Sep 20, 2016

How MailChimp Does E-Commerce Trade Shows

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If you were at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE), you might have seen our spiffy new trade show booth. We’ve received a ton of positive feedback and lots of questions, so I thought it’d be good to walk through our design process.

When we talked about making a splash at one of the world’s biggest e-commerce trade shows, we wanted to go big, of course, but we also wanted to stay true to who we are as a company. So instead of hiring a trade show booth designer, we chose 2 film production designers, Michael Bricker and Anthony Lavadera. Their job? To design a trade show “set” for MailChimp. We wanted our booth (set!) to represent the unique culture of MailChimp, but also the ways we’ve grown in the last few years.

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We originally asked for a “subway urban newsstand pop-up bodega.” (Here’s the mood board we sent to our designers.) But we found ourselves moving away from the pop-up shop idea. Why? Quite simply, we didn’t want to come across as pretending to be a customer. Michael and Anthony suggested a pro shop concept instead, and we loved the idea. Their work justified our decision to select designers outside of the industry, and they used several less common trade show materials, like metal coiled curtains and lighting trusses.

Oh, and of course we had to work in Freddie:

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We hired Hamilton Exhibits to build the thing. Even though the booth didn’t fit into the traditional design specs, they ran with the design and did an amazing job putting all the pieces together, including the delicate neon sign, which broke on day one. (Thankfully, they had an extra.)

Whenever we create something, whether it’s swag or an ad campaign, we ask, “Does this feel like MailChimp?” Our booth passed the test. It employed unusual materials and an unorthodox design. We didn’t rely on loud colors or gimmicks to state our presence. Instead, the design felt welcoming while still feeling like its own space. And it looked like nothing else on the trade show floor, which was super helpful in distinguishing ourselves. Our staff felt at ease because the booth felt like a natural progression of our culture. All of which is to say: the booth let our best assets—our people—be themselves.

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If you missed seeing us at IRCE, don’t worry—we’re hauling the booth to Shop.org in Dallas next week. If you’re there as well, please stop by and say hello!