clearly innate in so many of the AECs. Not only was it fun and interactive, it had attendees working with their product on a brand icon. You really can't do it much better.
The only downside was that I learned this bear has been used many times over and that the marketing team (largely for cost reasons) washes the bear off and uses it again at another show which I thought was kind of a bummer. Potentially having different bear models from AIA years past permanently displayed or donated somewhere would give the bear (and therefore it's participants/painters) a touch of immortality tied to the event.
Trust me — I understand marketing budgets are dictating the rinse and reuse; it would just be nice to see them live forever. Still, hats off to the Behr marketers. That was one of my favorites for sure.
Kingspan's booth area was expansive! Plenty of open room to walk around and those who entered were treated to some really neat holographic images showing what the product could stand up to.
The display cycled through a number of different elements and each showed how the product stood up. Really neat, fun stuff. A gentleman in the booth told me that at a show in London they used a robot with a flamethrower, but that the US office wouldn't go for it, so this was what they wound up with. Sounds like that was for the best...
Legos were a theme for several booths — not surprising given the audience. Here, Excel Dryer caught the eye by showing their new "skins" over their Xcelerator.
While it was fun and eye-catching, I couldn't help but think that some enterprising entrepreneur is going to use these skins as an opportunity to create advertising space. They're surprisingly affordable, and for a captive audience that's not moving for 5-10 seconds, it's a great opportunity to communicate a message.
Don't be surprised to see that happen in the near term...
Vetrotech wasn't the only booth utilizing a public whiteboard, but I thought they executed it the best. Their question?
"What if glass could..."
I really dug this approach as it wasn't leading or biasing the audience, but asking a very open question from those AECs they're aiming to serve.
Who knows? Maybe they got their next million dollar idea on that board...
Talk about lively! You couldn't help but be drawn in to YKK's booth with the numerous "Architect Raps" being played on loop.
It was sharp, clean, great use of space, brand colors and connected with the AECs in a fun way. Great out-of-the-box thinking and execution here.
Georgia-Pacific had one of my favorite physical demonstrations of the product — their continuous waterfall display showcased the products' capabilities in an easy-to-see, fun to watch way.
As a marketer, I love the attention to detail here going so far as to align the top spinning sign to the border of the yellow display area. Clearly well thought out and executed.
Corotech, Benjamin Moore's commercial line, wasn't about to take the Behr bear laying down... this artistic, tactile and creative eye-catcher not only illustrated the many surfaces on which the product could be used, but — and I'll admit I missed this on first pass — if you walked into the booth you were able to see the before and after. Untreated vs. treated.
Much more than immediately met the eye... which was still a lot!
Aquor wasn't a name I was familiar with when touring the floor, but they have a super interesting product which deals with an age-old problem... that outside the building external faucet that's always dripping!
Their product was elegant, simple, easy to understand and fun to play with. The booth was bright, well lit and staffed by happy and fun people — arguably the most important ingredient in a successful booth when interacting with AECs who may not be necessarily eager to start a conversation.
It's hard to say if there was a more outgoing and engaging group than the team from Hunter Douglas Architectural. While their customers (fans?) stopped by, they basically put on a clinic on how to reach out, start conversations and educate AECs in an a fun and easy-going manner.
As we have preached before, just about everything you do with the AECs communicates who you are and how easy you are to work with. The Hunter Douglas Architectural team was incredibly personable — a great compliment to a product set that many AECs have become very loyal to.
The Kone team had a truly terrific booth. It was chock-full of interesting interactions including a self-serve physical demonstrations (you could pull up on a box to see how much their product weighed comparative to steel cables) and a fun floor plan, but the picture is of what I didn't see anywhere else... a robot!
As I was speaking with one of the Kone team members I saw it moving out of the corner of my eye and was immediately intrigued. I can't imagine I was the only one...or that we won't see more and more of these at events like AIA and Greenbuild.
Arguably one of the most eye-pleasing booths was from Armstrong Ceilings. Fantastic use of color and space, the team on staff there catered to the AEC with flutes of champagne (or something that looked like it) with a hip, modern look that showcased the brand in a very positive light.
Similar to Hunter Douglas, here again a manufacturer is telling the AECs that it's all about them. Not a bad message to send to that audience.
Here the photo is not doing the booth justice. I'm still not sure how they did it (marketer for Construction Specialties at the booth stated it had to do with the positioning of the LED lights further away from the content), but this was easily the BRIGHTEST display I saw.
The carpet was white which also helped, and it was just such a bright, clean and clear experience for anyone walking into the booth to learn more about the products offered.
Again, making it easy for the AECs.
USG had clearly done this many times over. The floor was open, inviting and had their team ready but not hovering on top of people.
The area was well-rounded as there were product information modules as well as demonstration corners where products like their invisible drain could be featured.
Another great, clean and sharp booth.
The Allegion team was demonstrating a new tool they had created to help the AECs easily specify and select their products — this is never, ever a bad idea. The demo was good, and what was arguably the most surprising aspect was that the gentleman who gave it was a developer— not a salesman.
Great layout, use of color and communication of both brand and tools. Well done.
I thought Marvin did an excellent job of not only having an engaging booth, but effectively communicating something they clearly wanted to bring to the front of the AECs' minds: that Marvin is Modern.
This was an engaging booth that consistently had many people milling around it.
Full disclosure: I didn't get a chance to speak to anyone there, but I suppose busy is good.
While this wasn't the first time I had seen Old Castle's rotunda, it's still ridiculously well-done. Open spaces, spots to sit down and rest weary legs (guilty), and access to a coffee / espresso bar.
No hard selling, just a presence that they're hear to cater to this community.
If I were to add one thing to this, it may have been something eye-catching or interactive in the middle; since all 360 are facing in and would be open to messaging or passive learning perhaps.
Talk about taking advantage of what's around you! I don't know if it was planned or not, but the folks at Carlisle had a magic tractor beam I didn't see anywhere else.
They were showing World Cup games, streaming live and enjoyable to all who walked by. I may have stayed for a minute or two...
All in all, there were many well-done booths at AIA this year. Once again, the bar has been raised, and we'll all look forward to what the above organizations can bring to AIA next year.