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The expo is an endless playground of innovation to explore, but most importantly, it’s primetime for brand leaders to break through with sellers. Four experts share how.


Big trade shows like KBIS and Natural Products Expo West are days-long performances for brands: debuting new innovations, road-testing with real consumers, talking with media, and, for business leaders, interfacing directly with retailers. As a marketing leader, how can you make the most of these events? We asked four experts in very different domains.

Overcome the Flocking Problem 

The beauty of trade shows like Expo West is that they draw tens of thousands of businesses—some huge and well-known, others small and emerging. But it’s their downside, too. With over 70,000 people planning to attend or exhibit Expo West in Anaheim, CA, this March, visibility and differentiation are major obstacles to overcome.

“Every brand there is trying to break through, and that can be overwhelming,” says Caroline Dunn, Director of Client + Category Partnership at LPK. “In the climate of these events, it’s the brands that invest in disruption that tend to generate the most noise.” One way to disrupt is to show presence, she says. (The more immersive and experiential, the better.) But another way is product: “If you’re showing up with a compelling product that clearly solves for a customer or consumer problem, you will win attention. You might not have the grandest footprint, but it will capture mindshare.”

Attach to Emergent Trends

Trade shows are a barometer for emergent consumer trends, and they signal where categories are headed next. “Some brands go to these shows to really ‘self-audit’ and see how well they’re keeping up with the prevailing trends,” says Kyle Schutte, Director of Client + Category Partnership at LPK, who specializes in food + bev. “It’s a form of competitive market research.” Seeing competitors on the cutting edge underscores the importance of placing trends at the forefront of strategy work. “It isn’t enough to be current on what’s hitting now,” he says. “The brands showing up best at these shows have been on top of emergent shifts for a long, long while—and they’re already thinking ahead to what’s next.” It’s a wake-up call to any brand that isn’t baking trends and consumer discovery into their efforts from the jump.

One way LPK helps clients do this is a “Future Of” Culture Scan. This assessment can be categorical, like Future of Snacks, or more dynamic and lifestyle-driven—think Future of Sleep or Future of Fitness.

Tell a Problem/Solution Story

Beyond the immersive experiences, elaborate booth designs and product samples, getting crystal-clear on the foundations of your brand, story and target audience can’t be overestimated. For Rachel Peters, CEO and Co-Founder of Clean Age, a personal care brand for teens, this means speaking the language of retailers and connecting your product to their customer’s problem. Clean Age fills a void on the personal care shelf, giving teens—who are more knowledgeable than generations before, thanks in part to Google and TikTok—a clean and gender-inclusive brand that syncs with their values. “We really believe the retailers know the consumer best,” she says. “The reality is, they have access to the most data—the richest data—and have a deep understanding of how the category is being shopped.”

This can be a point of tension, she notes, for marketing leaders who feel strong ownership over their target consumer definition: “It can be really hard for brands to get out of their own way.”

Schutte echoes this phenomenon: “Sometimes we see brands feeling the pain of retailers holding a very different vision of who their consumer is.” What can help close this gap? Identifying and pursuing Actionable Consumer Desires, which unearth richer, data-driven tensions and point to what audiences really want. “You’ll notice the most successful brands tend to live at this fault line between enduring truth and emergent trend,” says Valerie Jacobs, Chief Marketing Officer at LPK. “Consumer motivations like ‘I want to raise a healthy family’ and ‘I want to give back to the planet’ start to interact with new trends in clean ingredients and formulations—and that’s what pushes a category like, say, babycare or personal care forward.”

Show an Evolved Sustainability POV

The collective call for sustainability keeps getting louder, and it continues to play a leading role at shows like Expo West, KBIS and CES. 93% of consumers have sustained or increased their sustainable purchase habits from the past year, according to IRI, and the amount of consumers who actively seek out retailers with sustainable policies is on the rise.

For B2C brands, packaging is one way to signal sustainable practices and brand values. But with media scrutiny and political backlash against brands at all-time highs, marketing leaders need to do more than talk the talk. “Right now, you have some B2Bs and B2Cs acting more like B2Ps. The P is for policymakers,” Jacobs explains. “This is especially true in spaces like water, agtech and ingredient sourcing across all kinds of categories. To win with retailers, brands need to know their stuff and take a confident, courageous stance.” That could range from evolving packaging or product formulations with cleaner, eco-friendly ingredients to businesses making bigger, visionary pledges for change.

Make a Plan for Post-Show

You went. You networked. You took meetings and made new connections. But now what? “A big reason we go to expos is to help leaders make sense of what they’re seeing and hearing, and apply it back to their own business,” says Schutte. “On the back end of a show, we might be helping an insurgent brand build out its range of packaging, or working with an established brand to flex into a new partnership opportunity. Success looks different for different brands.”

Didn’t get the traction you wanted at the trade show? It’s possible you’re solving the wrong consumer problem, or perhaps focusing on the wrong aspects of your offering and the value it delivers. No matter, your trade show experience will illuminate new insights about your consumer strategy and steer you toward the next right actions for growth.

Want to meet with LPK at your next trade show? Just reach out to us here and we’ll find a way to connect.



Claire Keys Pytlik

HEAD OF CONTENT & COMMUNICATIONS Claire Keys Pytlik believes in the power of voice, helping brands find, shape and amplify theirs to drive unimagined growth. She has led verbal strategies and creative content for B2Bs and B2Cs across diverse categories—from beauty to baby, food + bev to fintech, personal care to kitchen + bath. As Head of Content + Communications, Claire brings expertise in editorial strategy, brand voice, communications and storytelling. At LPK, she has helped The Clorox Company innovate for the future of cleaning and personal care, shaped offerings for The Delta Faucet Co’s next consumers, and built content destinations that propel leaders to the front edge of their categories