CHESS Invites All Players To Catch On To New Ideas

HomeWorld Business has a sister publication called Hotel Business, whose staff attends a seemingly endless array of conferences and networking events enthusiastically attended by all facets of the industry from suppliers to brand developers to owners.

That’s not surprising for a hotel business rooted in hospitality.

Cautious Path

The housewares business, on the other hand, follows a more cautious path to organized peer networking. As retail and vendor consolidation has heightened competitive secrecy and the burdens of day-to-day management, the industry has lost some of its zest for a steady schedule of idea-sharing events if they don’t directly lead to orders.

Perhaps that’s why the annual Chief Housewares Executive SuperSession (CHESS) can be a refreshing break from such day-to-day obligations. The CHESS conference, held outside of Chicago in October, is presented by IHA and sponsored by its CORE program, a catalyst for housewares networking programs in regions of vendor concentration across the country.

It might be difficult for many to break away for two days in the middle of the busy fall season (isn’t every season busy?), but CHESS offers one of the few opportunities for leaders representing all shapes and sizes of a diverse industry to come together on some common ground.

Uplifting Candor

I’ve had the pleasure of moderating panel discussions at CHESS the past two years with the objective of getting CEOs to share their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities confronting the industry. And while each of those panelists had some trepidation about sharing too many specifics to a room in which current and/or prospective competitors were taking notes, each embraced the type of candor whose benefits can help lift the industry as a whole.

Discover Value

Participate in CHESS with the goal of gleaning at least one new idea worth examining and possibly implementing. Veteran CHESS participants have embraced their own value from such networking, and newcomers each year discover unique benefits. The door is open for many more industry executives to take advantage of the program.

Great ideas are more likely to be discovered when you make sacrifices to look for them. And this year’s CHESS attendees learned why the best ideas become contagious.

Wharton School of Business professor and viral marketing expert Jonah Berger, one of this year’s CHESS speakers (see more CHESS coverage on page 1, October 28 issue), encouraged executives to discover their companies’ “inner remarkability” to initiate the online and offline spread of their marketing “stories.”

“Figure out what makes something remarkable,” Berger said. “Along the way, the product comes for the ride.”

People talk the most about things they use a lot, Berger said. 

“If something is top of mind, it will be tip of tongue,” Berger declared. “How do you link your product with something that occurs frequently? Peanut butter is like the best advertisement for jelly. What’s your peanut butter? What will remind people about you when you are not around?”

I never thought about marketing in quite that context. And many at CHESS likely didn’t either. But they do now.