The World’s Leading Home + Housewares Show

March 2–4, 2025 | McCormick Place | Chicago, IL

The World’s Leading Home + Housewares Show
March 2—4 | McCormick Place | Chicago, IL

As consumer relationships with brands have become more complex, they have become more important than ever, discussed Leigh Ann Schwarzkopf during IHA’s Connect FALL virtual event. “Somewhere near the intersection of science, art, strategy and heart live the ingredients to a long-lasting connection between brand and customer,” Schwarzkopf said during the session entitled, “Brand Where You Stand: The Path to Building, Becoming and Broadcasting YOUR Brand.” 

Schwarzkopf, founder and principal of Project Partners Network, said, “be there when it counts,” at the right times, with the right products, in the right places, with the right displays, with the right promotions and with the right experiences. Every business, every product and every interaction are brands, she said, and businesses should think about emotions as the currency of the future. Satisfaction delivers mediocrity; work to make people happy, she said.  

Key pillars on top of the right product, placement and promotion, Schwarzkopf remarked, are intimacy, reciprocity, commitment, self-connection, meaning and symbolism. While brands always should have the baseline of a great product, it is also critical to know the consumer better than the competition, she said. Know their lifestyles, and anticipate their needs, she added. 

Trust is also a huge factor when it comes to a brand’s credibility, Schwarzkopf said. In a recent study from Project Partners Network/Springboard Futures proprietary research, 75% of respondents said trust was “very” or “extremely important” when choosing a retailer or a brand from which to buy home and housewares products. Less than 3% said it is “not important”.  

Schwarzkopf also cited a study by Hawk Partners revealing 57% of consumers also believe brand authenticity is important, and 77% prefer to purchase from a brand they perceive as authentic. At the heart of a strong brand are great products and services, but every brand contact matters, Schwarzkopf asserted. Brands should communicate what they stand for with performance and imagery, meeting consumer needs physically and socially.  

Companies can also see a positive response using three or more channels to reach their consumer. “Omni is the new normal,” Schwarzkopf stated, presenting supporting data from Retail Dive. Campaigns with three or more channels have an engagement and purchase rate that is 250% higher than single-channel campaigns, according to Retail Dive. 

Schwarzkopf encouraged an emphasis on the consumer’s experience. “Retail is theater,” she said, adding employees are the performers, products are the props, service is the stage, and customer interactions are events. She cited a study from Project Partners Network/Springboard Futures, indicating one-third to three-fourths of consumers will walk away from the brand after just one bad experience; and 41% are willing to pay as much as 20% more for an exceptional customer experience. 


When considering growing a business, Schwarzkopf listed three brand selection options:  

  • Build: Brands are built from every encounter, delivered product, packaging, marketing, customer service, display and trend statement.  
  • Borrow: License someone else’s intellectual property to gain traction through their brand recognition and marketing, keeping the branding authentic and organic. 
  • Buy: Purchase another brand that is complementary, incremental or meets specific objectives. 


Schwarzkopf reminded companies, when it comes to branding, to speak to evolving consumer priorities; to be authentic and take accountability; to lead with trend while being true to a brand; and to exceed consumer satisfaction by striving to make them happy.