Felix Baumgartner jumps from outer space, a footballer scores an improbable goal, a shark leaps from the surf to catch an unlucky creature in its maw and a Red Bull motorcyclist is propelled through the air onto the Arc de Triomphe (in Las Vegas).
Around 250 Harvey Norman proprietors and staff watch on as these images flash across the screen while the accompanying soundtrack repeats the mantra “seeing is believing”. And then the adventure scenes cease, replaced by a giant eye – not dissimilar to the Big Brother logo – and the video now shows kitchen appliances as the voice over artist says, “Sometimes you need to see something to believe it, and the same applies to the amazing new kitchen appliance collections from Blanco”.
Watching on in uncommon rapture, the Harvey Norman staff attentively absorbs the presentation — at other times, these trade night videos will be interrupted by impatient chatter — but the only hubbub comes when the retailers release a patriotic, exulted whoop every time the Harvey Norman name is mentioned — seven times in all. The overall impression that comes is that Blanco really cares about Harvey Norman.
And the feeling must be mutual: kitchen appliance salespeople from Harveys have travelled in buses from all over Sydney, plus far-flub locales like Griffith and Warrawong, to the Shriro head office for this launch. The Everdure barbecues have disappeared from the showroom and the word ‘Omega’ can’t be seen anywhere: this is a Blanco canvas.
And then the artists are introduced to the crowd like at a basketball match, the crowd goes wild. Gerard Gill from sales, general manager Maver Sims, product developer Michael Sultana and all the state and regional reps receive cheers as there are presented to their customers. It’s fair to say that this was an uncommon show of affection – this reporter has been to trade nights where the behaviour of sales staff has been appalling.
The real stars of the evening, at least from Blanco’s perspective, are its three new ranges: Enigma, Elegance and Elite. This represents the first thorough product refresh in five years for the German brand that was previously owned by Hagemeyer. With built-in and freestanding cookers and hobs, dishwashers, sinks and taps; Blanco now has the complete kitchen offering, with much of it exclusive to and the core range of Harvey Norman.
“Let’s talk about how we’ll help drive sales in your stores,” says Blanco’s video spokes-voice-over-person. “For a start we’ve made a $2 million investment in state-of-the-art showrooms across Australia that will help with training, pre-purchase referrals, post purchase cooking advice and classes, as well as events.”
An appliance company MD recently told me that these showrooms are “a million dollar a year cost with no return on investment”. Shriro obviously disagrees and has gone all-in. This reporter has only visited the Sydney mothership — there is no doubt that it is in the absolute elite class of appliance showrooms.
Just in case the Harvey Norman staff were becoming anxious over its supreme elegance and Blanco’s suggestion to “send your customers here for a one-on-one product demonstration”, this was quickly followed with the obligatory “we obviously don’t sell out of here… we’ll buzz you to let you know your customer is coming back to you with an order”.
“If you look around the room you really do see a brand that we can put on the map in our stores,” was the response from Ben Maddison, franchisee at Harvey Norman Caringbah, “and talking to quite a few of you [Harvey Norman staff] throughout the room, you would have to agree that this is probably the best attendance I’ve seen for a solo Harvey Norman trade night in the last 10 years.
“When you look at where this brand is and where it wants to go, we can really do some good things with it.
“And when you look at the branding: [Blanco] wants a complete kitchen package, so when we talk about that, we mean a sink, a tap, an oven, a rangehood, a cooktop; it’s a brand that can run right across the entire kitchen, so I think it is something we can do well.
“It’s an outstanding showroom and everything you have put on for us tonight is first class.”
Blanco’s three new ranges will be supported by brochures, a print campaign, new point-of-sale, social media activity and an on-site kitchen at the Prahran markets. As part of its ongoing Gold partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a percentage of all Blanco sales will be donated to that organisation.
It’s always encouraging when the food is prepared on the appliance being launched.