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Impressions of Creativeworld 2017

A few days after the Creativation show here in the U.S. in Janaury, the Creativeworld 2017 show took place at Messe Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany. In its seventh year this year, the show is reaching maturity. This year’s show saw the continuation of a lot of standard Creativeworld features – and the introduction of a few new ones as well.

[Disclosure: Messe Frankfurt is a sponsor of this website.]

Creativeworld 2017 saw a 15% rise in the number of exhibitors over 2016, up to 344. The show also continued to earn its reputation as an unrivaled international exhibition, with exhibitors from 37 countries and visitors from 94 countries. The top visitor populations at the show were from France, the Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain and Italy, and attendee numbers from Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Australia, Denmark and North America were also increased over the previous year.

Creativeworld 2017: What Hasn’t Changed

One signature part of the Creativeworld experience (for me, at least) is arriving each morning with a mass of people who come bursting out of a train onto a cold platform, and then move en masse up escalators into the Torhaus lobby of the Messe. To new American visitors, the mass of people, the scale of the entrance, is an often startling introduction to the size of what they are walking into. And to experienced visitors, the energy of the crowd is an invigorating way to start the day.

Creativeworld arrival

Another thing that is still the same at Messe Frankfurt…long walks down at times seemingly endless hallways that connect together the buildings on the massive exhibition grounds!

Messe Frankfurt

Another thing that hasn’t changed at the Messe for Creativeworld are the plentiful and excellent food options in Hall 4, with cafe counters stationed on the edges and even in the center of the halls. They say an army travels on its stomach, and at the Messe the masses of attendees can avail themselves of excellent sandwiches and other healthy options including fresh squeezed orange juice (that is pressed right in front of you) without missing a beat in their day’s schedule.

Creativeworld cafe

The Creative Impulse Awards returned for 2017, with a new area as its home on the show floor, but the same categories to enter.

Creative Impulse displays

The Creative Impulse Awards were handed out in a ceremony on Saturday. Fabric dominated the winners as Creative Product of the Year was won by efco creative for their Wood Veneer Fabric, and Creative Tool of the Year was won by Fiskars for their Fabric Circle Cutter. Christophorus Verlag won Book of the Year for “Sewing with SnapPap”.

Creative Impulse award winners

The popular and extensive Creativeworld Trend Show returned for another year this year, with large displays themed on the trends of “thoughtful”, “imperfect” and “whimsy”.

Creativeworld 2017 trend show

Like in previous years, there was plenty of options for people to get hands on with the trends in the Trend Show’s workstation area that offered projects for attendees to try.

Creativeworld 2017 trend work area

One unique feature of the Creativeworld show is the “Messe Frankfurt Against Copying” program, which was set up in the lobby area of Hall 4 (outside the Creativeworld halls) at the Messe, offering education on European copyright and trademark law to show attendees.
Messe Frankfurt Against Copying

One final thing that remains unchanged about Creativeworld – and the European market in particular – is the heavy presence of distributors. Because of the international nature of the European market and complicated nature of import/export operations, most American companies seek distributors where possible to use to market their products. So it’s not unusual to walk into the booth of a large company whose name is unfamiliar in the U.S. market and see signs like the one below marketing a U.S. brand.

Creativeworld distributors

But not everything stayed the same as Creativeworld hit its seven year itch…some interesting changes were also visible on the show floor as well this year.

Creativeworld 2017: What’s New

The most obvious change at Creativeworld 2017 is the biggest – in size, that is. In previous years, the show occupied only half of Hall 4.2. When visitors entered the floor from the lobby, they were met with the choice to visit Creativeworld to the left of the main aisle that entered the hall from the entrance, or to go right and visit the section of Paperworld that had products like school backpacks. This year, an expansion of Creativeworld’s square footage has it taking up all of Hall 4.2 (as well as all of Hall 4.1 as in previous years). The Paperworld section that was previously in the hall has been relocated to another exhibit hall in the Messe.

Hall 4-2 Creativeworld changes

Attendees really seem to love one of the other, more subtle, changes that I’ve been noticing gradually taking place the past few years at Creativeworld. More and more companies exhibiting at the show are doing large scale demonstrations that have artists working on the show floor showing off both products and different art forms that can be created with them.

For instance, in the Kuretake booth, an artist was demonstrating Kaleidolines work on a wall sized piece of art:

Kuretake Kaleidolines demo

Calligraphy artist Paul Antonio was also showing off his skills in the Kuretake booth, sending show attendees home with beautifully drawn versions of their name in gold ink:

Paul Attong Kuretake demo

In the Strathmore booth, an artist was doing an amazing job replicating a Van Gogh painting using (what else!) the Van Gogh line of oil paints.

Strathmore Van Gogh paints demo

Demonstrations were seen all over the show floor at Creativeworld 2017, at a wide variety of companies, and even included graffiti art. In the U.S. pavillion where square footage was limited in the modest sized booth, artists were at work demonstrating artistic techniques with products. Ken Oliver was in the Product Performers booth demonstrating his signature line of Color Burst ink powders.

Ken Oliver demo

And, increasingly, at Creativeworld, attendees have the opportunity to do more than just watch products in action. At the Creativeworld Forum (which was located this year in Hall 4.2), Creativeworld attendees have had the chance to attend a growing list of hands on workshops the past few years. Topics this year included Soapmaking (sponsored by Rayher), Lettering (sponsored by Tombow), mixed media (sponsored by Marabu), wrapping (taught by Ulla Büning), and many more!

Creativeworld education

Exhibitors are jumping on the hands on trend for attendees as well. In the Hero Arts booth in the U.S. pavilion, I was able to try out one of their beautiful new stamps to improve my layered stamping skills!

Hero Arts make and take

In the booth shared by Alexandra Renke, Pinkfresh Studio, and Waffle Flower, I saw something I don’t think I’ve ever seen at a Creativeworld show before…a giveaway underway! The trio were rewarded with a nice crowd in their booth for the event as well as healthy crowds for most of the show (or at least it seemed every time I passed by the area).

Booth Giveaway

Another striking change is the increasing relevance of a visit to Paperworld to many Creativeworld attendees, especially the papercrafting segment. With the planner segment taking over the papercrafting market, Paperworld vendors such as Moleskine who make journals are now of more than passing interest to papercrafts stores.

Moleskine journals

Art materials maker Caran D’ache was actually exhibiting on the Paperworld show floor, confident that with the crossover between the two shows their customers would find them.

Caran Dache

Once in their booth, Caran D’ache visitors could also get hands on with their various color mediums and try them out (although it seemed a shame to disturb that beautiful rainbow of color on the table).

Caran Dache

The advent of mixed media has papercrafters looking for supplies that they would never have thought about before. This is another reason to venture to the Paperworld halls – where these oversized paper sheets by Tassotti stopped me dead in my tracks with visions of their possibilities!

Tassotti Paperworld 2017

Another thing that was new this year was Creativeworld’s hosting of the German Skills Championships in Visual Merchandising. The event took place over several days on the show floor in Hall 4.2, as the six contestants took on a challenge to merchandise a store window to display an assigned item.

Source – Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Marc Jacquemin

The medals were awarded by a panel of judges in a ceremony at the Christmasworld show on Tuesday of show week, and the winner will represent Germany in the World Skills Championship in Abu Dhabi in October.

Creativeworld 2017

Source – Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Marc Jacquemin – Right to left: 2nd place: Melvin Suckow (Karstadt, Berlin), 1st place: Ronja Pfeiffer (Reischmann, Kempten), 3rd place: Annalina Väth (satis&fy AG)

As if all of that wasn’t enough new things for 2017…how about a whole new show? This year, in addition to the traditional Creativeworld, Paperworld and Christmasworld shows, Messe Frankfurt debuted a fourth show during the show weekend: Floradecora. This show is all about fresh floral and ornamental plants, bringing together flowers for every season and festive occasion under one roof for wholesale buyers.

Floradecora 2017

We’ll be creating an entire feature on Floradecora later in our show coverage, but in the meantime, here’s a peek at some of the tropical loveliness that was on display!

Floradecora 2017

Stay tuned to both Scrapbook Update and our sister site Craft Critique this week for additional Creativeworld 2017 show coverage!

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Creativeworld | Why Go International?

January is a busy month for trade shows in the crafts industry. The Craft & Hobby Association and TNNA shows open the month. Creativeworld in Frankfurt, Germany closes out the month.

Messe Frankfurt signsThis coming January, like this past January, I will once again be making the transatlantic trek to Germany to attend the Creativeworld show in Frankfurt as a speaker and member of the show’s official press corps. Why go to another continent for a trade show just two weeks after attending the Craft & Hobby Association show? As I learned last year during my first visit, there are actually several ways in which the international Creativeworld show complements and enhances what attendees have just learned and done at CHA. Continue Reading →

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What is a Trade Show?

Scrapbook Update has been receiving a campaign of emails and tweets encouraging us to write about and promote an upcoming “virtual trade show” event in the scrapbook industry. We will not be doing so, and I am here now as editor to explain why.

It is tempting, as society is taken over by technology, to think that everything can be replaced and even made better by technology. That is not always the case. To learn why that is not the case with a trade show, you have to first consider: What is a trade show?

A trade show is not a shopping mall.

A trade show is not a place for buyers to run through with list in hand, checking off items and getting in and out as fast as possible like a frantic last-minute holiday shopper with presents still to wrap and dinner to cook.

There are many different ways for crafts industry buyers to view and order products: reps, distributors, buying groups, vendor websites. A trade show (in any format) simply isn’t necessary just to facilitate actual commerce transactions like it was 20 years ago. The limited perception of trade-show-as-shopping-mall sets everyone involved up for failure, because it then colors the choices that the participants (both vendors and buyers) make on-site about how to spend their time and how to spend their resources. Ultimately, the tight focus on buying and selling – which all involve recognize can be completed other ways – leaves everyone afterwards feeling unfulfilled and wondering what the point of the event was.

So if the point of a trade show is not buying and selling, what is it?

A trade show is about people, about relationships, about sharing the knowledge that is inside all of the attendees’ heads, and about building on all of that together as a group.

The real value of a trade show is in the conversation struck up with a fellow attendee that leads to learning something unexpected that helps your business, or even leads to a relationship that creates a new business. The value of a trade show is in confidential one-on-one conversations (not ones that are broadcast over the internet and even recorded). The value of a trade show is in the booth you only notice because it has attracted a crowd, or the lunch line chat that sends you somewhere you’d never have made time to go. The value of a trade show is in sitting in a class and turning to the person next to you to see what they are doing when you miss something, or being able to get a helpful prompt from a teacher’s assistant. It’s being able to get a quick replacement for a piece of paper that you mess up using, or for a defective class kit item, so that it doesn’t derail your whole class experience.

I could, literally, go on and on about the value in an on-site trade show. It’s there for the taking…if you reach for it. If you ask the questions, look hard at the samples (and notice details), attend the seminars and demos, and notice the people around you and engage them, you create the value and get out of the show experience what you put into it. The value of a trade show is in…presence. It is spontaneity, interaction, and physically touching items. The value of a trade show is in the unexpected, the unplanned.

And despite my statements about them not being shopping malls, the internet hasn’t made trade shows completely redundant for purchasing craft products. Anyone who has ever shopped online knows that color display on a computer is very inaccurate. Seeing a product in person is the only real way to know its true color, and lots of other details like paper weight and texture don’t convey well online either. Just watching a demo of a tool is very different from having the demonstrator hand it you and say “try it!”. Getting touchy-feely with product definitely has its advantages.

Believe it or not, I learned this value of in-person events in an ironic place that you might least expect: the tech world. While it might seem that the technology industry, where people are quick to adopt and become heavy users of new technologies, would be first to abandon the concept of  “old school” in-person events, I found the exact opposite to be true. That industry downright treasures the handshake, understanding the value of sitting down over a cup of coffee to bat ideas around or share information, or of a group discussion in a seminar room.

That’s not to say that the tech industry is a trade show dinosaur. Instead, they’ve adapted their events to the new modern era. Their few “old school” style trade shows with aisles of booth displays aren’t put on for buyers as much as for marketing to press, to create word-of-mouth marketing, and to provide education to the industry’s top echelon of participants. In many instances the products on display are prototypes that aren’t even going to be on sale in the near future. (For a comparison in the crafts industry, reference what Craftwell did by exhibiting at several CHA shows before the release of the e-craft machine). The majority of the tech industry’s events are conference-style, focusing on seminars and speeches and roundtable discussions. The focus is on ideas and making connections, not on commerce.

One of my favorite tech events, Photoshop World, is a kind of hybrid of the old and new formats. Staged to educate professional photographers and designers about Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom products and help improve their photography skills, the event includes both a vendor floor and a heavy concentration on classroom sessions. However – unlike most such traditional events – the classroom sessions and the vendor floor do not take place at the same time. The classroom sessions take place in the morning and evening, and the vendor floor is open in the afternoon. This way, vendors can attend the sessions themselves, and do not have to compete with the sessions for the attention of the attendees. I’ve found it greatly enhances my event experience to not feel pulled in multiple directions – do I attend this session, or see more of the vendor floor?

Trade-show-as-shopping-mall was the 20th century way of doing business. We all need to start taking on the 21st century perspective on doing business at shows, an emphasis on people. The Craft & Hobby Association has begun to make that shift in its format and offerings this year with the introduction of the conference format, but ultimately, the change in philosophy has to take root in the psyche of the show attendees for it to be successful. We all have to decide what it is that we want out of the experience. Are we willing to settle for a shopping mall? Or do we want the chance to learn, to create opportunity, and work to take our businesses to the next level? Do we want the opportunity to really do business? Or do we want to sit on our couches and shop over the internet?

One last thing…if you think you aren’t interested in “doing business”, that you are content to stay quietly at home and do your shopping and watch a few seminars online, there is something that you need to remember. It is innovation and new ideas and change and cooperation – people – that keep an industry developing and healthy. If everyone stays home, none of those things happen, leading to stagnation and decline in the industry. If people do come together and build something, and you weren’t part of the building of it, you will soon be left behind.

Simply put: Getting a group of people from an industry together in one place to discuss and do business cannot be replaced by a series of video broadcasts. Face-to-face meetings are critical not only to the development of individual businesses, but to the health of the industry as a whole.

Thinking in this new way about trade shows requires stepping outside our comfort zones for most of us. It requires undoing years or even decades of lessons about what a trade show is and how a successful one works. We have to stop thinking about trade shows in terms of dollars of product bought and sold. We have to start judging them in terms of things like the cementing of customer relationships, advancing marketing goals, professional education, and building networks. We need to stop thinking in terms of the quantity of the attendees and focus on the quality of the attendees and the quality of our interactions with them.

Take responsibility for your business’s future and your industry’s future. Don’t do the usual. Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone and make your trade show experience something that is productive for you and your business.


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