Neocon and The Big Three
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Ugh...Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are kinda IN THE NEWS lately, so for those who never heard my perspective on this, here it is (again).
( Begin original post from June 11, 2008 )
So I'm in Chicago at NEOCON 2008. Everywhere I look, I'm amazed. And it made me think. People are genuinely friendly, knowledgeable, and seemingly happy to see me as I walk into their space. I'm not asked if I'm "looking for something special." I'm not immediately apprised of sale items. I am not even asked for my email. Well in a couple I am.
All that said, "The Big Three" come to mind. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. But also the Furniture Big Three– Herman Miller, Steelcase and Haworth.
These Big Three couldn't be more different.
I'm reminded of how amazing the contract furniture market is. It is so obvious that the Furniture Three see design as THE product they sell. They are selling experience and story. Unlike Pontiac's Driving Excitement®– the Furniture Three are genuinely excited and passionate about furniture. So much so that talking to them about it is more like going to lunch with a friend than arm wrestling a car salesman would be.
The thought that keeps coming to mind is how amazing it might be if the Auto Big Three would begin to be more like the Furniture Three. As I shared before here. Even though we find ourselves in tough economic times, it is apparent the Furniture Three have not cut back. Yes, there was noticably way less printed brochures and flashy food, but the commitment to design quality seemed to have been taken up a notch. Everywhere I looked, I was blown away by the thinking, the execution, and the delivery of the products they were just then bringing to market. It was an amazing showcase of design ingenuity and commitment to high design.
I realize I have been picking on The Auto Big Three unmercifully here, some of which is unfair generalization, but the point of all this jabber is to point out one thing.
Those who see design as a function and process will lose. Those who see design as core to what they do, how they do it, what they sell, and who they are, will win.
If the automakers saw the world through the lens of design, and by design I don't mean this year's body-style, then I would likely be driving one of their products. Instead, I buy the product that promises me an experience, that I see as relevant, and that I want to see succeed.
NEOCON is amazing. It is a tangible example of why the furniture industry is a leader in so many ways. Design thinking, business strategy and marketing communication, product innovation, environmental impact, sustainability, and so much more. I maintain that the best marketing is simply doing business well, consistently and with integrity, and with the understanding that nobody cares about your marketing as much as you. Herman Miller gets this. As does Steelcase and Haworth. And each of these three companies, although they are part of a struggling economy like everyone else, rise above the rest and are able to ask a premium for their products. A fact that when you attend NEOCON you will begin to understand why this is no big mystery. It's truly a cradle to cradle way of thinking. A renewable enterprise.