Exhibit No More: The Journey from Exhibit Design to Brand Experience Centers

Visit the Impact IX website to access additional industry information and trend reports. Or contact our team at [email protected] to discuss how you can create your next brand experience center.

Do you remember the world of retail before e-commerce? Brick-and-mortar retailers were almost exclusively product-oriented, shopping destinations where the consumer’s goal was to check off their shopping list. Then came Amazon and the e-commerce movement. Suddenly, the need to go to physical places wasn’t as necessary. Why put up with traffic, crowds and higher prices when you can shop from the comfort of your home?

This shift in consumer behavior has led many brands to rethink their retail experience. Some companies, like Bass Pro Shop, were already ahead of the game with their destination retail model that combined merchandise sales with an immersive brand experience. However, many other brands, including those without a previous commercial footprint, have joined the evolution to create brand experience centers like Samsung 837 in New York or the Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles. Sure, these locations showcased products, but the real goal was to immerse guests in a branded world of excitement, engagement and innovation.

This development has not only been driven by the rise of e-commerce, but also by high public expectations. People wanted brands that represented more than just a slogan and contributed more to the world than just products. Brand experience centers could also provide additional evidence of relevance in an attempt to meet these expectations.

The world of exhibit design is at a similar crossroads. Our catalyst for change is a global pandemic that has interrupted live events and given rise to virtual alternatives. This shift showed potential attendees that they no longer had to endure the travel, crowds, or costs associated with a conference for product information or thought leadership presentations. Now they can get these things from the comfort of their homes. Sounds familiar.

As the retail experience has evolved, it’s time to reinvent how brands present themselves at trade shows, conventions and conferences. It is no longer about designing an exhibition, but rather about creating a center of brand experience.

Here are some quick tips to accelerate your evolution:

Singular Vision. Single story.

Often an exhibition can have multiple stakeholders, products and objectives to achieve. Simplicity is the key to designing a brand experience. The most important thing you need to convey to your audience is to inspire the unique idea that differentiates you from the competition and anchors everything you do.

As the first exhibitor at CNS, Longeviti wanted to stand out and promote ClearFit, which allows neurosurgeons to perform ultrasound scans on patients through their skulls without needing to be in the office. The architectural design of the space became a literal representation of this revolutionary product that captured attendees’ attention and quickly conveyed Longeviti’s story in seconds.

Standing in the center of the exhibit hall, medical professionals flocked to their exhibit and this intrigue turned into an abundance of meaningful business meetings.

Variety is the spice of life

Content is still the king of any experience. Success is in what you say and how you say it. First, you want original and unique content that is exclusive to the experience. Second, provide options for self-exploration and human engagement. This allows a guest to customize their trip according to their preferences. Finally, regardless of content or delivery method, authenticity and transparency are paramount.

A great example of self-exploration exists at The Barnes in Philadelphia. Although it houses one of the finest collections of modern European paintings in the world, the Foundation has stipulated that no interpretive content about the works may be displayed on the gallery walls. Enter the Barnes Focus, a mobile digital guide – accessible via a QR code scan – that uses the smartphone’s camera, combined with image recognition technology, to enhance the visitor’s visit. Visitors simply focus their camera on any artwork and then instantly receive a variety of content including facts, stories, themes and connections between the artworks.

This offers visitors the pure visual engagement of art and an enriching educational experience that creates personal connections with the work of art.

Keep only what “sparks joy”

Thanks to Marie Kondo for this little advice. Too often, we try to blur every possible product display, demo, and message in a branded environment. This can lead to clutter, confusion and lack of clarity. Sometimes less is more because it will allow people to focus on what is most important to and about your brand. A byproduct of this discipline is a clearer journey of exploration and discovery for participants within your brand universe.

The Weyerhaeuser exhibit at IBS is a perfect way to demonstrate that simplicity is key. On this stand, multiple stakeholders and divisions were represented, however, only selected featured products were displayed on their hero “trees” to keep a clean look. They also had other products displayed digitally on various screens in their booth.


Over the years we have shared hundreds of different articles, studies, presentations and interviews. Topics and content have varied, but there is one message that seems to convey most of them. Enjoy. Live events have been missed for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that they’re fun. They provide an opportunity to meet new people or reconnect with old friends. They give people the chance to take part in unique experiences and learn new things. They can even be a catalyst for creating new memories and shared stories that will last. In the brand world you create, be sure to leave room for fun.

At PestWorld 2019, on behalf of BASF, Impact XM created two custom pinball machines to promote BASF’s commitment to the professional pest control industry and position them as “game changers” within the industry. One machine was a repurposed old school arcade model, designed to showcase their reliable legacy products. The other was a state-of-the-art virtual pinball version to showcase their latest state-of-the-art solutions. Both engagements created a steady stream of traffic and engagements from attendees as well as lots of smiles and laughs.

Contact our team at [email protected] to discuss how you can create your next brand experience center. OR, visit our website to learn more about our products and services.

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