Going beyond the hard sell…

Renato di Rubbo, the Franke Group and Franke Kitchen Systems’ chief marketing officer, reveals the idea behind its Think Next summit in Switzerland

Q: What were you hoping to get out of the event?
We wanted to bring inspiring experts from all our business fields together to have a look into the future of the world of food, coffee, restaurants, hotels and water management. We believe that there are many exciting developments there awaiting the world. We wanted to discuss different viewpoints and inspire our guests to try out new ways and visit new worlds.

Q: How does the summit tie in with the brand’s ‘Make It Wonderful’ campaign?
Wonderful takes the everyday and makes it something special – wonderful design, wonderful quality, wonderful service.
It inspires us to be creative, which in turn creates happy customers. That’s exactly why the Think Next
by Franke summit is at the heart of our ‘Make It Wonderful’ promise – inspiring us and our partners to look beyond the ordinary and to find new ways and try new things to make our industry and the world a more exciting and better place.

Q: Explain the thought leadership angle here?
It’s not about selling our products or solutions, but merely making a statement. The future will bring many challenges in water, food, waste and the environment, but also lots of opportunities for the world. And Franke wants to be a leading part in the developments to come. ​

Q: What do you make of Alexander Zschokke’s claim that although ‘big data’, algorithms, artificial intelligence, etc, are now big topics, emotional experience is at the core of your offering?
We call it ‘small data’ – in the sense that many statistics show diverging trends in cooking and kitchens. That’s because there are many conflicting trends and behaviours in such an emotional topic like cooking. Big data alone would not allow a company like Franke to draw the right conclusions. That’s why we invest a lot of time and effort in observing humans in their cooking habits and talking to as many people in different cultures as possible. Emotions will never be transported by data, but can only be seen by observing and by interactions between humans.

Q: What did you hope UK retailers could take away from the event?
Sometimes it’s important to stand back from the day-to-day challenge of running a business and think about where the world, the kitchen industry and our individual businesses are heading. Consumer trends are constantly changing, so the opportunity to hear the opinion of some very high-quality thought leaders was welcomed by all.

Q: What’s been their feedback during and since the event?
The overriding feedback was that it was refreshing to be invited to a supplier event that wasn’t all about the hard sell. They were impressed with the quality of speakers and the diversity of topics discussed.

Q: How can what they learnt translate into more sales?
Even small insights can give our customers a competitive edge. Whether it was Philippe Starck’s thoughts on longevity and timelessness in design, or Stephan Sigrist’s [Professor for Genetics at the Institute for Biology, Freie Universität Berlin] views on reducing complexity through technology in the kitchen, those retailers who can align themselves most effectively with emerging consumer trends have the best chance of developing a strong future for their business.

Q: What are the main issues and concerns UK retailers who sell your product raise with you?
The main question is how Franke can continue to develop products and services that align to the latest trends and provide our retailers with an edge in an increasingly competitive marketplace. I have to say we’re very excited about our innovation pipeline and are very confident that forthcoming launches will certainly live up to the ‘Make It Wonderful’ promise.

Q: Which part of the summit did you personally most relate to or find most interesting and why?
What I liked most about our first summit was the fact that I could observe people from different industries from all over the world listening, talking, debating, laughing and enjoying themselves. That was the proof that our ambition for the summit had translated very well into reality.

Q: Smart devices are undoubtedly playing a bigger part in the future of the kitchen. What’s likely to catch on and what’s more gimmicky?
While all homes will undoubtedly soon be connected, I believe connected appliances in the kitchen only make sense if combined with intelligent sensors. Just because a device is connected doesn’t necessarily mean a cooking benefit. For example, an oven that can be operated by a smartphone is a gimmick. However, if the oven is able to measure humidity and the core temperature of a roast and communicate with the owner, a clear benefit is given. Another good example of a clear benefit is our hob and hood connectivity, because it easily facilitates the cooking process.

Q: Will the ideas stemming from the summit drive innovation in Franke’s product portfolio, and how might the summit influence supplier and retailer behaviour?
While we did not have the intention to sell during the Think Next by Franke summit, it certainly has triggered many possible collaborations and future applications. Furthermore, it has given us the opportunity to show our partners and customers that we will do everything to stay ahead of the industry to be a reliable and innovative partner in the years to come.

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