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AHFA Offers "Branding Boot Camp" At August Meeting

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What is the dominant selling idea behind today’s most popular home furnishings brands? From fashion models to sports figures, rock and roll legends to MTV icons, the home furnishings industry has launched a wide assortment of branded collections over the last decade – some with arguably no selling idea. It’s time for Branding Boot Camp. Industry executives involved at every level of developing, launching, marketing or competing with branded collections will benefit by attending the American Home Furnishings Alliance’s 2006 Marketing Meeting Aug. 2-4 in Savannah, Ga. Drill sergeant for the “boot camp” is leading brand strategist Carl Nichols Jr., co-author with Bill Schley of “Why Johnny Can’t Brand: Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Big Idea.” Nichols is one of the founding partners of an international brand consulting firm headquartered in Connecticut that has worked for global giants like Proctor & Gamble and Coca-Cola, as well as for small start-up companies. Nichols will take marketing executives through the key steps to identifying and holding fast to a dominant selling idea – which he suggests is essential for successful branding. In addition to working away flabby marketing messages that lack impact, executives will have the opportunity to go on a new marketing diet rich in creativity. Jim Mountjoy, executive vice president and creative director at the Charlotte, N.C.-based advertising and public relations firm, LKM, will serve as the marketing meeting’s creativity dietician. “Creativity drives branding,” says Mountjoy. “In fact, creativity may be the last legal means you have over your competition in this commoditized world.” Mountjoy has produced award-winning campaigns for North Carolina Travel and Tourism, Verbatim Corporation, Outward Bound, Hunter Douglas, Georgia-Pacific and Dow Chemical, among others. He has twice been named by ADWEEK magazine as the Southeast’s top creative director and was a finalist three times for the Stephen Kelly Award for the best magazine ad campaign in America. Making a second appearance on the AHFA marketing agenda is Charles Kennedy, senior vice president of social trends for DYG Inc., Danbury, Conn. Kennedy, who specializes in generational analysis, media trends and social trend expression, was one of the top-rated speakers at the 2005 Marketing Meeting, resulting in a second booking later in the year for AHFA’s premier event of the year, the November Annual Meeting. Kennedy’s presentation this August will highlight an important new target demographic group for today’s home furnishings brands: the YOCOs, or Young Cosmopolitans. Other highlights of the summer meeting include a “Follow the Crowd: Generational Trends in Home Design” presented by Georganne Derick, founder and president of Merchandising East and president of its parent company, MS Interior Design Inc. Her companies have installed the interiors for over 4,000 model homes and have won over 90 regional design awards. She will explore the home design trends preferred by Generation “Y” and Baby Boomers – two consumer groups that will dominate the marketplace by the year 2010.' AHFA also has invited Jeremy Fox, associate professor of management for the John A. Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., to speak to marketing executives in August. Fox, who taught Chinese MBA students during a two-semester assignment at Fudan University in Shanghai, will present, “China Today: Opportunities and Challenges of Globalization.” AHFA’s Marketing Meeting will once again be preceded by a half-day Public Relations Workshop from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2. The workshop will include insights from leading journalists, as well as a panel discussion highlighting various experiences furniture companies have had participating in ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The workshop will also offer first aid for ailing market press kits – just in time for marketing executives to make changes that can improve their results during the October International Home Furnishings Market. Registration for the Public Relations Workshop and Marketing Meeting is $500 for AHFA members; $700 for non-members. The cost to attend the half-day PR Workshop only is $50. Meeting registration materials are available online at www.ahfa.us, under EVENTS. The Marketing Meeting and PR Workshop will be held at the Westin Savannah Harbor. To make room reservations for the meeting, call the hotel directly at 912/201-2000 or go to www.ahfa.us to find a link to a special AHFA reservations page. (From the AHFA home page, click on EVENTS, then scroll down to Marketing Meeting and PR Workshop.) Arrive by noon Aug. 2 to attend the PR Workshop; by 6 p.m. for the opening reception for the Marketing Meeting. The meeting concludes at noon Aug. 4. The cut-off for hotel reservations at the group rate is July 11. 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 200 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, as well as 225 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide. WANT TO GO? What: AHFA Marketing Meeting and Public Relations Workshop When: Wednesday, Aug. 2 through Friday, Aug. 4. Where: Westin Savannah Harbor, Savannah, Georgia. Make hotel reservations by calling 912/201-2000, or go to www.ahfa.us and click on EVENTS to link to a special AHFA reservations page. The cut-off for reservations at the group rate is July 11.

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