Grain-free, probiotic-filled, all-natural, and more ‐ if it's a health-conscious food trend, you can find it within the walls of the Anaheim Convention Center during the Natural Products Expo West show. More than 2,700 exhibitors, peddling goods ranging from vegan vitamins to gluten-free granola, vie for the attention of roughly 70,000 attendees during the three-day show. And attendees aren't just trolling the aisles to fill their tummies with samples of the organic goodies. The retail buyers, shop owners, and health professionals in attendance have real influence and buying power, and they are eager to engage staffers in conversations about the nitty gritty of their companies' offerings. Also, many of those with buying power are passionate about eating organic food products ‐ and are quick to spread the gospel of that healthy and Green lifestyle to others.
To woo attendees out of the aisle and into one-on-one engagements with booth staffers, the marketing team at Garden of Life, a Palm Beach Gardens, FL-based maker of protein powders, organic food, and probiotic supplements, decided to build a brand new exhibit for the show, hoping that the resulting structure might be a panacea for the crowded natural-products market and jampacked show floor. But a run-of-the-mill design that looked like dozens of other booths wouldn't do the trick, as the company had a well-known penchant for marketing its products in unusual ways, such as dressing staffers in spandex morph suits that looked like probiotic organisms.
To promote its line of organic goods at Natural Products Expo West, Garden of Life combined a whimsical exhibit featuring supersized elements with sweet samples, video testimonials, giveaways, and an on-brand celebrity appearance.
Staffers lured attendees into the exhibit with playful costumes and T-shirts with cheeky expressions related to organic farming.
Moreover, Garden of Life needed a visual tool to convey to attendees that its products are distinct from competitors' offerings ‐ aside from hoping they read product labels line by line ‐ and that organic farming principles are the root of those differentiators. After several brainstorming sessions, Garden of Life settled on the idea of a garden-centric booth space. So with that concept in mind, the company's marketers approached Schaumburg, IL-based 3D Exhibits Inc. with a peculiar request: They wanted an exhibit designed to look like the set from "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," only with a garden-themed, nature-forward flair to exude the organic ethos of the company's wellness products. The whimsical idea wasn't just a flight of fancy, however. Garden of Life was willing to bet the farm that transplanting showgoers to a larger-than-life garden environment would pay dividends by attracting attendees and, with a little help from staffers, incentivize them to wax poetic on the company's organic products ‐ ideally on camera for an online promotion of its wares.
Attendees who took part in a video testimonial about the benefits of organic products were presented with a branded T-shirt.
Before Garden of Life staffers could engage guests about the nutritional properties of the firm's new protein powder or list the ingredients in its probiotic supplements, however, the company would have to coax attendees to step foot in its 20-by-40-foot booth space. And the primary means to accomplish this would be the supersized garden scape, explains Kelly Collins, a business development manager at 3D Exhibits. The quirky design would not only pique the interest of passersby, but also concisely communicate the company's organic principles. With their marching orders in hand, designers quickly got to work, crafting booth renderings replete with a massive watering can, gardening tools big enough for a giant, and a bright-yellow bumble bee with the wingspan of a bald eagle.
But getting attendees to stop and stare at the unexpected exhibit would only be half of the exhibit-marketing equation. Garden of Life staffers would still need to initiate conversations about the merits of food products that aren't laced with chemicals or genetically modified organisms while offering up samples of juiced organic greens and protein shakes in hopes that attendees-turned-prospects might agree to become brand advocates, evangelizing the merits of an organic lifestyle on video.
Booth visitors were treated to samples of vanilla or chocolate almond milkshakes made using Garden of Life's raw meal.
Garden of Life's exhibit would also boast star power courtesy of actress and natural-lifestyle advocate Alicia Silverstone, who would be on hand to sign copies of her book, "The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning," and pose for photos with like-minded attendees.
So with its oversized garden exhibit in the works, the company established a couple of objectives that were just as gigantic. Garden of Life hoped to film 100 video testimonials and give away 1,000 T-shirts in an attempt to transform discriminating retail buyers for a wide array of organic grocers and wellness stores into walking billboards for the company. So with lofty goals set and a plan laid out to achieve them, the Garden of Life marketing team packed its crates for Expo West.
The Enchanted Garden
When the doors to Expo West's show hall opened, the Garden of Life booth was a sight to behold. Blue-gray, tensioned-fabric clouds stretching 8.5 feet wide were rigged to the ceiling, as was a 10-foot-diameter sun graphic emblazoned with the company's logo. The faux-sky ceiling elements not only branded the space and drew attention from aisles around, but also made attendees feel like they were walking through a wide-open prairie, not a crowded trade show floor. As attendees stepped closer to gawk at the unusual show-floor sight, they set their eyes upon a 14-foot-tall gunmetal-colored watering can. Perched atop its handle was a Paul Bunyan-sized bumble bee with 3-foot-long wings. Twelve-foot-tall blades of grass and 13-foot-tall gardening tools completed the fanciful scene. And all of that garden-themed exhibitry hung above or rested upon a blanket of soil ‐ or rather, brown, spongy foam flooring. Those small details coalesced to create a fantasy-filled environment where staffers could educate showgoers about Garden of Life's products.
Thirteen-foot-tall gardening tools added to the booth's fantastical atmosphere.
As attendees stopped to snap photos of the peculiar exhibit, outgoing Garden of Life staffers swooped in to ask them if they were familiar with the company's products. "We found that we had a lot of people taking pictures of our booth, even if they didn't know who we were or what we were doing," says Carrie Betram, the marketing project manager at Garden of Life. Staffers then approached attendees, knowing full well that they were encountering an eclectic mix of current customers, hot prospects, looky loos, and trick or treaters. "People weren't afraid to walk into the space. That was not only because the booth was designed to be open and inviting, but also because the Garden of Life staff is so outgoing and made concerted efforts to engage with attendees," Collins says.
Can You Dig It?
The in-booth journey kicked off with staffers escorting attendees to the 2.5-by-8-foot sample bar in the center of the 20-by-40-foot exhibit. After guests sipped sweet samples of vanilla or chocolate almond milkshakes made using Garden of Life's raw meal, staffers began their sales pitches in earnest. They started off by professing the importance of using non-GMO and organic ingredients to create Garden of Life's food products and nutritional supplements. The alternative to adding extra chemicals or creating something artificial, they explained, was to use what Mother Nature already had to offer. To defend that thesis, staffers pointed to their T-shirts. Each shirt featured a different component of organic farming (air, water, earthworm, sunshine, compost, manure, and worker bee) along with a cheeky saying. For example, the text on one shirt read "I'm Compost. Let's break it down. Ya dig?"
Actress and natural-product advocate Alicia Silverstone was on hand to sign copies of her book and pose for photos with attendees.
If attendees were convinced that organic is the only way to go, staffers invited them to step in front of a wide backdrop and film their own testimonial video. These videos would put an independent face on Garden of Life's product claims and help forge a "we're in it together" vibe between staffers and attendees about an organic lifestyle. Ready to smile for the camera, attendees began their proclamations by reading an excerpt from "Organic Manifesto" by Maria Rodale, which extolled the many social, ecological, and health benefits of fully natural products.
After that scripted intro, attendees were free to speak from their hearts about the glory of organic foods. Booth visitors who were eager to receive a free shirt but not quite outgoing enough to film a video monologue that would be showcased on YouTube needed only to snap a photo in the booth, tag Garden of Life, include the hashtag #IGetItNow, post the photo to a social-media platform of their choosing, and show a staffer that they had done so. In exchange for their time and enthusiasm, staffers gave both social-media posters and video participants branded Kelly green T-shirts that read "I get it now" across the front.
Booth visitors could receive a free branded T-shirt either by being filmed while extolling organic products or by snapping a photo in the booth, tagging Garden of Life, and posting it on social media using the hashtag #IGetItNow.
After attendees filmed their video testimonials (and maybe grabbed some face time with Silverstone), staffers escorted them to a seating area to dig into the details about Garden of Life's products and hopefully place an order on the spot. But instead of rented chairs and wobbly tables, attendees found vignettes that matched the whimsy evident elsewhere in the booth. The area's three tables looked like terra cotta pots big enough to hold oak trees and had round pieces of glass placed over the openings to create a smooth surface for resting a notepad or coffee cup. Each table had three accompanying stools decorated to resemble tree stumps. And the aforementioned giant watering can concealed a secluded conference area. By the close of Expo West, staffers hadn't just planted the seeds of interest for Garden of Life's products. They had nurtured that interest all the way to harvest, or rather, to a total of 78,000 units of various products being ordered right from the trade show floor.
Attendees created 3,272 tweets and social-media posts about Garden of Life's exhibit by the end of the show.
All the Buzz
Brand buzz didn't just come from the gigantic bumble bee overlooking Garden of Life's booth; reverberations could be felt in every corner of Expo West and across social media. By the close of the show, the company had distributed 1,500 of its "I get it now" T-shirts, a figure 50 percent above its pre-show goal. Furthermore, while the Garden of Life marketing team hoped 100 attendees would film video manifestos, 500 did so, surpassing the company's objectives by a whopping 400 percent. And if that's not impressive enough, booth visitors also created 3,272 tweets and posts during the show, resulting in more than 5 million social-media impressions.
Sometimes going big pays off big. And while that idiom is usually applied in a figurative sense, Garden of Life took it literally, and in doing so generated larger-than-life exhibiting results ‐ and a lot of green. E