Reflections on the 2020 International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas

The NAHB International Builders’ Show is primarily for home builders, designers and remodelers to get a look at the latest trends. A few key themes emerged at the 2020 show:

  • Elegant design – simple and sophisticated was in – lots of black and white 

  • Connectivity – simplifying our lives through technology 

  • Health – products that improve our overall health and planning for multiple generations to stay comfortably in their homes 

  • Simplification – products that can simplify the home building and remodel market, fitting more into small spaces and making our lives easier in general

If you’ve ever attended a trade show, you may have discovered – as I have – that the best experience is often obtained by a balance of curiosity and organization. You go to learn something new or to get inspired, but you realize quickly if you don’t have a plan, you’ll be walking in circles through a maze of look-a-like booths with little recollection of what you have seen. Companies invest significant resources planning and creating clever ways to garner attention. Even with a solid strategy, great design and (most important) a memorable experience, there are other intangibles – and a certain je ne sais quoit – involved in standing out.

The clear winner of IBS 2020:

  • GE Appliances. Winner of Best in Show and definitely the best booth experience. I’m not just saying this out of hometown pride. Thought was obviously put into every detail – from lightsaber-inspired automated lighting and compelling activations for a variety of audience segments to entertainment by Louisville’s DJ Sam Sneed and the transformation of one of GE’s kitchens into a homestyle bakery and the creation of a kombucha cafe. Each of GE’s multiple brand experiences was unique. It was obvious to visitors the experience went way beyond selling to create appealing and relatable brand connections.

A few other brands that stood out:

  • Elkay created an entire neighborhood (including a swimming pool with a slide) where attendees could have fun and see the environmental impact of using its products. Elkay invited attendees to launch themselves into thousands of cushy balls in the swimming pool – prompting sharing of video and photography.

  • Kohler had a beautiful booth, as always, with the latest connected toilets, faucets and showers on display. In addition, it played up its Manchester United sponsorship through large posters and materials within the booth and enticed attendees to take a booth tour with celebrities like Chip Wade. 

  • Jenn Air took a chance and created an outside experience in the show village (last year it snowed), highlighting its new branding via ultra-chic leather refrigerator doors and giving away monogrammed leather wallets. It also hosted meet-and-greet sessions with its top designers.

  • Atlas Granite won Best New Product with its MASST technology that turns countertops into touchscreens, creating significant buzz throughout the show.

Ultimately, we gleaned this from the standouts:

  1. Set focused objectives. Selling more product may by your ultimate goal, but it’s too broad as a “show” goal. Think about a goal that’s achievable on-site.

  2. Think through your customer experience. If I walk into your booth, what should I think, feel and want to do? Details matter in sparking thoughts, feelings and actions, and the element of the unexpected can reach all five senses.

  3. Make sure everyone on your team aligns. The creative and marketing teams may set the tone, but your sales team and leadership in the booth bring your experience to life. Agree on a tone. Create ways to energize the team. Humanize the brand.

  4. Have fun. After hours of navigating big crowds, accepting handshakes, logging a record number of steps and struggling with a strong desire to shed our sports coat for tennis shoes and jeans, remember we are human. Relating on a human level makes your brand human.

I bought the ticket and took the ride at IBS again this year. I’m not a big fan of Sin City, but I did come back inspired by ways I could get a much hipper, comfortable and connected home. If only my checkbook was bigger.