Spring Forward with Lessons Learned at Expo West

April always feels like a fresh start. It’s more than just the change in weather—it’s the ideal time to reassess your marketing direction for the year.

And as we look ahead, we’re offering tips to keep your event marketing fresh all year long with 5 lessons learned at this year’s Expo West.

Lesson One: Brands Just Wanna Have Fun

The 80’s and 90’s are back, and it’s time to party like it’s 1999. That’s not to say that a throwback vibe works for every brand, but the takeaway here is that consumers are bored of boring brands.

The Coconut Cult is by nature a very fun brand but they take fun to a whole new level each and every year at Expo West. 2019 was no exception with a funhouse theme complete with yogurt pong, funny mirrors and tarot readings.

Santa Cruz Nutritionals, a pretty B2B- focused brand that we know quite well, gave us a nice surprise with a super fun way to highlight their private label gummies. Something about looking into this thing made private label gummies a whole lot more fun.

Lesson Two: Selfie Spots will Never Die

We thought this might be passé by now, but it’s clear that selfie spots are here to stay. And that’s great news because it’s like an OD-UGC machine (on-demand user generated content—and yes we totally made that up).

Props to Zevia who created one incredible selfie display with a colorful display of their product. Who knew a rainbow wall of cans would be such a flattering backdrop?!


No one, I mean NO ONE can resist taking a selfie with a realistic looking animal. Enter Kodiak Cakes, who always does a fabulous job of bringing the great outdoors to the inside of Expo West. Last year they had a towering brown bear and this year a touchably furry buffalo.



Lesson Three: Displays CAN be Dazzling

When you need to display product, serve samples and have room to engage show attendees, it’s tempting to keep it simple. But any red carpet event opportunity is a chance to let your product shine.

Some products are so naturally beautiful, they should be displayed as such. We thought Herb Pharm nailed it this year with their tray display of herbs that was beyond inviting. Major bonus points for their “memory wall” timeline display walking us through the company’s history.



Beverages aren’t easy to display in a glamorous, unique and functional way. Until now! Introducing, the Wall o’ Bottles. Well done, Roar Organic.

Lesson Four: Let’s Go Live

Keeping your booth engaging is much easier when you have a live component. Think experiential and brand relevance. With the possibilities of technology (and the cultural obsession with live streaming), the sky’s the limit here.

Our office is fully Nutzo obsessed. It’s actually a problem! So of course we had to check them out at Expo. Not only did they delight us with new products (bars! yes!) but the live graphiti happening on the back wall of their booth each day was spectacular. Great way to add color, interest and feature artists.


Never one to fall short with an Expo presence, Califia really took branding to the next level with its moving display. We caught many an attendee stop in their tracks to watch the display and engage with the messaging.

Lesson Five: Storytelling Needs to be Solid

Natural product brands by DNA are born storytellers. But in a day and age where a social story is a cost of business, storytelling has reached a new era of uber transparency. Making an emotional connection—and more importantly, keeping it—, is harder than ever. But absolutely possible.

Dr. Bronner’s has always been a brand favorite of McDill. The iconic packaging alone is a case study in effective brand narrative. But their new Grassroots Aid Partnership is an entirely unique way to demonstrate their commitment to community. In alignment with other like-minded brands, Dr. Bronner’s is making a significant impact in supporting national disasters with this boots-on-the-ground approach. We’d love to see more companies join them!


Because our sister agency Plaid Marketing focuses on brands in the cannabis space, we were elated to see no less than 168 companies promoting hemp and CBD products. Now here is a market where storytelling is a need! Enter Mary’s Nutritionals, a division of Mary’s Medicinals, who we’ve watched grow leaps and bounds in the space. Like Mary’s does, putting patient testimonials up front and center is a great strategy to addressing the need for education in this growing wellness category.

And Now, a Quiz

Are you confident your brand hits the mark on our 5 lessons?

Let’s talk.

McDill Work at Expo

Other than trend spotting and getting inspiration, Expo is a place where we get to see our work in action!

Marroquin Organics – Branding, Messaging, Photography

Pyure Organic – Packaging Design Debut for new Product Line

Cherryvale Farms – Packaging Design Baking Mixes and new Love It! Bars, Booth Design

5 More Standouts

A toilet bowl booth from Poo-Pourri had us in awe.

Positivity in a time of social stress from Hope Hummus.

When humor and a simple message go hand in hand…

Crazy Go Nuts tote bag

Goodbelly “poop responsibly” matches

And finally… Peeled Snacks clever use of cardboard “mockups” instead of samples