There was a time when brands depended on buyers and traders for sales but not for much longer. Elevated experiences are the new trade shows. Brands now have unlimited access to consumers and experiential events have stepped into the driver’s seat for most corporate entities, giving consumers new and exciting ways to digest products. Positioned in the middle of this Vin diagram of brand development is the Outpost Trade Show.
Geared towards the outdoor enthusiast, this weekend-long experience is where glamping meets product. Attendees get to experience elements of brands in their ideal environment to build product awareness and loyalty. It’s smart, resourceful and captivating enough to make me return for a third time.
I’ve been working in the trade show world for almost 10 years now. Back when brands had unique voices and everyone was trying to do something different. I started consulting for brands and creating elements of allure within visual presentations. I moved to New York and transitioned my career into trade shows and window dressing.
Trade shows became my backstage as we worked against time to build, produce and strike fancy, oversized cubicles. I did everything from kid shows to surf and skate shows, outdoor shows, magazine shows, fashion shows, and the absolute worst, craft shows. I’ve had to deal with all of the ins and outs of the business from being a buyer to a builder and everything in between.
Clearly, my relationship with trade shows is expansive so when I got the invite to Outpost, I was a bit hesitant. I opened the email and left it in my inbox. I ignored it for a few months and then booked a last minute flight to the Big Apple for my 32nd birthday and almost discarded the invite Upstate. My best friend Justin Wootton came along on the trip and we found ourselves in the woods with the working class of Williamsburg.
Outpost is the perfect mix of music, bourbon, barebones living and boys.
Justin seemed to know everyone from the production managers to the DJs, I automatically turned into his plus one. The vibe of the Woodlawn experience on day one was tight, a little stiff and definitely pretentious and then a torrential downpour happened mid rising of a Cancer full moon. Everyone lost their inhibitions. Everything that you expect from a camping experience, including disgusting showers, the lack of toilet paper and standard camp food were all present. That weekend turned into a wild, muddy party full very genuine energy. We were all so gross that the masks came off and love poured in.
My second attempt at Outpost was on the West coast. I was super excited to go experience Northern California in ways that I remember as a kid. It had been almost twenty years since I had been up to the redwoods and the smell of the area wrapped my right back into nostalgia almost immediately.
I brought my friend and plant-based chef Lynnette Astaire with me for the adventure. We arrived at Camp Navarro to large trade show front and center in the grass and an even larger crowd of people than the one before. I got to connect with the brand reps of several sponsors and supporters of UNDO while learning about new products in the outdoor space.
I found some friends from the last show and bonded over fresh figs and our lack of effort to do anything more than just relaxing in the forest. Lynnette, on the other hand, was getting the absolute most out of the experience. One moment she was on a start hike and the next a mountain bike and then she climbed a tree. It was her first time camping in the forest and her experience through outpost was something totally different than mine. While I was catching up on much-needed rest, Lynnette was taking on the full experience of the outdoors and all of the programmings that the weekend had to offer.
This is one of my favorite takeaways from the weekend, everyone gets to experience it differently.
Lynnette and I decided to take another trip to Outpost earlier this summer, this time with Lynnette as part of the programming. I, of course, tagged along and got to experience Outpost from a totally different angle. This visit I had a lot more energy going into the weekend. I decided to sign up for a little bit of everything that was not available on Youtube. My first class was falconry and then archery right after. I went to panel talks that were directly aligned with work we are doing for the magazine. By connecting with knowledgeable speakers to gather interviews for the next issue of Undo Magazine and talking my ass off. We connected with people who were genuinely interested in the work we are doing with Undo-Ordinary.
This Outpost go was about networking and making connections. It was about taking in the entire experience with not a stone unturned. For Lynnette, she got a chance to create a version of her Superfood School but in an outdoor setting. She went to every speaker series to gather insight from doers in the community that we work so tirelessly in. We both did all this with dust on our clothes and pine in our hair because that’s what the environment called for, authenticity.
For all of the years that I have attended conventional trade shows, never have I left with such an experience that elevated my way of living.
I usually leave with t-shirts and stickers from brands that have no method of storytelling within their marketing. While these players are present within the Outpost tradepost they are overshadowed by smarter brands like Goody, UCO gear and even Pax, that gave a very educational demonstration on how to use their new product effectively. Bigger brand giants like Harley Davidson and Nissan offered a closer look at their product through engaging lifestyle experiences. Other brands like TopoDesign and Merrill Footwear gave participants a chance to find purpose with their product by giving participants a chance to test the product out ahead of time. Trade shows like Outpost gives a function to all of this consumerism. This is vital in a time where sustainability is at the tip of everyone’s tongue. Do we need all of this stuff we are making if it does not serve a purpose?
Good experiences, like this, should keep you coming back for more. The first time I went to Outpost, I had to learn something about myself. The second time it was about my health and this time last time was about being present in the moment. People often ask me why I keep going back and it is simply for that reason. There is something else for me to experience in such a vast activation. And for that reason alone, I have continued to explore the unknown. Outpost is different from anything that I have every experience because I actually engages all of my senses. This is huge from an activation point of view. I’ve been back three times and still keep finding new takeaways because there is so much to do and so much to explore. Glamp smarter, happy trading.