After the one in Milan last year, this year’s conference was held in another beautiful European city, Brussels in Belgium. For those who are outside of Europe, this conference is the flagship event for the industry in Europe where the visions and opinions are being shared by the prominent figures of direct selling.
The event started on October 2, by Magnus Brannstrom’s (Chairman of Seldia, CEO of Oriflame) opening speech. He stressed the fact that direct selling was one of the few industries that were growing in Europe. Magnus confidently said, “Direct selling is a major force in Europe.”
The opening speech was followed by the announcement of next year’s global event in Rio de Janeiro. WFDSA’s (World Federation of Direct Selling Associations) World Congress is going to be in Brazil on November 10-12, 2014. It was also announced that one of the themes in the conference would be “New direct selling frontiers: Africa and Middle East”.
Then, came an enlightening panel called “CEOs’ Discussion on the Future of Direct Selling.” The audience had the chance to listen to the visions and approaches of Magnus Brannstrom (CEO of Oriflame), Ben Woodward (Managing Director of Nikken Europe), Jens Abend (CEO of LR) and Peter Strydom (Managing Director of Europe & Africa Amway). The panel was moderated by Paul Southworth, UK DSA’s Director General who proved his skills in this both in Milan and in Brussels. During the panel, Magnus Brannstrom said one of the lessons that they, as a company, had learned during the crisis was that they needed to focus more on consumers and especially the young consumers. Jens Abend said while the recession was not over yet, the impact of digitalization was higher on the industry than the recession. Peter Styrdom of Amway’s opinion was that more sophisticated and more differentiated approaches in different countries were required as one-size-fits-all approach did no longer work. Jens Abend added to the discussion of this need for diversification by saying LR would launch a preferred customer program soon.
Another very interesting panel was on “communication and transforming negative issues into positive ones.” The participants were Joe Mariano (President of US DSA), Michael Meissner (VP Corporate Affairs, Amway Europe) and Paul Baeyaert (CEO of Weber Shandwick Belgium). The discussions focused on the need for being more proactive in communicating positive messages and in being transparent. Needless to say, there were many refererences to the attacks Herbalife had received in the US.
The event continued with three concurrent workhops covering three different topics and ended with a presentation on consumer behaviour. All in all, Seldia organized a much better event this year than last year’s from many aspects and has set the bar higher for the next one.
The concepts that I took home with me to think about were: Diversification, digitalization and transparency.
One last highlight from the event was that Jonas af Jochnick, whom I personally had taken many lessons from during my career was presented with the “Hall of Fame Award”. I certainly believe he and his brother Robert af Jochnick who founded Oriflame in 1967 in Sweden rank at the top of the Europeans who deserve this award.
Till next time…
Photos courtesy of Seldia.