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5 Minutes With… Angel Yang And Mark Bickerstaffe Of Kohler

Kohler Experience Centre Singapore celebrated its first anniversary this year and we caught up with two of the brand’s most important people to find out more about today’s bathroom culture.

Kohler Experience Centre


BY Asih Jenie

31 August, 2018


Kohler Experience Center (KEC) Singapore celebrated its first anniversary recently with a forum, a lavish party with a laser show and a charity art sale, and three new product launches. The three new products are the sleek and smart Sensis intelligent toilet, smart home platform Kohler Konnect, and bathroom accessory line Components.

We chatted with Angel Yang, President- Kitchen & Bath Asia Pacific at Kohler and Mark Bickerstaffe, Director Of New Product Development Kitchen & Bath at Kohler, to find out more.

 

The bathroom has evolved into a personal sanctuary in our domestic spaces. What do the Asian consumers want in this space today? Do you notice any particular demands that are different than the other region?

Mark Bickerstaffe (MB) Yes, there are differences, because there are little differences of customs and practices in different regions. In the urban nation like Singapore, space is a premium. So it’s all about small space here, and making that space work for you. And we’ve developed specific care products with great flexibility and adaptability to tune in to that desire to use space efficiently.

There’s also this Asian rational cultural thing to consider all the benefit of a product that basically says “Give me a reason to spend money” and that’s slightly different to what we see in western culture, in the US and Europe, where there’s a more emotional drive to some of the purchases. 

And that’s why we have chosen to not go out there saying we are an American business.

 

We are a global business, and a multi-local business in many ways.

 

We’ve got people in these markets. We are in Singapore. We are in Shanghai. We’re in Bangkok. So that we understand what is going on. Not just looking from afar and thinking we know what we are talking about. We’ve put people on the ground.

 

Any of the Kohler products designed specifically to cater to this diverse market?

MB The Family care suite, definitely. Also Sensis, the intelligent one we are launching. That’s very much driven by Asian preferences. 

Kohler experience centre

Sensis Intelligent toilet.

We had Numi which has a very strong masculine character. And then we were like, well, who else are we selling to? And there’s a lot of decisions being made by female Asian customers but we weren’t really appealing to them. Especially when you talk about the rise of beauty care, and caring for your body, and caring for yourself.

That was another thing that really connected to that sort of message  “I’m caring for myself.” and “This helps me care for me.” and so designing something that had that sort of feminine sensitivity to it was an effort to connect to that consumer group.

 

Isn’t that a risk to design for a specific gender?

MB Yeah. And we are not afraid of this. We know you can’t please everybody with one product. You can try and do it but what you end up with tends to be something fairly neutral, fairly safe. That’s not our brand at all. We’re very much a brand that wants to trigger emotion in you and makes you say  “Oh, wow, I love it”.  We believe overall, we’ll get better sales, better loyalty, better value out of that.

KOhler Experience Centre

Sensis Intelligent Toilet

 

What are some of the specific customer expectations or demands addressed by your three new products – Sensis, Kohler Konnect and the Components series?

Angel Yang (AY) Overall Singapore is a place that welcomes new technologies. When we started the journey to concentrate a smart home solution development and a lot of developers here heard about it, they approached us to find out more even before the product was actually launched.

This market also has a high concentration of international designers serving the international market. And they are very receptive.

 

They are the most willing to leverage new technologies in their projects more than other Asian markets. 

 

MB Kohler Konnect is a solution, a connective tissue that makes a bathroom work better. Let’s say you’ve now made all your products talk to each other. How can that make the bathroom perform better? We look at it in four ways. We can make it more safe, healthy, easier to use and make the experience more delightful.

And it’s simple things like when you get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, the bathroom knows it is the middle of the night. It senses that you are coming. It doesn’t turn the lights on the room that blinds you; it turns the lights on really low, and guides you to where it thinks you are going to go, which is the toilet, and then the water basin. Once you are used to it, you will wonder how you could ever live without it. 

 

What’s your personal definition of a smart home and smart bathroom?

AY   For me its’s a place that, as soon as I walk into it, it recognises me and my preferences. Maybe in the morning, the temperature in the bathroom has been adjusted already to my preference, and the lighting adjusts automatically. To me, these smart places are more attuned to the individual user’s preference. They are integrated into my daily life. 

Kohler Experience Centre

Kohler Components

MB  For me, it is, ultimately a smart home gives you more time to do the things you want to do. Time, for me, is one of the ultimate luxuries. If you can liberate half a day because I don’t have to do certain things, then great, because that means I can do something else. And that can be doing nothing. If that is what smart does, okay, I am all for it. And it’s not about gadgets.

It is a place where you go not because you have to do something, but a place you go to when you want to feel a certain way. You want to feel great? Okay, then you can play music, use a special lighting and have a great shower experience, something like that. 

Kohler Experience Centre

Kohler Components

Any bathroom trends or future speculations about how bathroom will evolve that excite you?

MB I am excited about materials in the bathroom. It is not all white ceramic anymore. It is wood. It is stone. It’s fabric.

 

I think fabric is going to be a big thing in the bathroom. 

Because it softens spaces and we are soft, we like soft things.

 

We don’t like to sit on hard things. Bathrooms tended to be hard. Just because it has to be water resistant. Now it doesn’t have to be because material technology has moved on. 

Also one of the challenges that all of us need to keep addressing is, as we age, how we make beautiful spaces for ageing people? It’s us, in reality. But at the moment, there is this line that you cross and then it becomes, you know, “an old person’s place”. And that’s bad because there is no reason for it. It is a stigma. 

 


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