Trends in Trade Shows in 2014

The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and the International Builders’ Show® (IBS)—two of the largest residential and light-commercial shows of the year—brought key audiences together in Las Vegas, Feb. 4-6, to celebrate Design & Construction Week. With several Miller Brooks members on-site, we couldn’t help but notice the following observations.

The More the Merrier
With more than 1,700 exhibitors covering 650,000-plus square feet of floor space, Design & Construction Week delivered a one-of-a-kind and energetic experience for more than 75,000 attendees from across the globe. In 2015, publisher Hanley Wood is bringing yet another group—SURFACES and StonExpo/Marmomacc—to Design & Construction Week allowing an additional 25,000 attendees to take part in the three exhibits. Will more shows start to combine and leverage attendees and travel expenses?

—Amy Stevens, PR Account Executive


Insta Gratification
As a marketer and a consumer, I have a hate-hate relationship with QR codes. When done well, they make sense in some applications. But most of the time they’re not done well. During KBIS, I was interested to see that the proliferation of QR codes continues to decrease, while other forms of engagement (in-booth games, sharable photo ops, etc.) are on the rise. Including this Insta photo printer in the @HGTV booth.

—Brice Holland, Creative Director


Lots of Education Opportunities on the Show Floor(s)
Due to the expansion of exhibitor floor forums, and a push from both National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), show attendees were able to take advantage of a healthy range of accredited education opportunities outside of the classroom. In addition, the IBS Live area offered great resting spots with a full schedule of non-accredited education covering everything from green building and new technologies to business finance. My favorite, a presentation from Professional Builder’s Patrick O’Toole and Professional Remodeler’s Tim Gregorski, featured a variety of new apps for the building and design industry—some of which are very applicable for PR pros too! Their top five included: Penultimate, Construction Calc, Job Nimbus, Invoice2Go Plus and Voxer.

—Rosie O’Hara, PR Director


Giving Control to the End User
Manufacturers are developing (and prominently featuring) products that put the designer and consumer in control. Several booths featured mix-and-match products to allow for a one-of-a-kind design, including faucet spouts/handles, unique tile offerings and cabinet design/style/finish flexibility.

—Erin Haskett, Account Director


We’re Going Paperless
A stark contrast from years past, Design and Construction Week was void of a press kit area within the working pressroom. While online pressroom options were available to exhibitors, the show stepped away from the press kit cubbies and bins and gave the media a place to work free of manufacturer materials.

—Sarah Frantsi, PR Account Coordinator


Pin It
While product signage continues to adapt and change, a new twist seen at this year’s show was secondary product tags promoting a presence on Pinterest. As tools continue to develop, expect to see additional product and booth signage driving traffic to popular social media sites, such as Pinterest or Houzz.

—Ashley Murray, PR Account Executive


The Year of the Bag
It seems that the building industry is taking a lead from the fashion world in a new way this year.  Many exhibitors were hoping to draw attendees to their booths and increase brand awareness by having the “It Bag”* of the show as a giveaway.  While some brands trumped everyone by giving their bags away at the exhibit hall entrance doors, there were plenty of lime green and orange bags parading the aisles, as well. If only Ty Pennington or Vanilla Ice—both celebrity guests of the show—would have been carrying one, it would truly have been ‘IT.’

*It Bag is a colloquial term from the fashion industry used in the 1990s and 2000s to describe a brand or type of high-priced designer handbag by makers such as Chanel, Hermès or Fendi that becomes a popular best-seller.

 —Barbie Wentworth, President


The Complete Package—KBIS Exhibitor Explosion
In 2014, KBIS actually became a full kitchen and bath show! For several years, the primary exhibitors were faucet manufacturers. This year, however, cabinets and appliances made a reappearance allowing attendees to actually view products for the entire kitchen and bath. Cabinet manufacturers included Masco Cabinetry, MasterBrand and Wellborn Cabinets and appliances manufacturers included Liebherr, Dacor, Electrolux and Viking. All were welcome additions to the show that helped to create great energy and excitement among the attendees.

—Eric Milkereit, Account Executive


Apps on the Go

The IBS mobile app was a godsend in maximizing my time on the show floor since I could easily create a customized map of the exhibits I wanted to visit. Creating a roadmap was exceptionally easy since exhibitors could be accessed alphabetically, by product type as well as by celebrity appearances. The mailbox feature and push notifications offered a great platform to connect attendees with exhibitor promotions. And, since the app integrated social media networks, I didn’t have the hassle of toggling between my Facebook and Twitter apps. Overall, mobile apps help create a multi-dimensional experience for trade show attendees — most definitely a must have!

— Angie Dye, PR Account Supervisor


Missed Opportunity?
KBIS/IBS offers many opportunities for exhibitors to reach out and engage attendees both pre- and post- show. In past years, exhibitors have sent multiple emails to attendees and customers touting new products being introduced or latest happenings in their booth during the show. We typically receive some sort of messaging post-show as well, especially from exhibitors who scanned our badges at their booths. This year, there was a noticeable lack of pre-show direct mail. And, to date, no follow-up mail has been received. Much of the pre-show opportunities require significant investment, as do post-show opportunities, and it was no surprise to find out that those opportunities were not sold out this year as they have been in the past.

—Sue Doron, Media Director









Miller Brooks
February 14th, 2014

Miller Brooks Cook for the Cure – Thank You

It’s been a record-breaking year. To date, our October 4 event has raised over $13,500 on behalf of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Immense thanks to our more than 150 guests, and to all whose in-person and online bidding, buying and giving put us tastefully over the top.

Didn’t get to attend? No worries. Visit our event website for a recap of the day. Watch for the cookbook we’ll soon be sharing.

And don’t miss this: There’s still time to donate to a vital cause. Cheers.We hope to see you soon.


Make a donation »

See the event »

Miller Brooks
February 14th, 2014

Miller Brooks Cook for the Cure

You’re invited to a culinary event of bite-sized tastes and epically good proportions. Join us on October 4, from noon to 7 p.m., for our annual fundraiser and cook-off benefitting Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

For full details—and to add your own unique twist to this year’s competition—visit our website now, where you can help select the signature menu item our teams must deliver.

We hope to see you on October 4. Meanwhile, you can donate today and start having some fun creating our big (little) challenge dish.

Give us a challenge »

Make a donation »




Miller Brooks
October 21st, 2013

Kitchen and Bath China

At the end of May, I was lucky enough to travel to Shanghai with a team from Delta Faucet to attend the Kitchen and Bath China (KBC) trade show. Delta and Brizo (Delta Faucet Company’s premium brand) were both exhibiting at the show.

Honestly, a trade show is a trade show—big booths, small booths, demonstrations and classes. But, with the Chinese market being so very different from the U.S., this was a great opportunity to learn more about the local market.

The show was monstrous with eighteen halls, thousands of exhibitors and mobs of attendees. The housing market in China is massive and the growing middle class aspire for luxurious, expensive products, which is making things like custom showers and elaborate bathrooms very popular.

Import brands are a very big deal. American brands, such as Delta and Kohler, are viewed as durable, reliable and well-made with the general idea of American manufacturing being the worldwide standard. German brands are also incredibly common, but they represent the height of European style. Sleek, minimalist, angular.

One key difference between the U.S. and China is the focus on the bath as opposed to the kitchen. In China, the kitchen is not a gathering place for the home. It’s small and often used by a maid as opposed to being the place in the home where the whole family assembles, like in the U.S.

Now the bath on the other hand is a whole different story. People seem to really aspire to have a bathroom that is a showplace, particularly as it relates to the shower or the bathtub. Showerheads are huge. Many mount flush to the ceiling and release gallons/liters of water per minute. Water conservation is a growing trend, but not as it relates to a shower. People want a highly luxurious shower at any cost.

We’re seeing this bath trend in the U.S. too, but it was incredibly prevalent in China. The free-standing tub is also very popular. Ornate, elaborate tub fillers mounted into the floor stand beside beautiful bathtubs to create an almost spa-like experience in the bath.

Even digital showering has made its way to China. It’s a small part of the market, but it’s a status symbol people aspire to have. What’s interesting to me is that the big players in digital showers in the U.S. (Moen and Kohler) are not the big players in China. Grohe, American Standard and Hansgrohe showed digital showers that we haven’t even seen in the U.S. before.

When we attend trade shows in the U.S., there is always a ton of excitement about the elaborate, digital and electronic toilets that are shown by Kohler or Toto, but in China the reaction is kind of meh. The digital toilet has been common in Asia for many years and you actually see them in public restrooms in hotels, malls and restaurants. Toilets are the one area where water conservation seems to be making headway. The dual-flush toilet is very common in commercial applications, but we saw the trend moving towards residential toilets as well.

Anecdotally, we have always felt that international markets skew towards and prefer contemporary or modern styling as opposed to something more traditional. Though that definitely is true, there is a niche for traditional-styled products with some caveats. Brands are showing their traditional products in unique finishes such as bright, polished brass or polished bronze. The matte finishes are not as popular. The traditional products are very ornate. We often think of traditional as being rustic, but that’s not the case in China. If a brand has something really unique, there seems to be a market for it.

Overall, the show was incredible and it was awesome to see it live. I learned a ton about what the Chinese prefer and gravitate towards and it was an invaluable experience that will help us to be better marketers moving forward.

Eric Milkereit
June 28th, 2013

A Well Played Fundraiser

Congratulations to the IU Simon Cancer Center, The Indianapolis Colts and everyone involved in making the inaugural Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala an enormous success. With 400 guests in attendance, the one-night event brought in $1.1 million to tackle cancer.

The idea of a fundraising gala typically conjures up images of exclusive invitations, evening gowns and passed hors d’oeuvres. However, when Mary Maxwell and her team set out to plan this one-of-a-kind gala they had something entirely different in mind. Considered risky by those in the gala planning business, the team went out on a limb to create a memorable event that was both high scale and casual.

The “no heels or tuxedos” tailgating event kicked-off on the indoor NFL practice field at the Indianapolis Colts complex. The facility featured a mini football combine where guests could kick field goals, catch touchdown passes from Andrew Luck and even tackle a 260-pound NFL lineman – all for the common cause of funding cancer research. An autograph signing session, cocktail reception and silent auction also took place on the practice field followed by dinner and a live auction in an adjoined banquet hall at the complex.

While glitz and glamour were not on the ticket at this sold out extravaganza, the event had all the details necessary to make it memorable. While seeing Barbie Wentworth catch a touch down pass from Andrew Luck ranks near the top of high points for the evening…the highest by far was hearing Coach Pagano tell his story first hand. How family, friends and team members have the power to get us through the toughest of times. How wonderful beating cancer feels. How making a difference for the greater good is what matters most.

I feel very blessed to have witnessed this event come together. And even more blessed knowing that $1.1 million is being put towards the fight against a disease that impacts so many.

Congratulations to the event planning committee and board of the IU Simon Cancer Center for an event well played!

Chuck Pagano, host of the Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala

Barbie Wentworth after catching a pass from Colts quarterback Andrew Luck

Rosie O’Hara with Chuck Pagano at Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala


Rosie O'Hara
April 25th, 2013

Morbid Inspiration: Lessons Learned from New York Times Obituaries

When is the last time you visited the obituary section of the New York Times (NYT)? For me, it had been a good number of years until my interest was recently piqued by—of all people—Alec Baldwin. In his “Here’s the Thing” podcast, Baldwin revealed that the obituary section is one of his favorite components of the paper and a daily read for creative inspiration. So, I followed his lead, began exploring past articles and was somewhat surprised to uncover some compelling takeaways that relate to the modern day marketing and media landscape.

Compelling storytelling. From the perspective of both a consumer and marketer, the personalization of brands through storytelling is in high demand. Chronicling a person’s life is much like the chronology of a brand.

Cultural depth. Context is now king (dethroning content’s long-standing reign), which means that now more than ever marketers need to keep a better pulse on the world around them to effectively garner attention. The obituary section of the NYT is a valuable shrine of cultural grit — from ring shouts to concentration coats—this captivating content is sure to spark creativity.

Vocabulary-stretching syntax. The words ubiquitous, musculature, and polemical make rare appearances in my daily news feed—as well as memorably vivid descriptions such as a “sharp-elbowed world”, “triply marginalized” and “prolific procurer.” Drawing inspiration from the obituaries can help freshen your vocabulary and add distinction to your message.

Astoundingly succinct headlines. In a world of 140-character tweets, there’s something to be learned from a powerfully pointed headline. The NYT’s formula for headlines requires intricately crafted wordsmithing—an incredibly valuable skill across a wide variety of marketing tactics.

While the analogies might end here, there are ample opportunities for further exploration. Check out on a daily basis or purchase the entire collection online.

Angie Dye
April 4th, 2013

Make Your Own Luck Using Social Media

The luck of the Irish might be with you this weekend, but it takes more than luck to create a successful social media strategy. With diligence and persistence, your social media plan will begin to fall into place and luck can be seen as the extra cherry on top. So stop searching for that elusive four leaf clover and try the following social media tips.

Study Each Platform – There are different “rules” and nuances for every social media platform that you need to familiarize yourself with before jumping in. For example, Instagram and Pinterest are ideal platforms for visual content and Facebook also lends itself to initiating conversations.

Start Small - After researching the best social media outlets for your users and overall strategy, start small. It takes time to get the hang of each cyber community and to truly maximize your efforts and reach your intended audience. Select one or two outlets to focus on and once you get the hang of the routine, expand to more social media outlets, if appropriate.

Network - Reach out and begin to follow key players in your industry. If you don’t know who these people are, do your research. Begin by listening to relevant conversations and influencers within your industry. Also, ask your followers who they are engaged with — this gives you insight on who to follow and also begins to cultivate a relationship between you and your followers.

Be yourself. Show your followers who you are — loosen up the corporate tone. It’s OK to be more casual on certain outlets (i.e. Facebook) and reserve a more business tone for others (i.e. LinkedIn). Identify your audience for each outlet and it will help you decide what tone is most appropriate, but always stay true to you or your brand.

Be Visual -  Spice up your social media content with some great visuals. After announcing the most recent changes to Facebook’s News Feed, CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared that almost 50 percent of News Feed content today is photos and visual content (hence the new visual-focused News Feed design). According to HubSpot, photos generate 53 percent more likes than the average post and 104 percent more comments then the average post.

Not only can visuals be more interesting to your readers, but we naturally process visuals quicker then text. WIth so many other companies competing for a user’s attention, this is key to marketers.

This isn’t just a strategy for Facebook either. Facebook reached 100 million users in four years, but Instagram is on pace to beat that record. Check out this article from Mashable to help put this in perspective.

Do it Daily – Make your social media strategy part of a daily routine. This will allow you to give timely responses to any questions or comments from users. According to Socialbakers, only 48 percent of customer queries are addressed by surveyed companies. That number is steadily increasing, but think about the competitive edge this could give your brand. Be persistent and you might just make your own luck.

[photo via]

Sarah Frantsi
March 14th, 2013

Change the world (at least your world) with Positivity and Perspective

What inspires you? What inspires your co-workers and employees? What about your children or significant other? It’s obviously different for everyone, but for me, two words that I feel are very important (both at work and at home) are “positivity” and  “perspective”.

Here’s a quick, bite-sized look at a couple of recent (and not-so-recent) examples that I have found interesting and inspiring. And maybe you’ll feel the same way.


Bobby McFerrin summarizes the key to happiness nicely, but it’s more than just a matter of letting go and feeling better.

Or is it?


“The Happy Secret to Better Work” is a stellar TEDx video that I stumbled upon a few days ago and I’ve already shared it several times— including with my three kids. It talks about how people often seek a goal, achieve success, and expect happiness. When, in fact, they should really be seeking and living a happy life, which will help them achieve success. And there’s scientific evidence to back it up.

Check is out. It’s definitely worth 12 minutes of your time.

NOTE: Bob Knight has recently parlayed his anything-but-positive approach into a book deal with his new book “The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results.”  According to a few reviews I’ve read, it’s not really about negative thinking, rather it’s about planning for the worst and expecting the best. It’ll probably sell millions.


Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace. The title alone should be enough to pique your interest, as it did mine.

Published in 1998, this atypical business book isn’t new. But it’s among my favorites that watch over me every day from their bookshelf perch. Author Gordon MacKenzie worked for Hallmark for three decades (not overly corporate on the corporate scale, in my opinion) and learned to successfully navigate the written and unwritten rules of the business world.

Even though he held the title of Creative Paradox (a title he gave himself), it’s written from somewhat of a proletarian point of view, which provides an interesting perspective for worker bees and queen bees alike.

It’s an easy, entertaining read and I’d recommend picking up a copy here. Or feel free to swing by my office and borrow it off my shelf.


Brice Holland
March 1st, 2013

Voice of Customer Research: Take It to The Source

I’m a sucker for surveys. Whether they’re online or via telephone, I’ll always take a couple of minutes to answer a few questions. I love the idea of someone actually wanting my opinion and listening to my point of view, and I attribute this to my senior year in college.

I was enrolled in MKTG451, or something like that, which was the market research class required for my degree. Our semester project involved helping the local ELKS club determine why membership was diminishing and how to improve things going forward (ie, getting young families to join, increase dinners at the club restaurant, etc). It’s important to note this class was before the Internet (say it ain’t so) and, as such, our research was done mostly via telephone.

With a specific line of questions, we called current members and ex-members during the evening, most likely interrupting their dinner and personal time with their families. It was terrifying. Thankfully, most of the people were relatively patient and kind, and looking back, they could probably hear the fear in my voice.  But even with the occasional surly old ELKS member, I still believed what I was doing was important, and I believe that to be true of Voice of Customer (VOC) research now more than ever.

After all, what better way to get the pulse of an industry or brand than by going out and asking those important questions? Why are people buying what they’re buying or doing what they’re doing. More importantly, why aren’t they buying our product or service, or doing what we think they should be doing?

But get this—research shows marketers may be missing critical opportunities to truly connect with customers at key touch points. Is it because as much as we want to know what customers are thinking, we’re still hesitant to ask? Perhaps some are afraid of what the answer might be!

Whatever the case may be, the current environment (internet, CRM, social media, etc.) makes doing VOC research both easier and more important than ever.  Is VOC research part of your marketing strategy for 2013?  Should it be?

[photo via]

Libby Boulais
February 21st, 2013

Customer Service: Engaging your customers could hurt you too

How many times have you had an awesome customer experience and then shared it with your virtual community? Have you ever had a really bad experience and used social media to get notice from a company? It used to be a typed letter or a phone call to an 800 number, but now those complaints, and sometimes resolutions, can be created in minutes.

Customer Service Via Facebook

It happened to me last weekend. I left my wallet in a grocery cart outside a store and didn’t realize it until I was home over an hour later. I called the store (after first freaking out), and the manager told me one of their employees found it and placed it in the store’s safe. They had tried to find me via my loyalty card, but it had an out of state address attached to it (oops.) When I went into the store to get it, I could not tell them enough how thankful I was. They felt it was no big deal, but it was huge to me. Since then, I have told anyone and everyone in my virtual community about it, and also sent a note to the corporate office singing the praises of the store’s employees.

On the flip side, this fall I submitted a negative customer survey response to a rental company regarding a condo I had rented in Charleston. Within a week, I received an apologetic letter along with a certificate for a free week of rental within the next year. Frankly, I was a little embarrassed as getting free stuff was never my intent. I just wanted them to stop renting dated condos that had half the lights not working. I expected better from them.

I find though that others don’t share my sense of embarrassment. There is word of a disturbing trend right now that business owners are dealing with customers threatening to write negative reviews unless they receive a refund or upgrade.

Fight Back

TripAdvisor, one of the company’s that is having this problem, has decided to fight back with a new management tool to help business owners who are being blackmailed. A business can report potential blackmail or threatening behavior before a negative review is submitted and the TripAdvisor support team will investigate the issue.

TripAdvisor is currently the world’s largest travel community with more than 60 million monthly visitors, 32 million members and 75 million reviews and opinions. Imagine if even just a fraction of these reviews were problematic, and the associated cost for them to be investigated. It’s certainly a business cost that TripAdvisor doesn’t want to incur, but they have to because their site relies on honest reviews.

Every company should and generally does have a process to address every type of customer issue, but many didn’t see this coming and are scrambling to put measures in place to eliminate these threats from “less then ideal” customers.

I love to hear the great customer service stories you find on social media and I secretly enjoy the bad ones too. I guess I would just like to ask consumers to consider their true intent when giving comments. Make it constructive and don’t expect anything in return except that maybe you saved another customer from having a similar experience.

[photo via]

Sue Doron
February 7th, 2013


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