The buyer journey and APLF

The Redwood Blog
Published:  17 March, 2015
Mike Redwood

Just a couple of years ago I took a colleague to my favourite secret restaurant in Bologna. No leather industry people ever went there; except this night the President of the Turkish Tanners Association turned up with a dozen students who had been brought to Bologna to get a feel for the fair. It was great to talk to them and sense their excitement at being involved in the leather industry. That was the moment when I realised that the Turkish tanners had a proper plan.

For a national organisation making use of a trade fair is a complex matter. Measuring and evaluating impact is difficult and sometimes it feels like an expensive exercise just to educate your competitors. For almost every leather buyer the basic list of tanners from whom they will buy is already in their mind and sometimes even formally decided with their colleagues. The trade fair is one of very few moments when a buyer might consider how to add to or subtract from that basic list. But in a large fair with hundred of stands how do you get to stand out?

Focus country

One route is for your national organisation to become the Focus Nation at APLF, but historically this is often more about noise than impact. Except for the last few years. All of a sudden we have a seen a change and Turkey is one of three countries worthy of naming in this regard.

These countries have placed their Focus Nation activity clearly into a recognisable programme rather than a one off event from which they expect immediate results. Customer perceptions are built up over time. If your activities are short term or inconsistent then your audience will miss the touch points needed to bring them to the tipping point when they will say “I really must consider using this new supplier”.

First we saw Brazil re-examine from A-Z their proposition as a national umbrella brand for leather. A new logo, a whole new approach, a first rate annual environmental conference that clearly has the attention of their industry and a series of overseas visits offering outreach to new markets just at the moment when the world is wondering what the outcomes of an ageing west and slowing China will be.

Then there was Turkey. While on the one hand Turkey talks about its Turkish Leather Brands at the other it is looking at is inspiring its new and potential recruits. Like Brazil the Turkish industry put on a great display at APLF but this was one element in a long-term plan for building and maintaining the image of the industry. With a reputation for real innovative garment leathers, some outstanding designers and initiatives like Pop-up shops in Milan, Turkish Leather Brands are clearly building a strong reputation.

This year we have France and every indication is that that the French tanning industry has redefined its role in the world and quite likes what it sees. The increasing integration of luxury thinking into the whole perspective allows the tanning industry to align itself with the national interest. While the outside observer is curious at the loss of independence of the superb little French Leather Fair that supported this positioning they can still have no doubt that the everyone is clear about the direction of travel of the French leather industry. We know at APLF we will be meeting designers and entrepreneurs as well as new tannery exhibitors. The total offer is a programme from starter careers to luxury goods conglomerates from raw material sourcing to exquisite craftmanship. It should make for an exciting APLF and MM&T.

Just a few years ago countries were worried about holding onto what they had in a rather narrow way. These three nations have shown how the page can be turned and we can build a strong positive and utterly attractive story using some really strong modern marketing approaches. 

Mike Redwood

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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