Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘island exhibits’

Is Imitation the Sincerest Form of Flattery? Nope!

December 30th, 2016 COMMENTS


In the past month, our designs have been copied three times. Three clear examples, all very different in scope. Question:  When do you throw up your hands vs. taking legal action to protect your intellectual property? Thought you might like to read what we decided to do in each situation.

Base Plate.

To be honest, we expected this to happen at some point. About seven years ago, we created an identifiable base plate for our Sacagawea Portable Hybrid Display line. The design made the base plates lighter, distinctive, and easier to carry. We expected other display manufacturers to create their own unique designs. What we didn’t anticipate was that a budget manufacturer/importer would simply tweak our existing design. See the minor difference.


What was surprising was seeing it at an exhibit association event, where members take an oath to honor one another’s intellectual property. I asked the owner about the base plate design and basically got a shrug. In other words, it is what it is. Will we pursue this legally? No but it’s an annoyance. This manufacturer has purchased parts and pieces from us in the past. We won’t sell to them again.

Charging Table.

Over the past year, we’ve designed and engineered a line of charging tables in various sizes and heights. The tables are clearly identifiable as Classic Exhibits designs, including the LED lights around the perimeter. Other charging solutions fit into one of two categories:  sofas, tables, and chairs with plugs or charging towers, similar to what you would see at an airport. Ours look nothing like those.

mod-1432gLast week,  I noticed a photo showing our MOD-1432 in LinkedIn… yet, it wasn’t. The shape was the same, along with the LED lights, USB charging ports, post, and base. Only the proportions were different. Honestly, we were surprised that someone would copy a design so clearly identifiable with Classic Exhibits. Yes, a round bistro table is a round bistro table, but the copy appeared to have the same LED light pattern and number of USB ports. Frankly, that’s being intellectually lazy.

I won’t share the photo because it would implicate the customer, rather than the manufacturer. So, what did we do? We sent the owner an email, who was kind enough to give me a call. While he felt their design didn’t infringe on the MOD-1432, he did agree to revisit the design and see if some changes were possible. We’ll see what happens.

Island Exhibit.

eco-4073_1_webThis one will blow your mind. Late last summer, our sister company Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits quoted a modified eSmart ECO-4073 island to a Distributor which included several Classic Exhibits counters and iPad stands. Several months later, we were contacted by a graphic designer asking for templates on the island they purchased in September. Except, we never built the island. The graphic designer sent us their invoice, which listed Classic kit numbers.

What the client purchased was a copy of the modified ECO-4073. Some small variations but 98% the same. The Distributor chose to build part of it and purchase other components, but it was an ECO-4073. And the distributor even included our part numbers on the invoice. For legal reasons, I can’t go into details; however, we are pursuing this aggressively with an IP attorney and expect a lawsuit to be filed within the next two weeks.

Like you, we are in a very creative business, so we’re always surprised when someone takes a design shortcut by copying. It’s one thing to improve, refine, expand on a design. It’s another thing to blatantly copy. And like you, we have to decide on the best recourse each time. We always address it. Sometimes tactfully, Sometimes bluntly. And sometimes legally. If you don’t, then the lazy will do what they do best. Steal your designs.

We would enjoy hearing your experiences and thoughts on this topic.

–Mel White


Hot Hot Hot!: Word on the Street — August 4th thru August 8th

August 9th, 2014 COMMENTS
Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Kevin Carty, VP Classic Exhibits

Summer Business

There is a heat wave in the Pacific NW. I mean HOT . . . at least for us. Mid-80’s to mid-90’s kinda HOT. Which if you have ever lived or visited here, you know we don’t get that very often.

Now for the cheesy segue. All this HOT weather has me thinking we are living in the Islands, and wouldn’t you know it, we are building and quoting A LOT of islands right now.

We usually have a nice mix of inline vs island orders, but the increase in island builds and quotes this summer has been noticeable. Exhibitors, namely your clients, are stepping back into island footprints after some trepidation during the recession. With the advent of more islands, there comes a clear sense that tradeshow programs have taken a step forward in many marketing plans.

I mention programs because with all the island work and quoting, it’s not like 10 x 10, 10 x 20, and 10 x 30 displays have slipped. Quite the opposite actually. They too are on the increase this summer. So it appears that clients, while still a little cautious, are planning more program additions to their tradeshow marketing this fall. A great sign!

It's Bigger This Summer

It’s Bigger This Summer

One clear indication is the workload. This is the first summer in 6-7 years that our entire shop crew worked full-time in June and July. And that really says something, considering we have two shifts. It’s a great feeling and nice indicator of where we are headed as an industry.

In past years, I have written in early August blogs about how it’s hard to get back into the full swing after the slow summer months. This year, there are no cobwebs, since we haven’t had the traditional summer lull. As a matter of fact, July was our second largest booked sales month this year. That is a sentence I NEVER EVER expected to write.

How has the summer been for you? I can predict many of the answers based on our conversations, but I am curious nonetheless. PLEASE SHARE what your summer business has been like and your outlook on business this fall.

Hope you had a great summer weekend with your family.

Be well.



Thanks and Hang on Tight: Word on the Street — August 12th thru August 16th

August 17th, 2013 1 COMMENT
Thanks and Hang on Tight: Word on the Street -- August 12th thru August 16th

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

As write this, it’s the halfway point of August. It’s 81 degrees, partly cloudy and a tad humid. Good day all in all. Not great. But good. Sort of like the exhibit industry in mid-August.

Your Growing Trust in Classic

The first two weeks of August are always the “ramp up” for the nutty late summer and fall show season. And this year is following the same trend. But with one twist, a twist that we’ve seen growing over the past 12 months: island exhibits continue to expand as a percentage of our business. As does our appreciation of your growing trust in Classic to help you on these island projects.

That trust is something we have long worked towards with our distributors, many of whom are traditional custom builders. And for a while there (2-5 years ago), there were times when we heard questions like, “Well, what happens when Classic decides to go full blown custom and just sell direct?”

Your orders and design requests over the past year, and the design and build work slotted for this fall, have in large part stamped out those concerns. We are your builder not your competitor. It just so happens that we can build your table tops, your inlines, and your double deck islands. As our skills have evolved, in exhibits, retail, and environments, so do your choices. It’s as simple as that.

The idea behind this blog was to thank you for your continued trust and support in Classic Exhibits, Classic Rentals, and ClassicMODUL Aluminum Extrusions. We appreciate it and probably don’t say it enough!

But Thank You! Sincerely . . .  Thank You!

Now, like every year, strap on your helmets because it’s the time of year when things get crazy!

Be well and have a wonderful weekend.



“Island I See You in All My Dreams”: Word on the Street — Feb. 4th thru Feb. 8th

February 10th, 2013 COMMENTS
"Island I See You in All My Dreams": Word on the Street -- Feb. 4th thru Feb. 8th

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Take Me to the Islands

For all the Parrotheads out there, you will recognize the blog title as a lyric from the Jimmy Buffett song, Island. But islands are something we have been seeing both awake and in our dreams over the past six weeks.

With each New Year, there comes a rush of business for the upcoming spring shows, and this year has been no different. Except, for the number of Island Exhibits we are quoting and ultimately building. So far this year, we have had several islands ship every single week. About half are total “ground-up design” and half are existing island kits with modifications.

Great news and a lot of fun.

So what does this mean? What is this an indicator of? Well while I am not Carnac or Kreskin or any sort of Chief Economist, but  I do know what it feels like. It feels like another positive economic step in the right direction in this slow turn of the economy.

Your clients are speaking with their pocket books, and they are saying “It’s time to get back to a fully functioning marketing program.” That includes more aggressive and expansive trade show marketing.

Many of the islands are for Fortune 500 and larger companies. Companies that pre-recession were doing much larger island presentations. So this would be a good indicator of the “paced” approach companies are taking. Jumping in with both feet, but jumping in somewhere between the deep and the shallow end while trying to grow responsibly.

Although this can be a frustrating pace for some, I applaud it actually. It’s nice to see companies of all sizes taking the same approach many of us are taking with our businesses. Call it “wait and see”, call it “careful optimism,” call it whatever you want. I view it as responsible.

We all have our thoughts on the “politics” of our nation. But someone said to me back in November something that stuck in my head. “We all need to quit looking to the government, the Dow, the media, or anything else about how we manage our businesses. We need to manage our business based on what happens with our customers and what needs to happen inside the four walls of our buildings. Focus on our our own P&L’s and market our companies in diverse ways regardless of what is happening.

And I really think in large part a lot of businesses are doing just that. Just look at our customers. They are participating in more shows and doing it with new properties. Maybe not as big as before, but still with big impact.

I want to thank you for the positive start to 2013. We had an amazing January, and we have you to thank for that. So thank you for sending your orders our direction.

We look forward to serving you and your clients in 2013. It’s been an EPIC start.

Hope you had a restful and fun weekend with your loved ones. Be well.

Kevin Carty


Delight and Surprise: Word on the Street — July 16th thru July 20th

July 22nd, 2012 COMMENTS
Delight and Surprise

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Over Promise and Under Deliver

We all know the danger of “over-promising and under delivering.” In business, there are few errors that can be more damaging, particularly when trying to attract new customers or launching a new product to existing customers. Then there’s the flip side of “under promising and over delivering” which has its own risks.

Over hyping a program or product can kill it if the deliverables don’t match the pre-hype. That’s not to say that promoting a new product or service is not critical. It clearly is! But at a minimum, there needs to be as  much effort in the “frosting,” i.e., the experience of receiving the product or service. I would argue that the “end experience” is the most critical experience.

Let’s look at something near and dear to me — Apple. I’ll admit it. I’ve drunk the Kool-aid and have been an Apple Fan Club member since May 2010. For years I fought it, accusing Apple of being just a marketing machine. Nothing more. Something the “cool kids” had to have to be “ccol” for those who bought into the Apple hype.

I Took the Bait

When i received my Macbook Pro in the mail, I took it home, opened it, and begin the set-up process. That’s where the “delight and surprise” began. Mind you, I already was a “win” for the Apple marketing machine. I bought the laptop. Victory for them right? Yes and No, but I would argue Not Yet. The “Yes” came next.

When I tore the packing tape off the plain brown corrugated shipping box and peered inside, the packaging was amazing. Well thought out, clean, everything had a place and was in its place. It was COOL. But again, the victory, while building, was not quite complete.

After removing the Macbook Pro from the box, the real victory materialized. I plugged in my shinny new laptop via a magnetic plug. What a great concept, especially for someone with two five year olds racing around who trip over things like cords. The cord wouldn’t get damaged (or do any damage to a five year old). Genius.

Them I hit the power button. Being a PC user for the prior 16 years, I was prepared for an agonizing 4-6 hours of set up and install. But something very strange happened. My Macbook Pro began to set itself up — literally! It was the definition of “intuitive.” By the time I was done, I looked at the clock and realized that it had only taken (1) hour from start to finish, migration time for email included

Back to my point. Here was a marketing machine that not only exceeded expectations, but “Surprised and Delighted” this new user!

There are millions of great products and services. We all yearn to design, sell, or own them. But, and this is the important “but,” there are far fewer with great user experiences. For example, who wants to buy a beautiful 20 x 30 island like the one featured in Design Monday this week and then receive a box of metal with some unintelligible set-up instructions. Nothing will spoil the buying process more. After all, your client just spent thousands of dollars on the booth space, the exhibit, and all the show services. They expect a perfect exhibit and a positive exhibit experience, as they should. But we need to surprise them as well and leave a lasting impression. At Classic, we hope we do just that, which is why we are always asking you in phone calls, in Customer Feedback emails, and in this blog, “Was your customer ‘Surprised and Delighted?'”

How do you accomplish that in your business? How do you make the “End Experience” as delightful as everything that precedes it? What’s the “frosting” that turns a mere cake into a party? Please share your secret with the other Classic Exhibits community.

STARTING TODAY, let’s change the tired “Over Promise, Under Promise” cliches into something more meaningful — “Make a Promise and Over Deliver!” True, it’s not as catchy, but it’s a real goal with real outcomes.

Be well!

–Kevin Carty