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CGX’s emerge Event : Creating Content, Memories

July 2012 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
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When Consolidated Graphics (CGX) Chairman and CEO Joe Davis asked his right-hand man—Aaron Grohs, the firm's executive vice president of sales and marketing—to put the company on parade at this year's emerge conference and expo, Davis was figuratively speaking. But, Grohs delivered in over-the-top fashion.

The 1,000 or so customers, friends and members of the CGX family weren't treated to a parade; they were, indeed, part of the parade, the largest non-Mardi Gras private bash in New Orleans history. It included 18 floats, three high school marching bands and CGX customers who were riding in the parade, throwing beads to bystanders taking in the festivities.

Talk about a never-ending event…the parade route ended in the French Quarter and, from there, customers then walked a couple of blocks to the House of Blues for a three-hour party.

While Davis, Grohs, et. al, have happened upon a blueprint that appeals to its member base, it doesn't take a trip to the Big Easy to bring out guests. The guest list was once again limited to 1,000 for the event, held April 17-20 at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans. In the long run, emerge will continue to grow and evolve as CGX looks to expand upon the brand (it already has a dedicated quarterly magazine).

"As I said in the opening remarks, CGX is in a leadership position and I believe—as does Joe—it is our responsibility as a leader to help the industry move forward," Grohs remarks. "The entire focus of emerge is to bring content, ideas, people, experts and solutions to the table that can help people, even if they don't do all of their business with Consolidated Graphics. It's fast becoming a place where people can learn, grow and develop. Hopefully, it also helps the entire industry."

CGX rolled out a blue-ribbon panel of keynote speakers for the event, led by legendary Miami Dolphins quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Bob Griese. A member company, Wimmer Cookbooks in Memphis, TN, is producing a book by Griese and his wife, "Griese Spoon," which features a number of recipes from other sports stars, entertainers and performers. Griese related stories about his playing days with the Dolphins, which included Super Bowl titles in 1973 and 1974. Creating a winning attitude was a general theme, according to Grohs.

Other speakers included Jim Cartwright, senior vice president and managing director for Saatchi & Saatchi X and a 25-year veteran of the printing industry. Brad Davis, the CMO of Opus Bank and a member of the Retail Marketing Hall of Fame, joined Laurie Tucker—senior vice president, corporate marketing for FedEx Services—with their insights into brand image and enhancement.

The keynoters addressed a somewhat different crowd than at past emerge conferences. "We saw a lot more decision makers this time around," Grohs notes. "Instead of a graphic designer, the CMO came, the vice president of marketing or the president. The list of attendees seems to be expanding in terms of influence."

The Premiere Series of panel discussions returned this year with tracks for digital and marketing. In all, there were 54 educational breakout sessions. The key to their success, Grohs stresses, is the presentation of fresh and relevant content.

"If people are taking three, four days out of their week to spend with us, we've got to make sure there's a good return on that," he says. "The feedback continues to be overwhelmingly positive. We've already received e-mails from people that attended certain breakout sessions who want to do a presentation on a particular topic at next year's show."

The emerge conference also provides a platform for the corporation to give clients an overview of what direction CGX is taking. For example, CGX and Blurb combined forces on a book publishing platform, Publish, to enables businesses to create custom publications. Other news included the expanded investment in Japanese printer Yamagata Corp. that gives CGX majority interest.

A popular attraction at emerge, in its second year, was the Encore awards. CGX flew in judges to evaluate more than 400 entries in the following categories: books and annual reports; brochures; catalogs and magazines; digital; direct mail; environmentally friendly; general; packaging; and print and technology solutions. The awards were created to salute the creativity put forward by CGX's customer base and to demonstrate how they deliver effective printing and marketing solutions to support client initiatives.

CGX has also forged strong ties with suppliers and partners that continue to support the annual conference and expo, including Adobe, HP, Ricoh and Kodak. Adobe sponsors the Encore awards.

"Our suppliers play a big role in the event, and they get a lot out of it," says Grohs, who also praised the efforts of the many associates from within the Consolidated Graphics' chain who lended a hand to help emerge continue to be successful.

The next emerge conference is slated for May 1-2, 2013, in Las Vegas. While it will be tough for Grohs & Co. to trump the 2012 extravaganza, he's confident the show will continue to stand on its own merit, regardless of the location. Still, the fun venues make for an even more memorable experience.PI


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