Case Study: International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market / Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.

Eberly & Collard Public Relations was asked by Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. to serve as the agency of record for the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market, an annual event with year-long marketing communications initiatives affiliated with the International Casual Furniture Association.

Leaders with Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. and the association called upon the ECPR team to develop and manage a full-scale integrated marketing and public relations program plan leading up to, during and following the major international event each year. The overarching goal involved generating attendance and engagement from exhibitors, speakers, sponsors, show-goers, and media members from around the world. Drawing interest, influence, engagement, and media coverage from countries within 5 continents was a critical requirement for success. ECPR not only achieved this goal year over year, but also helped to oversee other agencies providing collaborative services to Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.

How we got there:

Publicize and promoting the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market (Casual Market) as the world’s top outdoor furniture and accessories industry trade show and symposium may have been an insurmountable effort for other agencies. However, the ECPR team has years of experience managing branding and marketing campaigns for furniture designers, showrooms, manufacturers, and retailers based in 18 countries. It was for this reason Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. selected ECPR as its go-to international agency.

We began our work by an innovative S.W.O.T. analysis to help uncover areas of necessary revitalization for the client’s annual event and the related monthly endeavors to accomplish a series of important objectives. The analysis was also managed to capitalize upon the Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.’s strength; create new opportunities; and benefit from competitive intelligence. The development and execution also included a confirmed messaging strategy to address the differences among targeted demographics within various country and business cultures. Capturing interest, attendance and partisanship from product buyers from the 18 countries and 5 continents would become the key to achieving thousands of brand mentions globally.

Working side by side with multiple leaders, staff members, committee members, and boards associated with Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc., International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market, and International Casual Furniture Association, the dedicated Eberly & Collard team conceptualized a roadmap to develop and supervise new brand messages to create brand cognizance for all of the key organizations and their key message and selling points.

Our team researched and co-developed informational tools such as brand standards to guide and streamline messaging; an annual event directory with organized and easy-to-understand organizational and event information; advertising campaigns with creative graphics and copywriting; press campaigns that augmented publicity from full cover stories about the client’s expertise and news to event and product features.

E-blasts and newsletters were designed and executed to announce a schedule of need-to-know information directed to all target audiences. We also concept and oversaw event parties to kick-off and close the week-long annual event; marketing and management support to co-facilitate the industry’s top awards ceremony and gala; ribbon-cutting ceremonies with invitations and press releases to announce new furniture showroom openings; and conference-based speakers’ bureau and panel creation / supervision, including keynote and panelist acquisitions.

Reaching the organization’s targets included retailers, buyers, designers, exhibitors, showroom owners / managers, landscape architects, hospitality / residential architects, and others remained top of mind and a crucial focus for every campaign and effort on the part of our client service staff.

Another important objective for Eberly & Collard Public Relations was to augment attendance categories, growing the type and quality of attendance for the trade show floor, conference, symposium, and the daily events schedule. This endeavor also involved inviting and persuading a wide range of both expected and unexpected editors, reporters and radio / television producers to not only attend- but also to participate, sponsor and cover the entire event. Also, the firm was needed to manage the Casual Market’s onsite press room and host all attending media members from around the globe as well as to organize media relations with exhibitors and showrooms by way of coordinating interviews with trade and consumer magazine editors and MMPI leaders.

An overview of our services and select achievements included the following:

  • Press releases – Show announcements, showroom, exhibitor profiles, MMPI interviews, photo spreads, etc.
  • Byline articles – Product trends / product release, key topic article, and event news submissions to trade and mainstream media.
  • Syndicated article content – Inclusion of exhibitors / showrooms and speakers for additional consumer publicity, featuring more articles and media coverage for the event, show participants and speakers than any year prior in the event’s history.
  • Consumer Media Panel – Conceptualizing, developing, managing, hosting, and moderating a national panel of premiere magazine editors during the event to provide attendees magazine / media insights from ECPR co-owner / present and panel moderator Don Eberly as well as five editors to include Traditional Home, Veranda, Coastal Living, Garden Design, Better Homes & Gardens.
  • Select other special media coverage, participants and / or sponsors involved – Landscape Architecture, Azure, Construction Specifier, Builder, Remodeler, Architectural Products, Floor and Tile Trends, Outdoor Design, Home Furnishing News, Design Today, Luxe Interiors, and Design & Architecture Trends magazines. A sampling of 150 others included Washington Post, Chicago Sun, San Diego Union-Tribune, Florida Times, Dallas Morning News, New York Times, European Daily, Business News Australia, Smart Company Australia, Herald de Paris, London Evening Standard, Idler England, Paris Business magazine, Asada Good Living, Women’s Weekly U.K., London Business magazine, Manchester Evening News, Business Matters U.K., and many other news outlets.
  • HGTV (U.S. and U.K.) celebrity acquisition – Securing John Giddings, HGTV celebrity and television host, to serve as keynote speaker to attract new and heightened brand / public cognizance for the event at large.
  • Collateral, directory, catalogs, and branding graphics – Assessing current collateral and branding / event materials to improve upon existing brand content; designing consistent print collateral and digital materials for rebranding and marketing of the event, exibitors, showrooms, schedule, and to communicate all pertinent information to all involved and engaged parties.
  • Press invitations / organization – Pre-show press registration / inquiries and management.
  • Advertising – Campaigns involving the increase of trade impressions and engagement to include traditional, social media, digital, and remarketing ad campaigns, which was attributed to 1/3 of the event’s overall 28% increase in attendance.
  • Onsite press room management – Press kit development and comprehensive media relations management; assisting editors with pre-, during- and post-event editorial and photo content, articles, interviews, video production, planning, and hosting.
  • Exhibitor / showroom media relations – Securing and coordinating media interviews with / for MMPI, showroom personnel, temp exhibitors, and trade / consumer editors
  • Social media management – Pre-event and onsite real-time Facebook and Twitter management using and to promote #CasualMarket.
Tota Media Placements
Increase in Event Attendance
Million New

The Results:

Since retaining ECPR’s services, the Casual Market has increased show awareness and attendance exponentially, as evidenced by a 28% increase in attendance; 90% growth in terms of renowned speakers and panelists of a higher caliber; 77% expansion of media coverage, 881 total media placements, 37 million new impressions; and 72% increase in expressed satisfaction forms per showroom owners and exhibitors compared to previous years.

By implementing a consortium of press and social media publicity campaigns, ECPR achieved high-levels of print, online and e-newsletter media coverage on behalf of the Casual Market / MMPI, based on meticulously obtained and calculated circulation numbers and impressions.

Eberly & Collard Public Relations accomplished for the client increased levels and quantities of media coverage, media sponsors, editor speaker / panel participation, event management interviews, publicity mentions, on-topic articles, press release placements, diversified attendance, and testimonials as compared to the event’s preceding annual events.