Often those who are big fans of social media’s mommy cult followings drool over the chance to go to the ABC Expo. You think its some amazing world opened up to you with access to all the gear, cool items, and new stuff. Well here is the reality check, you’re exhausted, there is tons of stuff to see, and while some brand are the nicest people in the world, you will run into people who think you’re like the rubbish they threw out at lunch.
Skip the big guys, and go for the little booths. However, skip the little booths that look like they have no idea what they are doing. Unless you are a buyer, they haven’t figured out how important the role of an influencer is in getting their product out there. There is a fine line between having a great product and having soft skills to sell your product. Influencers play a big role in getting brands to become more than just a garage hobby, influencers get your product into the minds of your potential consumer, and with that, you have the chance to actually sell. Not all exhibitors have figured that out yet, so let the booth reach out to you. There are a ton of booths who are willing to share their product with you whether you are a buyer or an influencer, but remember if you aren’t a buyer and a potential buyer does come up, step out of the way because media doesn’t exist without buyers to keep the company afloat.
Big brands with small booths are usually going to be the nicest ones out there. Brands change their booth sizes every year to fit the needs of their reach. If they have a big reach without the showcase, but want to bring in new customers, but don’t have a big stake in just one trade show, they don’t need a big booth. The state of the economy in reflection to a brands booth can also mean that brand is smart and knows its marketplace. Then again, maybe they have just found a better way to market without the need for ABC all together. I have heard from multiple resources this year that ABC used to be a lot bigger, and a quick scroll through the list of exhibitors makes you wonder why some of the industries biggest names, selling in the biggest stores aren’t at the show this year. Reasons probably are that buyers know the brands that are going to sell already and have you in their stores, and the cost of ABC versus other avenues of marketing just isn’t equitable. Will the ABC Show go away? Probably not, but are there better avenues of marketing your product? I think so.
Pack a lunch and drink lots of water. The food offered at the convention center is full of sugar, fat and carbs, and honestly, if that is what you’re looking for, then win for you, but if you’re trying to sustain yourself through 4 grueling days, get smart and pack a lunch and lots of water because Las Vegas is dry.
Make sure you map out your target booths. If there are booths that you know have new products or have the products you’re interested in, than make sure that you figure out who they are, so you can see them all before you start to browse the rest of the show. Nothing is worse than missing the booths that you want to see.
Parties, Parties, Parties. If there is anything that is better than ABC, its going to be the parties put on by the brands who shell out for good food, and lots of booze. ABC hosts a big party the first night of the official show that has a wide range of rich foods and lots of beer and wine. Cocktails will cost you extra, but who needs that when you can have 10 glasses of wine on the house. After the initial first part of the week, there are about another dozen every night to figure out how to navigate. From after party to brand dinners, to more parties and after after parties, there is a reason why everyone is dead by the weekend, they have barely slept in 4 days.
Alternative to the ABC Expo and late night parties everyday is a new way of reaching buyers and media through the avenue of day time suite events. Multiple invites went out to buyers from brands who decided that ABC just wasn’t worth the money or time and instead did something to show appreciation for their retailers and invited them to a lunch time gathering or a before ABC gathering to show them the product line coming out, meet and greet, and have a more intimate less stressful environment. This might just be the new brand to retailer experience of the future. For brands that already have a cult following or presence in large stores, and have connections with the small retailers in every state, the need for ABC is just not going to be necessary. For brands wondering if an offsite gathering is a better fit than ABC, take the following into consideration. If your brand presence is in the stores you want them to be and you have an online presence in social media and a team of influencers, than maybe ABC is not for you. Making sure you host some kind of event the same timeline as ABC means that your brand is still present and you just chose a better avenue. Hosting during meal time means that you have an extra draw in for them to attend. Knowing your market place is the best way to know if you can get away with skipping on ABC. Big retail stores know their markets, know their trends and if they are already carrying your product, than you probably know your reach with them. Small retailers don’t sprout as quickly as they used to anymore, and so reach out to your current retailers, invite them out, and let them know that something special awaits them. If you have enough staff to do the background research, find new retailers to reach out to, because chances are you might be the first. One day of wining and dining your retailers in a different setting than a show floor will always be more appealing when it comes to your bottom line than 4 days of a booth plus set up. A few years break to your budget never hurt during a rebuilding economy.
So is ABC worth all the hype as a consumer, nope. Is it even worth it as a influencer, partially, but are there better options out there, I think going this year proved there are. I am not a huge crowds person unless I am part of a traveling crowd, and bouncing around from booth to booth with varying degrees of excitement emanating from the brand itself makes a person feel real welcome (insert sarcasm). So for all those consumers who get jealous of those who do go to ABC, don’t be, its not all its cracked up to be. If you want a taste of what ABC is but with more fun, try a consumer show that is just like it. JPMA, the New York Toy Show, and MommyCon all offer a consumer friendly version of a show just like ABC, and there you get a lot more time to meet with the brands, and since you’re not buying anything from the show floor itself, you’re not dealing with pushy sales people trying to either grab your attention or push you away. Consider that alternative.
MommyCon has a bigger reach now, and if anything, I would recommend brands to take a look on direct to consumer marketing as a way to build excitement for your product and share it with them directly. Gearapalooza, Bump Club, Club Mom, and other mom networks are always going to be a better option of reaching the consumer if the giant show floor is not your taste. Try it and see what it might do for your company.
From the perspective of someone who was super excited by the chance to go to ABC this year, I am a little disappointed from the expectations that I set. It isn’t all its cracked up to be, and I think I made the connections I needed as an influencer and now know who is worth my time to even share.