A number of years ago, I published two blogs on event marketing and sustainability (part one and part two). Here we are, post-COVID, our industry is coming back and we are once again talking about the same idea - thinking green and saving some green.
Organizations are looking for ways to demonstrate they’re socially and environmentally responsible. A successful trade show program can “reuse and recycle”, so I’m going to make a suggestion and provide an opportunity.
In college, I had a journalism instructor who said if you can think of anything that might seem of interest, to even one person, including yourself, you should write about it.
That being said, my last blog was in February. It was never my intention to wait that long to post another one, but any of the thoughts, interests and experiences I tried to draw on, centered too much around dealing with the pandemic. It has always been my intent to engage, possibly entertain and have some fun writing these. The last ten months have offered very little inspiration that would not seem controversial or polarizing to at least someone. I just didn’t want to go there.
A year ago today, I was making final west coast travel plans to supervise set up of a client’s properties during the first week of March.
Two weeks later, I was informed the event cancelled due to concerns about spreading the newly discovered COVID virus. In addition to the exhibit floor, the focus of this annual show was education for public health department officials attending from all over the country.
Not too long after that, trade shows and other face-to-face marketing events started falling like oak leaves in the Fall. By the end of March, our warehouse was full to the brim with properties that either had returned early or prepped properties sitting idle with unused shipping labels attached.
I was on a Zoom conference the other day where one of the attendees (an exhibit house employee) remarked that there was so much dust on the machines in their shop they couldn’t see how any more could possibly pile up.
A chilling realization for many in our industry that trade shows and face-to-face meetings remain, for the most part, at a grinding halt. By all indications, with a very few exceptions involving business-to-consumer or private events, the United States will not see events coming back until at least Q1, 2021. A few shows have already pushed back dates to July and August.
Simply put, one cannot sugarcoat anything about the physical and economic impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic to anyone or any organization in the hospitality, meeting and travel industries. Doing what you can to hold on until there is an effective treatment or vaccine, is of the highest priority. From what we have seen, that has taken many forms.
Crazy. Simply crazy times. Craziest time I have seen in our industry since Prairie opened our doors in June of 1994, or even earlier when I started in the trade show and event world in 1983.
Let me first say to anyone reading this, if you are affiliated with the trade show and event industries in any capacity, I hope you are healthy, staying safe and doing whatever it takes to keep your family and friends the same. The virus that shut the door on face-to-face marketing events in March continues to change the way we live, work, eat and play.
When Illinois started to quarantine on March 21, we all figured it would last just a month or two, cause a few delayed events and then be up and running again by Fall. Here we are in September and the only things up and running are online meetings and professional sports without spectators. I am tired of both.
“Sure. I’ll look into it,” I said.
Those five words took me on a long and involved journey I originally thought was going to be a short trip. Shelley and I volunteered to look into what it would take to fix up the tennis courts that are part of our homeowner’s association. I mean, how hard can that be?
I thought we could just go online, check out some local companies and get quotes on filling the cracks, putting on a new layer of asphalt, and painting whatever court lines were needed. That’s what they do in parking lots, right?
In the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross”, Alec Baldwin’s sales manager character calls out the sales staff. “Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers only.” (Warning: Don’t click on the link unless you want to hear some very foul language!)
Well, it’s time to “put that social media down.” Yes, I’m talking about the hours being spent on LInkedIn and Facebook. Clicking on links to regurgitated, baseless, short articles that are lulling folks into thinking they’re becoming an expert just by reading and re-posting.
For years, I have been fighting the urge to use Amazon as my “go to” source for purchasing items I need for home or the office. My friends keep telling me it’s super easy and saves time and money.
For the most part, I just like seeing a product before I buy it. If I can put it in my hands and read the package, all the better. As a member of a chamber of commerce, I prefer to support local businesses when it makes sense. Money that is spent in a community, generally stays in that community and promotes jobs, the local economy, little league teams, etc.
Earlier this year, I met Alberta Bell by chance.
Walking down the hallway of the extended care floor at a nursing home, I smiled and said hello as I passed her, seated in a wheelchair.
“Hello!” she barked back. “I’m Alberta Bell and I was named after my uncle. His name was Albert.”
“Oh really?” I turned, and introduced myself. “I’m pretty sure my mother named me Steve because she liked Steve Allen.”
In May, I posted a commentary on why I thought certain retailers were missing the boat by offering customers the option of using self-checkout lanes.
I wrote that in an effort to speed up the process and reduce labor, these retailers were actually creating distance between the value they provide and the customer’s perception of their overall experience.
A few weeks ago, Part One of this blog was published (see below).
I suggested that exhibitors and supplier partners have to do more to become eco-friendly and avoid needlessly wasting Earth’s natural resources. While face-to-face marketing isn’t ecologically sustainable now, our industry continues to move in the right direction.
In an effort not to run on with a long blog, I’m going to divide this article into two parts. Check back in a week or so for part two.
According to GES’ recently published 2013 “Trend Tracker” when it comes to design, sustainability should be on the minds of exhibitors and how they relate to their customers. About sustainability, it reads:
“Having an eco-friendly event footprint might have been optional a few years ago. But now it’s often a must. Recycling has become a way of life for many of us, at home and on the job. The event industry is catching up - and customers are taking note of which brands are going green, which aren’t, and which say that they are going green but they’re not.”
If you ask me, grocery store chains and some big box retailers are messing up big time.
Yep, messing up by relying on self-service checkouts.
We’ve all used them. For quick purchases they are great. You zip in, pick up some milk and a bag of cat food, swipe your debit card, and you zip out. You know the layout of the buttons on the machine by heart and every step is memorized so you don’t even have to wait for the prompts. Your fingers move about the screen with the familiarity of your TV’s remote control.
Hamburgers are all the rage in our town. In the last 2 years, 4 new restaurants opened specializing in various types of custom (higher end than fast food) burgers. This - if we add the 7 fast food restaurants and a dozen or so sit-down places where you can order a burger - brings the options for raising my cholesterol and body fat to an all time high.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not going vegetarian any time soon, but I seriously started to ask, what’s the difference, really? I mean, I can drive-thru Mickey Dee’s and pay $1.25 for their fast, cheap version of a burger. So why fork over $5 or more for a burger at one of the new joints?
Leo Olson taught advertising in the Journalism Department at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois during the 1970s and 80s. Although Leo passed away in 1989, he left behind a lasting legacy to thousands of J-students who passed through the doors of Cole and Reavis Halls.
Through stories and instruction, Leo instilled in students the fundamental principles of what made good advertising. I hope there are still some grads around who shared some time with Leo, and remember him fondly.