When B2B Business Masquerades as B2C: Navigating a Post Pandemic Landscape

Episode 264

December 5, 2023

This week on The Kula Ring, we pulled up a comfy chair with Evan Hargreaves to discuss the changing landscape in the office furniture industry. With so much of the workforce remaining hybrid or at home full time, the B2B furniture space looks a lot different than it has in the past. Evan walks us through how MillerKnoll is handling this new challenge and how they are adopting some inspiration from the sporting goods space to support their efforts. This episode is best enjoyed in a very nice chair.

When B2B Business Masquerades as B2C: Navigating a Post Pandemic Landscape Transcript:

Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White. 

Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White. Joining me today is Carman. Carman. How you doing, sir? 

Carman Pirie: All is well. All as well. I’m, I’m really excited for today’s show.

Jeff White: I am. I am, too. Yeah. It’s an area that you especially have a fair amount of experience in, in the space. And, and we’ve been associated in kind of a similar industry with some old legacy clients that we used to have. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah. I’ll admit, I mean, it’s weird if you’ve spent some time in the contract furniture space, there is a weird little, I don’t know, like there’s a collection of people that are there that are really nerdy about that space. And so why don’t you kind of get into it to get introduced to it? It does stick with you. And yeah, so I think we may today’s guest might be the most comfortable guest in the history of The Kula Ring. If the seat that he’s sitting in is any indication. 

Jeff White: Yeah, you may be right, certainly more comfortable on these stools that I’m sitting on right now. But you know, I feel like with you, with what you just said about, you know, not being able to get away from the contractor or the contract furniture, you know, the feels like there needs to be like a Paulie Walnuts kind of thing. You know, where “I thought I was out and then they pulled me back in” 

Carman Pirie: You just. Yeah. Jeff. Jeff, finally, you finally did it. You were able to make a Sopranos reference during The Kula Ring. I mean, you’ve been working at it now for a couple of hundred episodes. 

Jeff White: Yeah, I know, right? It’s not, No Country for Old Men, It’ll have to do. So joining us today is Evan Hargreaves. Evan is the Director of Global Product Marketing at MillerKnoll, Welcome to The Kula Ring, Evan.

Evan Hargreaves: Welcome and super excited to be on. I’m a huge fan of what you guys have been doing. It’s been really fun, kind of listening and excited to be able to talk to you guys today. 

Carman Pirie: Evan, thank you so much. It’s awesome to have you at the I’m kind of like, where do we begin? Your, your space has undergone such a, such a dramatic shift in the last while. But, look before we jump in, let’s just maybe not everybody is, is as steeped in the furniture office, furniture, furnishings, built environment spaces as I once was. So maybe introduce our listeners to MillerKnoll and, and a little bit about how you got there if you would. 

Evan Hargreaves: Yeah and I will thank you. So MillerKnoll, it’s, it’s a collection of multiple brands that really started to exist in the summer of 2021 and before that it was really two large companies. Herman Miller And for those of you who may not be aware of Herman Miller, you’re probably aware of a lot of the products. So if you work in an office, you probably sat on or seen an Aeron chair or many of the other chairs or tables that we, we, we make, or if you’re at home or a movie or if you watch a lot of movies, think about Frasier. There is the Eames Lounge chair, one of our most comfortable incredible chairs. More from kind of the home furnishings mid-century modern. If you’ve seen any of that you’ve seen a lot of our products on the Knoll side, same thing. Another wonderful mid-century modern two great design brands which is kind of a great connection here and Knoll, you think about Barcelona chairs. Also a lot of Florence Knoll products. There’s a great kind of connected history through these companies, but also in the office space. If you, if you kind of work like you said in the contract furniture space, you would definitely be aware of kind of both companies, but also kind of the products we make. My journey has kind of been a really interesting one. I kind of really started almost in the B2C, The D2C and kind of multiple kind of product marketing parts, started off at Nike, been with a lot of big brands, Nike, Samsonite, Wilson and what always kind of interested me and kind of a pivot, I kind of took a hard right turn into the the the contract or the B2B space was really a learn and I think what was interesting is translating and what I felt was really kind of interesting coming into the space was how I could take a set of skills from one area and kind of change into another one, getting that translation and kind of finding some new opportunities to learn. Little did I know that a lot of what I was doing in the past is going to come into kind of where the future is kind of the pandemic hit and kind of went from there. So been kind of quite an interesting journey. 

Carman Pirie: I mean, and the pandemic really is that I have that, that pivot for, for you folks where you really I think you said you can’t like this notion of separating B2B and B2C just doesn’t seem to fit anymore. You thought you were getting out of B2C and all of a sudden you are right back in the heart of it. 

Evan Hargreaves: Yeah. What was interesting, So when, when I joined sort of Herman Miller seven years ago, we were kind of like two separate ships kind of going in two different directions. We had a very strong retail business or wholesale business and we actually had a company called Design Within Reach. They were kind of doing their separate thing. They were selling to people in our homes and if you needed a home office, you could get a chair. But it was really selling a lot of things like dining furniture or lounge furniture, things like that. And then obviously a very direct kind of concentrated B2B business that was selling offices because offices were this giant thing and completely different channels of, of kind of going to market completely different things. And at that time you kind of looked at like we were brand with a small ‘b’ and kind of connected marketing, but not really, really focused on how you would market to a contract B2B. You look at all the things that has been so great on your show, things like ABM, you look at all those digital marketing things, all, I mean, all the things that I love about kind of, your show, that was what we did. And then on the retail side, it was really about how you do conversion on your website. How do you bring people in the stores? And that all had to change. What was a brand with a little ‘b’ has become brand with a big ‘B’ and really the interconnectedness of how we go to market has, has had to shift into like fifth gear pretty quickly. 

Jeff White: How have you? You know, that transition where you’re no longer just selling to businesses that are looking to, to furnish an office space or a commercial space of some description. You know, how do you think about if you’re targeting people who aren’t typically aware of, you know, these leading kind of almost architectural brands like Herman Miller and Knoll and things like that, How how are you transitioning to branding more in the public eye and kind of bringing those brands to life for people who may not have heard of you because you’re more of a, a professional brand than a consumer brand?

Evan Hargreaves: What’s interesting is if you kind of look back through the history of Herman Miller, especially through different periods of time, we’ve done that as part of what we’ve, as part of our DNA and what’s been really cool. And one of the things that really attracted me to Herman Miller is, is some of that history. If you look through the fifties, what Charles and Ray Eames did, they were on national television talking about the things they did, and they really had that kind of brand history. And through different parts of time, we’ve kind of leaned into that. I think we even had a Super Bowl ad at one point. So we’ve done those things. I think in the past. We’ve just kind of gotten away from it. And this was kind of like really kind of focusing back in our DNA. I think the other part, right, is, is thinking through it in a different lens. And that was, was, I think, where I was able to kind of come in and connect. It’s little things. It’s SEO that was a huge but small thing within our industry was to understand and this is both on a retail person who never knew about the brand but is also think about the contract B2B purchase like if you’re a company you’re moving into a new office, you’re going to do that once right and you know, hopefully and and ideally as part of that, there’s that research kind of all you may not know about those brands until you have to do it. And so there’s, there’s kind of similar but expanded process to doing it. So how does someone find your company, how did they research about it and how do you give that information for someone to learn, In a simple way? It’s really about buyer enablement, and then you have to put that on steroids for the retail, because people don’t have that same time, they’re not spending millions and they’re spending a lot of money to them. Think about like how expensive that purchase can be. But you make the corollary of, of I’m a business and I’m spending potentially millions of dollars on outfitting multiple offices that seem kind of like level of content needs to be there. But the buying processes are longer different, but you still have to do the same thing. You still have to give that rich content you still have to engage, you have to inform. But that attention span and I think that was our biggest learning, that attention span for someone buying a chair online is completely different than a facilities planner that is going to be making a larger purchase for offices. 

Carman Pirie: I’m curious, is, is the sector seeing? I mean, there’s certainly a pressure, of course, as the workforce kind of moves into this permanence of hybrid and remote in-office work, etc.. But as I imagine somebody maybe kitting out a home office there, their financial reality may be a bit different than the way a facilities manager would be thinking about, you know, outfitting a head office. You know, they you know, the facilities manager may have more of a total cost of ownership lens on the purchase, things of that sort to the, you know, understand why a 24 hour tasks chair is important you know for somebody sitting in something for that long, etc., have you had to really look at your product mix and change, change, you know, trying to get, you know, basically, you know, lower price points, etc., to service a more B2C kind of target.

Evan Hargreaves: That’s a fantastic question. So I think as you look across the industry, that’s definitely one of the approaches that we’ve done is kind of amplify some of that to a degree. I think when you look at where our brand fits and where we’re successful, I think that’s one of the things when you look at like the brand side of things, you have to stay in your lane. If you become, if you’re a premium brand, then all of a sudden become a discount brand. That, that doesn’t always end well. Part of what we’ve had to look at and this is something that we were doing but in a different way on the TV side was that education side is the explanation of changing the value set and kind of positioning things in that way to say this isn’t about a chair that’s going to last you for a month. Think about this chair is going through a lot. We have a 12 year warranty. That’s a different buying context and understanding that journey of what you’re getting for that. And as an investment for someone who’s going to be spending a lot of time working at your desk like that, something is a comfort to kind of change that value equation and hopefully to educate people on kind of the benefits of that experience. And so what’s always been interesting for me is I think about like my, my sporting goods background, it’s all about explaining why would you want to buy a $200 soccer shoe? Well, you can do the same thing in a $50 soccer shoe, but you can do it better if you really want to perform better. I think that same kind of analogy could come across this space. You can sit in your dining chair and try and do work, but at some point, at the end of the day, your back might be going, why is this not feeling good? So I think there’s some of that kind of not only performance side of things, but also what’s been really exciting here. And we talk about the manufacturing side I get so geeked out on all the things we do in terms of local production, but also quality testing to really kind of say like 12 year warranty is a big thing and what those things are kind of changing.

Jeff White: I want to talk just really briefly about that because I think it’s an interesting choice to because, you know, a warranty is a selling feature, it’s a marketing point. It’s all of those things. What’s, why 12 years in and not lifetime or like, was there a conscious reason to to go with that or is that based on, you know, data points that you have or what?

Evan Hargreaves: Well, this is interesting and this is where I’d want to kind of reflect on your guy’s experience of the contract furniture market. There’s a contract furniture association called BIFMA and all the larger contract furniture companies being Miller, Herman Miller, Knoll, Steelcase, Hayworth, kind of down the line all connect to this broader association. And a lot of these standards become more industry wide. And that’s kind of coming from that kind of legacy. You know, part of the challenge with that lifetime, what does that really mean when it’s lifetime? What’s kind of there? A lot of that is more of the historical side of, okay, if I’m doing a larger office purchase, what does that look like? How do I do replacement parts? Because we have a dealer network that manages a lot of that. There’s a lot of that legacy that kind of gets into that side of things. And so I think that’s one of those interesting questions. I think the industry, as we pivot into more of that residential side, does that evolve? I think that’s definitely a great question and something we need to look at, but that’s kind of the explanation why.

Jeff White: Interesting.

Carman Pirie: Were there, I mean, there had to have been some I mean, there were a lot of offices obviously shut down, but not every B2B vertical shut down during the pandemic. Some of those are, you know, where there’s some other pivots as well. 

Evan Hargreaves: Yeah, another great question. I think that’s one of those things that everyone had to do a little bit of soul searching of like how, how do we kind of keep this kind of like we’re doing one thing and all of a sudden you can’t do that anymore. So how do, we how do we kind of pivot and how do we going to make this an ongoing thing? And so for us, we’ve been diversified as just kind of our broader set of companies. And that’s what really kind of helped us kind of lean into that diversification. So if you look at the pandemic, one of the key areas that was, was obviously supercharged was the health care side of the business. And that’s a big part of, of what we do is our healthcare vertical is very strong. And that was one of the things that we kept working through and keep kept. I mean, there those two parts of this right there was obviously the business side, but there was also kind of the how do we help the world in our own way. And I think that’s one of things that also really connected me to this company was that kind of desire for this is not just about the business. There’s also that part of like, how do we help? And I think that’s what a lot of companies tried to do, is like, how can you help in that sort of that time? And what can you do? And I think that was a big part of like how we could do our thing to, to kind of keep it going. 

Carman Pirie: You know, it’s easy to be cynical to your point about, oh, yeah, the health care system was obviously under a lot of strain and they’re not it’s not closing down or the pandemic. You know, the cynic would say not the best time to be maybe thinking of profiting from them. Right. So I think it is an important bit of context to say, you know, thinking about it through the lens, too, of, you know, how, how can we help in this particular situation? 

Evan Hargreaves: Well, and, and to the point where this is obviously, we’re talking about manufacturing to an end degree like our, our manufacturing ops team. You think about what they had to do at that time, Like they had to work in pretty tough conditions to come in and a lot of stress not knowing what was going on in, in kind of indoor spaces to build something. And yeah, there’s the business side of it. But then there’s also a bigger part of like, you know, what are we doing? Why are we doing this? And I think you kind of look at that you can’t there’s, I mean our, our manufacturing side are craftsman and they have a wonderful set of expertise of, of what they do to build the products they do. And I think that’s kind of the soul of the company, right? We talk about like, that’s like easy thing to forget. But I think that’s the soul of what we do. And to have that and part of that there, that to me I think is so important. 

Carman Pirie: I’m really you know, I’m doing a great job even of kind of painting this picture of what it was like inside of MillerKnoll. As the pandemic’s happening, the different shifts that are the different shifts that are happening within the marketing sales apparatus and its like, it feels like it must have been like whack a mole. There was a lot of different changes happening at once. At the same time, as you’re looking to focus more on health care and zero in there, and then you’re looking at, okay, well our brand needs to come to life more digitally, etc. You’re also launching a gaming chair. 

Evan Hargreaves: Yeah, and that was, was interesting as we had a separate team. What was interesting is like, timing is always everything in the world and we were fortuitous that we had started a lot of things. Obviously, we had started the retail side of the business and that was that allowed us to pivot pretty quickly. And then the gaming side, what was interesting that was something that was already in development that we just kind of put kind of extra speed into. We kind of realized this was always interesting and I always take this back to my old life is I think when you really have a dialog with your customers and understand what people are doing, sometimes people are or if you make a great product for one thing and it can kind of be used for an adjacent space, there’s some things you can do to make it authentic, but I always look at my Nike experience as kind of like the best MBA I could have ever taken. And what Nike has is something called the Maxim’s. And one of the great maxims is what the customer will decide for you. And, and if you listen and lean into your customer and understand what the customer’s going, they will decide. And so there’s kind of this great set of lore if you’re a sneakerhead, there’s a business called Nike SB. And so Nike SB really started from the observation that when people were skating, they were taking the Nike dunk and because it was a durable, it was a really durable shoe. And the same thing with the Jordan one shoe. They’re using that to skate in because it was a great durable shoe. They had the right support and worked really great on, on, on, on the skate deck. Nike had gotten into the skateboarding business many times and failed. But then when they made that observations, like, let’s actually talk to the customer and see what they’re doing and they kind of just tweaked the shoe a little bit. And that’s what created this, this billion dollar business of Nike SB. That whole observation that people are already using a shoe that you made, let’s just tweak it a bit instead of trying to do this other thing. And I look at that analogy on the gaming side right? Gaming and kind of working behind and off, like working on spreadsheets and things like that in an office all day are very analogous, right? You’re spending a lot of time in front of the screen. You want to be comfortable and you know, there’s a performance nature of “I need to perform really well to do my job, but if I’m a pro gamer, like I need all my tools around to help me perform, whether it’s a mouse, whether it’s my computer or even the chair I’m sitting in.” And so that was a really great insight to kind of say we kind of had a lot of the heavy lifting done. We did some great partnership with Logitech and kind of took that kind of customer approach and then pivoted there. And I think that’s where you look at the Embody coming through is just the right kind of insight by some really smart people connecting it through. And I think the market was, was definitely ready for it because if you look at the other traditional players in the gaming space, it just wasn’t thinking about the performance side. And, you know, there was a definite opportunity 

Jeff White: As a former skateboarder and a 50 year old man who still owns a skateboard, one of the things Nike I thought did really, really well was to take lessons from the skateboarding industry when they did that. You know, I think Nyjah Houston was brought on as a, as a pro athlete pretty early in that process, if I remember correctly. And other kind of pros are brought in. And that sort of sponsorship idea is something that is very ingrained in, in extreme sports. You know, like it’s, it’s kind of the model for how you can actually make money at those sports. Did you bring some of that kind of sponsorship influencer kind of methodology and thinking to the MillerKnoll as well as you were thinking about that? Gaming Chair?

Evan Hargreaves: Well, I think I love your point. I think one of things that’s interesting just to even add is authenticity, right? There’s a difference between I hey, I’ll just go through a bunch of money at someone.

Jeff White: Yeah. 

Evan Hargreaves: Versus partnering and being authentic. And I think that’s the really kind of the level below that. I think sometimes people forget in this whole kind of influencer culture thing, if you don’t have an authentic, real connection and people can see through that over time, right? And that’s where that kind of deeper brand. Think about, like this is not something we’re going to do for a year. This is about something we could be doing for 100 years. So how does that kind of lens change that? And so I love the some really smart people in this SB side that kind of like thought about it that way and the same thing here. So I think you kind of have to look at it, but the business is being different. So if you look at, I’ll put gaming in kind of a separate part, there’s that whole kind of influencer culture. There’s obviously gamers and the partnerships and the teams and all that stuff that, that’s that part of that business. Those guys do a wonderful job with that. If you look at, you know, separate parts of the business, there’s different influencers is a weird word, but that same framework can be here. I think for, if I look at the B2B side of it, it’s really designed and designed partnership, which has always been the soul of both Herman Miller and Knoll. Really, I think kind of that’s an off the angle’s right word, but that’s kind of the way we approach it, is that that partnership with designers, if I would see that same analogy. So if I look at, you know, some of the great designers, obviously the Eames are the easy ones to kind of throw through time, but Don Chadwick and  Stumpf on the Aeron chair some of the great industrial designers to even partners work with. Now, we just launched a chair with Naoto Fukasawa. That has been what, like if I kind of look at like I’ve gotten to work with like a Roger Federer in tennis, if you look at industrial design in Japan, NaotoFukasawa is like that level. And so if you are an architect or designer, that partnership and that level, again, it’s authenticity of you have a partner who is looking at something, who is going to build for a space. You know, if I’m designing for a space, like that’s my thing and it has to resonate with my vision in that kind of like connected part drives authenticity. 

Carman Pirie: You’re making me remember why I like the space so much. It’s, it’s a furniture space. It’s a great space for marketers, right? Because there’s a, there’s an appreciation for esthetic and industrial design elements, etc.. Not every industry has that right. 

Evan Hargreaves: Yeah. And what’s so interesting in and I think I have commented, I underestimated how complex the space is, is like you have a lot of people involved in the process and each one of them has a different kind of perspective on kind of where they want to go. And so if you look at design and everything just talked about, that’s one spot. There’s the CEO of the company who is just trying to like, Hey, I want to basically have a space that works but engage my, my workforce. Then there’s the functional side of like how does this enable us to kind of do things? And so there’s so many different levels of where that is that it adds a different complexity of where marketing is, especially on, on kind of different levels of it.

Carman Pirie: I have I have so many questions left and we don’t have a lot of time, but I am kind of so I’m curious as as we think about the, uh, you know, the pitch to facilities managers, CEOs, larger organizations has a lot, you know, has had a strong component of, of, of, of workforce health as part of the conversation around, you know seating and better workplace ergonomics, etc. and you know investment in what you sell has often been positioned as having delivering a lot of those benefits across an organization. Is that value messaging, that value proposition? And are you seeing a lot of change in that when maybe companies can’t influence the home work environment as much?

Evan Hargreaves: That is a fantastic question. What’s really interesting is it’s is kind of it’s become a lot more sophisticated. So if you think about pre-pandemic, it was a little bit more simple, right? Is like we know people are going into the space. So we would talk about ergonomics and a lot of larger companies would have a workplace like their own ergonomist when they’re making these kind of decisions for out of those people work. That’s still underpinning some of it, but it’s evolved in different ways. So if you can say what was traditional ergonomics, you need to sit a certain way to, to really kind of make sure you’re healthy and things like that. It’s evolved into more holistic wellness. So that’s one part of a wellness side of things. There is about the why would I want to come to an office? That’s a whole other part of wellness. There’s that whole social cognitive side of things of like now I want to like, if I’m going to jump in my car and drive into somewhere. There’s got to be something at the end of that. Whereas like its table stakes, the place I sit has to be comfortable, all those good things. But what are the other things in that space? And that’s a whole kind of evolving discussion of like how many, how big for your space be like this whole behemoth office we had before. Well, if only people are coming one or two days a week and they’re coming different days, well, what does that space need to look like? And, you know, there’s a lot of that conversation going on, not only within the furniture industry, but think about the office space and like, why is it like so this is just a really interesting time where all this is pivoting. You know, there’s not 100% answers for everything. And so that’s what’s really exciting, just trying to figure that out. And I think that’s that partnership of like who’s doing it well and kind of taking from that. And I think that’s going to be an interesting pivot. I think the other thing which is interesting, which has always been part of the industry but continues to elevate, is like you talk about wellness, but sustainability is another big one. You think about furniture just as an industry. It does take a lot on the environment. So that sustainability part has always been there, but it continues to get amplified is like, how do we do things that become smarter and better? 

Jeff White: You know, Carman, I’m thinking based on what Evan is saying, if we hadn’t delivered to everyone at Kula a Haworth Zody Chair at the beginning of the pandemic at home, maybe more people would want to come into the office now, you know, just to have a good seat.

Carman Pirie: He’s thinking, Well, we should have probably sent them Herman Miller chairs. 

Jeff White: I know that. But we had what we had 

Evan Hargreaves: No, Zody is a fantastic chair. I think that’s what’s what’s I think what’s great about this industry is there’s mutual respect for the partners within it. There’s kind of that set of rules, and that’s the one things I love is like, we want to all make sure that if we’re going to build a great chair, you have that experience. And I think what you just said is really interesting, right? There’s that, that value of the people you work with and in an investment, Right. And so I think that’s this interesting hybrid space, like you’ve invested in your team and they see that and appreciate it, that investment’s got to be a different way when they come to the office. Like they would expect that same kind of chair and experience when they come into the office. But they’re coming in for kind of different things now, right? They want to see everybody and that social side and like how do we make that space work in a different way? Because as much as like we can all sit in front of a screen, it’s not the same level of effectiveness, especially when you’re design and creative side of that kind of getting everyone in the same space. There’s something of that magic. And does it have to happen every day? No, there’s some head down downtime. So what’s that right balance? And that’s what’s so interesting right now. And exciting is like, how do you create that environment? And then how do you create a space that enables and encourages? 

Carman Pirie: Well, I have to, you know, in my time in the furniture space, one thing I loved is every June going to Chicago to NeoCon. It was just a fantastic excuse to go eat a bunch of steak and drink too much. But also the NeoCon is a real interesting kind of crystal ball where every year, especially the big furniture company thought leaders and, you know, Miller and Knoll. And certainly I’m you know, at the top of that list, you know, they kind of show how the world of work is going to be changing. I remember going into one of the showrooms there and it was reflecting pools beside desks and things of that sort. And, you know, trying to, you know, point the way. There’s a kind of a always been a part of, of your business that’s not just about responding to customer needs, but in some way pointing the way to what will be that’s got to be the hardest part of this job right now. How do you how, coming out of this pandemic, even knowing what will be trying to predict those trends? That’s gotta be tough. 

Evan Hargreaves: Oh, for sure. And we have a lot of smart people that are I mean, I, that’s an expertise that we have some really smart people looking at. And what’s interesting, right, is like there’s a physical and that’s why I like NeoCon so interesting, if you look at broader industries, right, that kind of trade show big kind of thing is is not happening. It’s kind of disappeared in a lot of spaces in that there’s definitely a need for it because there’s that exactly what you outlined is like How do you see that? Like, how do you demonstrate that you need something like that? And, you know, I think when you look at that globally, right, there’s a whole different part of like, how do you look at that experience and how do you think through it? Because it continues to be. Yes, this is a place where people come in and can see everything there. But how do you balance it with the, the other side of it? And it’s pivoted. So if, one of the big changes, if you look at kind of NeoCon in the past, it always used to be in the Merchant Mart in Chicago, a wonderful old building. It’s kind of spread out because of this is like, how do you have a space that reflects that? So this old kind of 100 year old building that’s kind of got these rooms or where it is, doesn’t always kind of match with some of these broader things. And that’s where we actually we moved from the Mart for that very reason is so how do we customize and evolve because these spaces are changing so much. You need a place to demonstrate that and, and behind the scenes of the Mart, it’s not always possible to do that in the space, especially with the complexity of the brands we have to do that. So what’s interesting is that the whole show is, you know, still a viable part in the Mart, but it’s expanded to other parts within Chicago. So your ability to get steak has like amplified multiple times because you have to go for multiple days and see different parts. And what’s cool is there’s a whole cadre of, of, of partners in Fulton Market. There’s, there’s some good restaurants in there then you can kind of go into the Mart. And that’s this thing has become a really interesting event and you would think it’s kind of like slowed down. It’s actually only gotten bigger. 

Jeff White: Yeah, well, now I want to book a flight and a reservation at Bavette’s. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah, we’re all doing the steak trail or something now. Evan, it’s been. It’s been wonderful to have you on the show. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. It, uh, thank you so much for. For sharing your experience with us. 

Evan Hargreaves: Thank you both, gentlemen. This has been fantastic. Always fun to talk this, talk around the stuff. It’s always good to have people who understand the industry and kind of have some really great questions. 

Jeff White: Oh, thanks so much for being on. 

Carman Pirie: A pleasure. 

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Evan Hargreaves Headshot


Evan Hargreaves

Director of Global Product Marketing at MillerKnoll

Evan Hargreaves leads global product marketing focused on the Seating Category for the two flagship MillerKnoll brands—Herman Miller and Knoll. He joined Herman Miller seven years ago to direct product marketing for all product categories within the B2B contract furniture business.

In his role Evan is responsible for delivering strategic plans and execution for global integrated marketing of product launches and overall product category management. He leads the Seating Category positioning, strategy, brand, promotion, and content direction for all channels – B2B and Retail D2C and B2B2C outlets.

MillerKnoll is the leader in the B2B Contract Furniture industry, and the largest global office furniture company. Herman Miller Seating is known for such iconic products as the Aeron, Eames, Embody, Sayl and Cosm chairs while Knoll Seating is known for the Generation, ReGeneration, and Newson chairs.

Prior to Herman Miller and MillerKnoll, Evan held various product and marketing roles at Nike, Wilson Sporting Goods and Samsonite.

The Kula Ring is a podcast for manufacturing marketers who care about evolving their strategy to gain a competitive edge.

Listen to conversations with North America’s top manufacturing marketing executives and get actionable advice for success in a rapidly transforming industry.

About Kula

Kula Partners is an agency that specializes in maximizing revenue potential for B2B manufacturers.

Our clients sell within complex, technical environments and we help them take a more targeted, account-focused approach to drive revenue growth within niche markets.


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