How to Impress an Expo West Virgin

I don’t care what type of Expo I walk into – because seeing the trends in a variety of booths will make my day! I love seeing what companies are willing to invest in – whether it’s going off the rails with a huge build out and footprint, or, putting their dollars to use through a smaller presence but with simply great design and packaging. Both make quite an impact. I do get a bit sad when I see some new brands that possibly can’t afford either, as their even being there seems like a waste because everyone is walking right on by – and you see the defeat in their eyes.

The Natural Products Expo West Show® blew me away. I knew how coveted tickets are and was just grateful to attend just for a day. I was like a kid in a candy store, or maybe better to say a vegan in a tofu igloo? It was a designer’s paradise.

Here is a rundown of a few of my faves, broken down:

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Print & Packaging Companies

Not super impressed with the variety of packaging companies that were on-site, one did impress me though with a cute sign that only a print nerd like me would love. The sales rep was cool, easy to talk to and let me geek out over the print methods and practically knock over the display touching the papers like I was running out of time. So, shout out to Jeremy Howard at Trojan Litho™.

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Favorite Booth with Sustainability Effort Interaction

Meyer’s Clean Day® was so impressive, from the brand ambassadors, the booth and packaging. The booth design drew you in but then you see a big wall promoting “leave your mark to help plants grow”. For every fingerprint attendees made on the wall they would donate $1 to the Center for Plant Preservation. Then (genius minds), you obviously need to wash the ink from your hands so they lead you to an adorable pop up bathroom with a full line of their products to wash and moisturize your hands. Your take away was a branded pencil which normally would not sound groundbreaking - but when you are done using it, the tip has basil seeds that you then plant. I loved the whole experience. Plus ups: As you walk through the expo they have pop-up displays of hand sanitizer. Also, they’re social efforts are super-on point right now - them out.

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Trends

Fonts, modern retro vibe, neon lights, CBD, Bone Broths, Jerky…Walking through the show you really pick up on the trends of what is hot in natural products, and design right now – and the forward thinking associated with both. Old school upgraded neon lights were some of my favorites to see. Clean simple wall with that pop! A great booth example is Pop & Bottle. I LOVED this booth and packaging design. These clean, super food almond lattes are yummy and you feel good about drinking them – or just having the cute bottles on your desk at work.

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Copywriting & Branding

Props to puns and wordplay with Sir Kensington’s booth and the The HoneyPot Co.® brand.

“SK” is an old brand with a new look – and it works! Samples were out by the time I visited, but you can guess that I judge books by the cover art – so I will be trying all of these products simply based on that, and because they made me giggle by “herbing my enthusiasm”.

HoneyPot had me at hello when I started following them, on Instagram but their small but mighty booth got me when I saw this on the banner: “Made by humans with vaginas for humans with vaginas. Because it takes one to know one™.” Hell yeah, you’re right. Clean feminine products from the women like me – I’ll try your products.

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The Food!

OMG. We went downstairs and it was all over. Food, food, food! My colleague had warned me to take my time because you’ll need a food coma nap after 10 minutes – she was right, but I am stubborn, and everything looked SO good! I tried more Vegan “meat” products than I’d care to share. Some were, eh, I’ll check back at next year’s expo – but others, got even the consistency down!

Favorite Snacks (that will become my staples)

Tillamook® Cheeseboard snack packs. Crackers, cheese and a fun sweet/spicy jam. Like, I literally texted all my wine-drinking, working mom friends while I was at the booth – we have to be their demographic. These products are heavenly. Unfortunately, they just launched so they are in a limited market. I cannot wait to see them at my local grocer. The ONLY downside I mentioned to the rep was the packaging was way too big for the amount you get – the portion was probably right, but everyone at the show is asking for “less plastic” and eco-friendly packaging etc…I’m sure they’ll figure that out at the National roll-out.

Next up, I Heart Keenwah®. They seem to be available everywhere like Amazon & Target and the flavors are so yummy. I tell myself this is the guilt-free, adult version of Cheese Puffs.

Last, Simply Organic® Simmer Sauces. Who knew? Myself and everyone around me at the booth had the same response “You make sauces??” I buy this brand of herbs and seasonings but apparently, they rolled out a diverse selection of sauces last year. They showcased this specific Green Enchilada two ways, over a baguette, and over tortilla chips. As someone who entertains often, this seems like a quick, easy way to have a dip that doesn’t look like it was straight out of the jar! Yes, with the creaminess – it is an indulgence, but worth it! Upon a deeper dive, they have quite a few new products you can check out HERE.

Some other honorable mentions of my favorite booths

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Pop Art Gourmet Popcorn, Bonafide Provisions®, Delallo®, Olivina Men®, Pacha Soap Co.™, Seaweed Bath Co.® 

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To sum it up, I’d have to say my first time definitely lived up to the hype and I hope to experience it again and again. I will continue to visit other expos and events to keep up on the trends and get my creative juices inspired, but so far – this shot straight to the top of my list.

Augmented Reality and the Future of Pushing Products

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This morning I saw a news segment on the “new” augmented reality technology being brought to your phone. Not the Pokémon Go or iPhone X video games that we’ve seen in the last few years…think deceased rapper hologram – but on a way smaller scale. You record yourself doing a dance and place this prism on your screen surface to see a one-inch hologram of yourself. Pretty anti-climactic. But it got me thinking how eventually this will be everywhere to push products, but how do you break out of it just being noise?

We have already seen home décor websites show you “what this furniture will look like in your home” or paint samples at Home Depot by uploading a picture of your living room and changing the color of the walls. I even came across fashion designers implementing it in shops to show you what you would look like in that perfect dress….sans bad lighting and unwanted curves. Or the “you should buy the bag” reco.

But for the daily grocery trip, wouldn’t it be awesome if we had this in a few different ways?

If you were walking down the frozen food aisle and a life-size hologram of a woman popped up in front of your cart – it would scare the crap out of you! But, if as you walked by, a transparent computer screen on the glass read the SKU’s in your cart and your personal shopper appears on screen saying “Hey, I see you are buying frozen pie crusts, try this recipe for Chicken Pot Pie” and on the back of the recipe is a coupon for a frozen vegetable mix. Or co-branded with that and cream of chicken soup to share costs and build partnerships. To take it a step further, could we also have a co-branded print ad that you place your phone or tablet over and the hologram of the products mixing together in a bowl appears. Like a fancier QR code, but those prisms we talked about would have to get a lot bigger, or our tablets will need to get a whole lot cooler – and you know they will!

Let’s try a different approach. I came across this as an Instagram ad comparing the nutritional values of various trendy pre-made cauliflower pizza crusts. When you see the comparison, you would instantly go for the advertiser’s product based on nutritional value. Well, after spending 10 minutes going to each website and realizing – maybe for cost-effectiveness, I would need to meet in the middle somewhere. Now, if I did this at the grocery store – I would probably be at the wrong one. Let’s go to the convenient breakfast foods aisle. I walk up to a (sanitized) screen and select “Gluten-free, Peanut Free, cereal” and my options appear as holograms that I can “turn” the products with my fingers and the differentiators pop-up along with the price point, and whether a coupon is available – that I can print right there. How cool is that?

It sounds far off but with how fast technology is moving, growing and becoming more-competitive – it makes it more accessible and cost-effective. Especially if our advertisers are partnering up.

Design with a Purpose

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To paraphrase my amazing former Creative Director Carlos Musquez “Create work that impacts for the better.” I have thought on this for the last few days as it can be viewed in so many ways. The copyrighting and visuals can be equally as powerful, so Art Directors, Designers, Photographers all collaborating with the same goal in mind can make that impact. If it is a small piece that seems impossible due to hours, budget, or specs – maybe consider the client. If you’re creating a mailer or a coupon – your hands are tied…but if it’s a coupon for a company that supports sustainability, recycling or giving back in some form…that can make you feel proud to work on that minute project as well.

Not all campaigns can be big budget with world-wide impressions, but the impressions you do get with that line of copy and visual can be effective. Especially paired with good PR on the client that has made the good-will efforts…it could be a successful campaign – no matter the size. I’m going to give 2 totally opposite examples:

The specific campaign he was referring to is here. To someone who is not behind the scenes, this may seem so obvious that you would get a warm feeling from this ad because of the client being an activist and you are able to tug at the heart strings. But, behind the scenes it is so much more than that. Pulling together the music, the cadence, the diversity of imagery, and my favorite detail - the type being masked behind the model as they zoom in on them (if you missed it, go back and watch it again – it’s all in the details!). The delivery was so on-point and having print ads to support and be just as successful if you were to see it alone…that is the challenge, and they found THE solution.

I received a coupon for a company that I have never heard of, but the design was good and the messaging of “doing good for good” made me want to check it out. This company dedicated their product to sustainable farming practices which help us, our children and the future of their product. The line of copy and the “Field to Flour” enticed me to read about their mission on the side of the bag. Now, whether a mom is clipping coupons and just reads the $1.00 off message – I hope she also sees the lock-up on the bag, reads on like I did, and walks away realizing she chose the better product…maybe because she saved $1.00…but hopefully next time she’ll make the same purchase because the product was good…and the company is supporting good.

Of course, Carlos did follow it up with still enjoying the fun ads that give a giggle, but now I have this other mind set about my work having a larger purpose no matter how big or small the project is.