By Dennis Kraus, Audio Infos Germany
At the IFA preview in early July 2016 in Hamburg, ReSound Germany Executive Director Joachim Gast explained to Audio Infos Germany why the company decided to have its own stand at big consumer electronic fairs like the IFA in Berlin or the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, and what benefits a manufacturer of hearing systems can expect from this kind of event.
Mr Gast, ReSound is not only an exhibitor at the Berlin Consumer Electronics Fair but has also decided to attend the three IFA preview events in Berlin and Hamburg. What motivated you to attend the previews as well?
We have been represented with a stand at the IFA since 2014. And we will be there again this year to inform journalists about the topic of connected hearing aids and fitting in specialist stores. These preview events are good opportunities for us to demonstrate, in a smaller context, what we can do technically. Because here we reach the journalists at a time when they are gathering information about trends for the upcoming IFA. We manage to do this very well at the preview events. We also get a chance to make appointments for the IFA stand in Berlin.
So you are interested in making contact with journalists from outside the hearing sector – and is that why ReSound also attends events beyond industry-specific ones?
Exactly. We’re trying to get the best of both worlds. We are a developer and manufacturer of medical devices and that’s what we plan to remain. But we can only grow if the sales of our clients also grow. As a result, we try to make a contribution by initiating contacts with journalists from outside our sector to increase awareness about the topic of hearing loss that is so important for individual people but also for society in general. We can also present smart, connected ReSound products that are fitted by hearing aid specialists.
And we can best do this if we talk to journalists who are reporting on the omnipresent topic of “connectivity” and who are also interested in cross-sectoral connectivity. This covers everything in the area of the smart home, home appliances with voice output for example, because this is only really useful if the voice output is streamed to ReSound devices in the future. For audio-based apps, we have already had connectivity between iOS products and ReSound since 2014. And journalists who write about this can best be reached at the IFA.
What has your experience been of the IFA until now? After all, here you are not among other providers from the hearing sector, like at the EUHA congress, but with Samsung, Garmin, BenQ, SanDisk, etc…
When we signed up for the IFA in 2014, there wasn’t even a category for us as a manufacturer. At that time, we were simply classified under “11.3 Other”. But now, there is an IFA category for “smart hearing aids”.
So the fact that this category exists is largely due to ReSound…
We could say that ReSound initiated this IFA category. At any rate, our presence over these last three years has increased awareness among the IFA organizers that this is an important product area that also has high social relevance. We have come from a point where no one really knew where to fit us in to today, where we have become established as the reference for smart, connected hearing systems.
Once you have sparked a journalist’s interest, what topics come up and what do they want to know from you?
There are many questions. We always start with the fact that our products are not from the consumer electronics area and are therefore not available at electronics stores, but rather in specialist hearing aid stores. When we mention that there are more than 6,000 of these specialist stores in Germany, people are usually very surprised. We then explain about hearing loss and how individual it is. We then move on to the topic of the smart, connected solutions that are already available: sound streaming from an iPhone, control through our ReSound smart app on Samsung Galaxy, and various Apple products, including the Apple Watch. Most people we speak to find this really interesting because the journalists do not expect this type of thing from a hearing aid.
Do the design awards that ReSound has already won help you? I see you have set them up here today too?
They help us in that they somewhat enhance media attention. But they are not our main concern. When we attend events, we also like to take part in the award proposals. And the jury’s reasoning when we are awarded a prize shows that we communicated the message very well. For example, the fact that additional functionalities such as audio streaming or the app – docked onto a conventional medical device – reach people and bring them tangible added value for their day-to-day lives.
But like I said, an award application is not a focus point for us but rather a side line that is useful for us to get in contact with journalists.
Since you are interested in making contact with journalists, are there other important events for you, in addition to the IFA?
The German Team at ReSound is of course not alone in this area. For instance, our international ReSound colleagues were present at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. I had the pleasure of attending personally to share our experience of the IFA. So there are similar events internationally. Another example is the CES in the United States, that is held each year in Las Vegas, Nevada and which our US colleagues at ReSound like to attend. But I must say that we also watch how we spend our budget, so for us in Germany, the focus is clearly on the EUHA Congress and the IFA.
Do you also make the most of the IFA to network with other companies that offer technologies that may be of interest to ReSound?
Absolutely. That is one of our goals. We get to talk to firms that are not in our sector to make them more aware of the topic of connectivity and to show them the added value of audio-connectivity in day-to-day life. In this area, we also get a lot of interest from representatives of other sectors who, of course, do not know our sector, or not well in any case. But when we show what is already possible technically at ReSound, and the added value the solutions bring to the user, people are very impressed and highly interested. So we attend the IFA to make contact with journalists and other people from companies that we can partner with.
But as an exhibitor at the IFA, you must get quite a lot of interest from potential end users.
The admission fee is low at maximum 17 Euros, which means that many private individuals visit the IFA. Of course, we also provide information to private individuals who come to our stand, as well as potential hearing aid wearers or their relatives. If people are interested in hearing aid fitting, we adopt a very pragmatic approach and refer to the “Find a professional” section of the ReSound homepage, to find the nearest hearing aid specialist who has listed our products.
Mr Gast, thanks very much for your time!
Editor’s Note: By mutual agreement, this article is republished with permission from Audiology World News, where it originally appeared on November 29, 2016.