No quick wins in European markets: Q&A with Dirk Koslowski, Executive Director of IFA Management

Judy Lin, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

IFA executive director Dirk Koslowski. Credit: IFA

IFA Berlin 2023, one of the world's largest and most iconic consumer electronics exhibitions, will be held in Berlin, Germany from September 1–5. The exhibition targets the fourth quarter of the Christmas business and is expected to attract over 2,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries. IFA Management selected Taipei as the only key promotional city for the exhibition in Asia and partnered with the German Trade Office to host an industry trend seminar and media reception in Taipei on May 31.

Dirk Koslowski, Executive Director of IFA Management GmbH, introduced the latest highlights of the 99th IFA. He emphasized that the pan-European market, with a population of 650–700 million, should not be underestimated due to the fact that it is highly innovative and plays an important role as a trendspotter. 

Before the seminar, DIGITIMES Asia talked Dirk Koslowski on IFA's insights as a trade show organizer, as well as his advice on what tech companies should do to build long-lasting relationships with European consumers and win their trust.

Q: IFA is a very important trade show organization in Europe. As Taipei is chosen as your only key promotional city in Asia for your IFA Berlin 2023, will there be more collaborations with Computex? How do you envision the collaborations?

We have more or less collaborated with Computex for many years, but in a much broader sense. I have visited Computex for more than a decade now because I want to learn more about the relationship between especially the OEM and ODM business and of course the industry scenery behind. As we learned in the past, Taiwan used to stand for being at the forefront as the building blocks for the entire smart connected digital industry. And for this, it was our highest importance as we are serving all global brands from consumer electronics and home appliances, to know much better how all these components and all those parts will be acquired, how they will fit into each other, and of course, which relevant players from all over the world coming together year during Computex at the end of May, the beginning of June, every single year.

Q: There are talks of bringing Computex to India, Southeast Asia, etc. Is there a possibility for Computex to do their shows in Europe in the future?

Basically, the very bold point at the moment is trade shows are bouncing back. One of the biggest questions during the pandemic was, will it ever be possible again, to meet with each other, to sit together like we are doing now answering questions? Many people were very reluctant to admit that will be possible.

That's the good point. Trade shows are definitely coming back. On the other hand, if a trade show is a global one, or if it's a medium-sized one or a local one, should have a good purpose and a clear concept to serve the relevant client base.

Of course, there's a good reason to spread out their activities wherever they want to go. So at the end, it's not only about a brand. And if someone is stepping out of his respective boundaries, people will have to be clear what kind of conception they are following the exhibitions. Following up, and probably also what kind of partnerships I'm trying to integrate, according to this.

Q: There are many Taiwanese brands such as Acer, Asus, etc, you name it, going abroad. Do you have any advice for them so that their brands can have more exposure and more acceptability among European consumers?

So I'm surely not in the position to advise good brands like Acer, ASUS, HTC, etc., how to behave and how to adapt to European behavior and markets. But what we learned within IFA is that a very stable and very trustful relationship to the European retail landscape is very helpful if you want to enter those markets.

The retail relationship in Europe is very special. It's mostly on a personal basis. People interact with each other and meet frequently is the way they learn more about new products, new technologies, new services, and the entire landscape behind product categories. It's like education, or as if you're building some extraordinary and outstanding relationships with the customers.

And for this, you need a long-lasting investment. But as a result, the outcome, you will have a huge trustful relationship for a very long time. That's what's happened within European markets. So if you're doing this, you have to be aware, do we plan it at least mid-to-long term? Otherwise, it doesn't make sense to step in. There is no quick win in Europe.

Q: In terms of investment for the long term, does it mean having a local presence or local partners?

Investment is not just in the sense of financial investments, it's a sense of investments in relationships. If it comes down to investments in time, in openness, in forward-thinking, that meant you must do something by heart. The financial part is just one of the different aspects. But you must be aware, if you want to step into the European market, you have to set up relationships. And for those, you need the right partners, the right people. And you can be successful.

Q: Could you elaborate more on how they need to have a presence locally?

Local presence, such as are you engaging employees in Europe, and you win them as company ambassadors, as brand ambassadors. To achieve that purpose, there are various ways to behave. And that's how Acer and Asus did very well in the past in gaming. XYZ Printing, the 3d printing brand, was unknown 10 years ago. But over the years, they stepped up in awareness, along with some participation at IFA. Now it is a great company.

Q: A lot of companies talked about ESG this year in Computex. Is it possible for companies to increase their visibility as an ESG brand in Europe? Any advice for them?

Oh, that's a good point. What I can tell you is that, without proper PR and communication activities, without showcasing your attractiveness, it would be rather hard to find a well-visible place in Europe. So for this, I would say PR, PR, PR. Many Taiwanese companies are doing brilliant work, but they have to step out and tell and explain to the audience that they did it.

And that's why by the way, we always admire Americans. They're doing this very loud and boldly to tell people how good they are. That is critical and good to do. But of course, the product has to be the right one, high quality one. That is the strength of German, Taiwanese companies and Japanese companies as well. That's our strength. But we have to be very self-conscious, stepping out to explain and tell the world and then even listening to feedback on how good we are at what we are doing. Especially if it comes down to ESG as well.