Trade Show TalesBlog

What Makes a Custom Exhibit a Custom Exhibit?

October 6th, 2017 2 COMMENTS

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Earlier this week, I sat in a lengthy build meeting for a $275,000 custom exhibit with the designer, account executive, detailer, project manager, multiple production leads, and Kevin. It’s a 20 x 40 mostly wood exhibit with a 30 ft. arch with compound curves, several retail-esque serving areas, raised flooring, and refrigeration displays for food. Plus, lots of subtle LED lighting. It’s for a March show. Perfect project for November, when there’s typically some slack time in our schedule.

If you saw the rendering (which I can’t share yet), you would say, “Now that’s a custom exhibit.” I told the AE that with his permission we’ll assign a kit number once it’s built and put it on Exhibit Design Search. I was joking. Kinda. But it prompted a conversation, which focused on whether assigning a kit number and entering it into Exhibit Design Search no longer makes it a custom project.

[IMO — It’s still custom. Whether the next client purchases it “as is” or it’s customized to their exhibit marketing goals.]

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At Classic Exhibits, we are often defined (or limited) by Exhibit Design Search, the trade show industry’s leading display database. And because EDS is kit-based, it’s easy to assume we are a portable/modular/hybrid manufacturer. And, we are… and we are not.

Easily 80% of what ships from Classic Exhibits is modified, customized, or custom. Which we encourage. In the current exhibit supplier landscape, there is only one, perhaps two, builders in our industry that do anything similar to what we do. Don’t misunderstand me. There are portable/modular suppliers. There are custom houses. But, there’s really no company with a national, non-franchise footprint that will supply, design, and build portable, modular, hybrid, and custom displays from tabletops to islands for an established distributor network.

Whether or not an order starts from a kit, everything is built to the specifications of the job. And when I say built, I mean built. We don’t pull a box from some shelf and ship it. Sometimes the display is a current EDS design, sometimes it’s inspired by an existing design, or more often than not it’s created by our Designers from your specifications and budget.

So I am confused (and I don’t want to be). When is an exhibit custom? Now more than ever, it seems the term “custom” is fluid.

  • Is it based on materials, project dollar size, or who builds it?
  • Is it an original design, not one based on prior concepts?
  • What if it’s built from modular panels?
  • Does it matter as long as your client views it as custom?
  • And, here’s the tricky one, can a rental be custom?

I’d very much enjoy hearing your thoughts and definition. Thanks.

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.

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2 Responses to “What Makes a Custom Exhibit a Custom Exhibit?”

  1. Steve Riches says:

    Hi Mel,

    Being raised in the so called “custom” part of our industry (exhibit house using hardwall construction techniques), I think today especially with the advent of large format printing, almost anything we do that adds the client’s branding could be called “custom”.

    Whether a small banner stand or a large island exhibit, if we use the client’s corporate colors and branding, it’s “custom”.

    It really doesn’t matter if the exhibit is made from a system or hardwall construction. It’s still “custom” made for a client’s specifications and needs.

    Thanks,

    Steve

  2. Mel White says:

    Excellent points Steve.

    There’s a desire to cling to the “custom” term because it connotes exclusivity. Which I understand. Certain customers crave that. But the reality is, as you state, personalization and strategic branding creates customization, whether via the structure, the graphics, or the overall marketing. The question should be… Can you design, build, and support what I need to achieve my unique trade show marketing goals? Not every exhibit house or supplier can. That might be a better litmus test for “custom.”

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