Posted on 9/12/2011 10:09 PM by Debbie Designer

Phew – remember trade show season? What a nightmare. As an industry, we all really need to get it together, maybe sit down for a little peace pipe pow wow and say, “Hey, maybe not all in May, huh?”

The overlapping AIA-ICFF-HD Expo bit really sent people’s lives into a tailspin. It’s a lot of standing and smiling, let’s just put it that way. Then NeoCon was like that last piece of standing and smiling cake after you just had an eight course meal of standing and smiling. At that point, you just don’t want the cake any more. At that point your cheeks hurt almost as much as your soul.

drawing by Samantha Mittler-Eichenberg

After all the milling around on the floor, averting my gaze and making fake phone calls to avoid key members of the perky crowd (Oh, how I hate you, perky crowd.), I’m left with a pile of business cards, USBs, and printed collateral, and really not much else.

Out of all the contests out there does anyone actually ever win? I mean, aside from the manufacturers’ biggest clients, of course. Many thousands of dollars have sent those business cards floating to the top of every raffle pile. For the rest of us, without the magic in our wallets, it’s more about snagging as many free cocktails as you can and trying to look like a distributor. (Hint: it’s all in the collar.)

But wait! There is a special breed of contest/giveaway that just may be for everyone—you know, all of us poor saps who will tweet our way to prizes and recognition.  It doesn’t involve showroom events and business card bowls. Instead, it’s all about booth traffic and social media activity. Here’s a quick rundown of this year’s stand out gimmicks. Consider it in lieu of yet another product roundup:

Sparkeology held a “Tweet for a Treat” sweepstakes to win a cupcake stool, leaving me with not much more than the taste of banality on my tongue. Saving grace: the stools are pretty cool.

Antron asked everyone to visit them at NeoCon for a “chance to win an iPod shuffle,” sending the brand back billions of years in marketing space time.

Mannington Commercial hosted their annual tx:style design challenge, giving young designers a chance to show their stuff, and sending the winners off to Paris for Maison & Objet with $6,000 big ones in their pocket.

Shapeways had a (vaguely) similar design contest at ICFF, involving 3D printing.

Stacy Garcia held a scavenger hunt
at HD Expo via Twitter hashtag #SGavengerHunt, emploring players to visit each of her licensees’ booths for a chance to win an iPad2.

Even Interior Design had a contest: visit the magazine’s “SELECT” showrooms at NeoCon for a chance to win a $5,000 shopping spree, to be spent in the presence of Cindy Allen.

I’ll stop at six because somehow I know this is the devil’s work. In the end, there are clear winners and losers in this contest race—so obvious perhaps I don’t need to name them, but I will.

I’m putting a big, outdated “L” on my forehead for Antron’s iPod Shuffle giveaway. We’ve all seen this ploy a thousand times, which is at least 10 times more than most of us have ever even had the desire to own an iPod Shuffle. I imagine the people who came up with this idea are either just entering into a mid-life crisis or just got their first issue of FastCo in the mail. In the latter case, I’ll give them two months on the learning curve, and the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, Mannington Commercial’s contest is pretty legitimately compelling, in a Project Runway sort of way. It’s been going on successfully for years, and they’re engaging with people while crowdsourcing on taste—a means of gauging their audience for future products. The contest has a pretty clear, measurable ROI and longevity as they follow the winners to Maison & Objet.

So, gold star for Mannington Commercial! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go feed the cats.