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AHFA Marketing Meeting To Be Held In Baltimore

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AHFA’s Annual Marketing Meeting promises trend insights to fuel business growth Home furnishings companies looking for a way to breach the boundaries of past marketing efforts will find the insights they need at the Annual Marketing Meeting sponsored by the American Home Furnishings Alliance. “Breakthrough Marketing” is the theme of the 2007 event, slated August 15-17, at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore, Md. The meeting is open to all manufacturing, retail and marketing companies. “Companies must get past worn-out customer perceptions and discover new ways of connecting with today’s diverse marketplace,” says Jackie Hirschhaut, AHFA’s vice president of marketing and public relations. “The trend insights offered within this year’s program promise to fuel business growth for companies that attend.” Among key presenters is Andy Hines, director of consulting for Social Technology, a global research and consulting firm “specializing in the integration of foresight, strategy and innovation.” With offices in Washington, D.C., London and Shanghai, Social Technology helps leading companies, government agencies and nonprofits develop actionable business solutions that make the most of market opportunities. Hines recently co-edited the book, “Thinking About the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight,” which takes insights from 36 senior forecasters and distills them into strategies for action. His presentation to furniture executives in August will highlight the “Top 20 Trends Transforming the Lives of the World’s Consumers.” Making his third appearance as a key speaker at the Annual Marketing Meeting will be Charles Kennedy, senior vice president of social trends for DYG Inc., Danbury, Conn. Kennedy was among the highest-rated speakers at both the 2005 and 2006 marketing meetings. His presentation this year will turn the spotlight on the nation’s “exhausted affluents” – a unique consumer group with special significance to the home furnishings market. Also on the agenda is Kate Alini, marketing communications manager for MiniUSA, who will describe how Mini Cooper creates a “zero-to-smile-in-under-two-seconds” online consumer branding experience. The latest marketing innovation at Mini is the “Mini Motorby,” a unique, personal and unexpected billboard message targeted to and triggered by Mini drivers. The illuminated messages were launched in January on billboards in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Miami. “Motorby is all about creating unique Mini experiences and leveraging new technologies to engage owners and prospects,” Alini told automotive.com last month. The Motorby messages are delivered by Radio Frequency Identification technology – or, as Mini Cooper likes to call it, “Really Fun Interactive Devices.” It is the first time RFID technology, which is used in everything from passports and credit cards to pet IDs, has been used as a means of communicating with customers. Continuing on the “Breakthrough Marketing” program theme will be Tracy Chapman, an expert marketer credited with having snooped in strangers’ closets, medicine cabinets, refrigerators and even under beds for the real scoop on what makes consumers tick. For more than 10 years, Chapman has pioneered innovative techniques for mining consumer insights. She is now the co-director of brand insights at Just Ask A Woman, an unusual marketing firm that touts its ability to uncover women’s hidden agendas and translate what they hear into actionable business strategies. Her presentation for marketing executives is titled, “Whole Truths and Half Truths About What Women Want.” Staying up-to-date with the latest trends in home entertainment is essential for any company producing furniture to house electronics. Sean Wargo, senior industry analyst with the Consumer Electronics Association, will provide Marketing Meeting attendees with important insights into the home entertainment market. In his consumer electronics outlook for 2008 and beyond, Wargo will provide an analysis of industry growth and product trends that are impacting consumer spending. AHFA also has invited Michelle Moore, vice president of communications for the U.S. Green Building Council to present, “The Future Is Now: Environmentally Friendly Homes.” She will share her thoughts on the importance of green homes in today’s resource-challenged world and will bring companies up to date on the progressive new LEED for Homes program. LEED – which stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” – is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance “green” buildings. LEED for Homes is a voluntary rating system that will promote the design and construction of high performance “green” homes. A green home uses less energy, water and natural resources; creates less waste; and is healthier and more comfortable for occupants. The U.S. Green Building Council began a pilot test of LEED for Homes in August 2005 and reports that more than 200 builders representing 1,600 homes across the country participated in the pilot program. As of December 2006, 26 homes had been LEED-certified. To lend a consumer marketing perspective to this issue, AHFA has also invited Jennifer Ganshirt, co-founder and director of strategic planning at Frank About Women, to present, “The Greener Side of Female Consumers.” Frank About Women is a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based research and marketing firm. The company has been studying the proliferation of “green” products and services and examining the impact of these trends on the buying behavior of female consumers. “Not only did we discover that women definitely no longer see green brands as niche items, we learned that they are seeking them out and demanding that their favorite brands provide them with green alternatives,” states Ganshirt. In addition to discovering breakthrough marketing strategies for global consumers, affluent consumers, high tech consumers and eco-minded consumers, Marketing Meeting attendees will explore one additional consumer segment: moms. Maria T. Bailey, founder and CEO of BlueSuitMom.com and author of “Marketing to Moms: Getting Your Share of the Trillion Dollar Market,” will address the real-life challenges of gaining the attention of busy mothers searching for the information and tools to help them make smart home furnishings buying decisions. A bonus public relations workshop is planned in advance of the Marketing Meeting. The 1-5 p.m. session on Wednesday, August 15, will feature the widely acclaimed “Editor’s Roundtable,” with representatives from newspaper and consumer magazine press sharing their experiences in covering the home furnishings industry and providing practical insights for gaining their attention. In addition, Ann Bryan, Head of Internal Communications at Syngenta, a Greensboro, N.C.-based company, will outline “best practices” for reducing the number of emails companies send and improving their effectiveness – both of which present a challenge for marketing and public relations executives. The firm reports that a University of California study found it takes workers about 25 minutes to return to a task after being interrupted by email or other distractions. Another study, by the New York research firm Basex, showed U.S. companies are losing $588 billion a year in productivity due to “distracted” workers. Email was cited as the primary culprit. Syngenta has found that e-mail overload affects work-life-balance, causes employee stress, and reduces employee productivity. Their presentation at the PR Workshop is titled: “R.E.S.C.U.E.,” or “Reduce Employee Stress Caused by Unnecessary Email.” There is no charge to attend the PR workshop for those attending the Marketing Meeting. For those who wish to attend the PR workshop only, the registration is $100. Marketing meeting registration is $650 for AHFA member companies and $750 for non-member companies. The registration includes a reception and dinner on August 15, breakfast and lunch on August 16, and breakfast on August 17. Online registration is available at www.ahfa.us on the EVENTS page. Executives are urged to make hotel reservations promptly by contacting the Baltimore Waterfront Marriott directly at 410/385-3000 or 800/228-9290. Mention the AHFA meeting to receive the group rate. The American Home Furnishings Alliance –located in High Point, N.C. and Washington, D.C. – is the largest association of home furnishings companies in the world and represents more than 250 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, as well as 225 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide.