Going Retro

Retro Vibes
Graphic designed by Marlys Arnold (It was chosen as a winning design in an online designer group.)

You know that saying, “Everything old is new again”?

We see how true it is in the realm of fashion and design, where colors and styles cycle back around every few years. And yes, that’s a great tip for exhibitors to be aware of when designing an exhibit.

But there’s more to it than that.

You can craft an emotional response by guiding your audience down memory lane (even if they don’t realize that’s what’s happening).

I’ve been “going retro” a lot lately – I needed to update my laptop, but before I could do that, it required updating any old files that might not be openable in the new system. So for the past two months, I’ve been scanning lists of hundreds of files created over the past 10 years or so. I’ve discovered workshops created and taught only once, along with client projects and promotional campaigns I barely remember working on.

While some of the items I uncovered were obviously time-specific or unable to be repurposed, others are fairly timeless and still quite relevant. (In fact, you may see some of those classes resurfacing in the Exhibit Marketers Academy over the coming months.)

So what’s the lesson here for exhibitors? How might you take a concept or element from trade shows past (or other places) and make it fresh?

Take a look at what you used in previous exhibit displays and marketing campaigns. Perhaps there are some golden nuggets in there, just waiting to be uncovered and repurposed.

  • Did you have a really creative exhibit theme that resonated with attendees previously? If it’s been a few years and the theme still applies, bring it back. There will likely be a significant part of the audience who wasn’t at the show when you used it before, and even those who were will likely have their memory jogged when they see it again. (This idea typically works best if you’ve given it at least three to five years’ rest in between.)
  • Are there pieces you could repurpose from another project that could be incorporated into your display? Perhaps you have a display from your corporate lobby or a retail location. Maybe it’s an item that’s been in storage and just needs a quick refresh to look new again.
  • Would a visual timeline help to illustrate your message? Showing off a chronology of products built or projects you’ve worked on over the years shows not only an evolution of your company, but also a successful history.
  • And taking the idea of retro literally, sometimes using a retro theme – whether a particular time period or a time of life (like childhood or school) – can create positive emotions in your audience. Some of the most clever exhibit themes I’ve seen tie into the playfulness of everyone’s inner child.

As you can see, you don’t always have to start from scratch with your exhibit. Sometimes you can craft a winner by using a blast from the past.

© 2019 Marlys K. Arnold  (Reprinted from the July 2019 TradeShowTips Online. To receive tips like this in your inbox every month, please take a moment to fill out this request.)

(Note: The graphic for this post was chosen as a winning design in one of my online designer groups.)

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