When I was a kid, summer camp was one of the highlights of my year. Instead of eagerly awaiting competitive sports and camping, I mostly looked forward to arts and crafts: making tie-dye T-shirts, covering as much stuff as possible in glitter and slapping colorful handprints on everything. Suffice it to say, I was perhaps a little too excited to attend Creativation, Craft & Hobby Associationâ€™s annual trade conference. The big news this year is CHA is now Association for Creative Industries. Behind the name change is a push to appeal to a younger demographic of manufacturers, retailers, designers, emerging businesses, influencers, bloggers and creative professionals. The global creative arts industry is worth more than $40 billion, proving itâ€™s come a long way since I went to camp. Here, three ways AFCI nailed its new event.
1. The event underwent a rebranding of its own.
Creativation is a name that made me do a double take. Is it a real word? What two words is it comprised of? Or is completely made up? Regardless, it captures my attention more effectively than CHA MEGA Conference & Trade Showâ€”the showâ€™s retired name. Also new in 2017 was the location, Phoenix Convention Center. Relocating from its former home in California at Anaheim Convention Center, Creativation will stay put in PHX until at least 2019. I think this is a smart move for the association, which wants to prove its commitment to the rebranding and encourage attendees to return for the next two years. One of my favorite branding opportunities was a wall outside the show displaying Creativation spelled out in Post-it notes, an eye-catching way to show off the new name and highlight sponsor 3M.
2. Event organizers wove the theme into every detail.
Creativationâ€™s city-themed trade show floor was one of the most innovative Iâ€™ve experienced. It was designed to emulate a miniature city, complete with a town square, bakery, bookstore, cafe, pub and parkâ€”all great sponsorship opportunities. I appreciated how Andria LaJeunesse, CEM, the associationâ€™s vice president of events and education, chose a theme and stuck with it, making a cohesive attendee experience. Colorful, easy-to-read signage was inspired by street signs, and each aisle had a numbered street name; large floor decals marked a â€œtour busâ€ route, allowing attendees to easily navigate the show; and the clever Plugged-in Park was set up with picnic tables stocked with coloring pages, markers and colored pencils, andâ€”of courseâ€”charging stations. The interesting layout gave a sense of community and encouraged photo ops, networking and casual conversations.
3. The experiential factor was on point.
Product demos, make-and-takes and hands-on activities were abundant on the show floor, and understandably soâ€”the attendees are creatives, after all. The splatter paint booth was one of my favorites to observe: Attendees suited up in paint-proof getups and goggles, walked into an enclosed booth (with windows for our viewing pleasure) and threw paint onto blank canvases. Another memorable experience was the Photomatic booth, where I had my photo taken and converted into a coloring page within seconds. It was a fun way for the brand to market its inventive product, interact with attendees and give them a one-of-a-kind souvenir. The Innovations Center was another experiential opportunity for attendees to discover 25 exhibitorsâ€™ ideas, trends, methods, techniques and devices unveiled at the show through interactive, hands-on displays. Letâ€™s Hang, a product that makes it easier to hang artwork, was one of my favorites, and the winner of Creativationâ€™s Ultimate Pitch contest, inspired by â€œShark Tank.â€