Mike Meiré, founder and managing director of communications agency "Meiré and Meiré"

Stylepark Flötotto
Objects with potential

On the gravity of tradition, hybrid furniture items and updatable design: in conversation with Thomas Wagner Mike Meiré explains what he feels is most important when repositioning long-standing corporation Flötotto.

For Mike Meiré, founder and managing director of communications agency "Meiré and Meiré", Flötotto is not virgin territory. Back in the 1980s, as a designer he worked for and with Elmar Flötotto. Now, almost 30 years later, the two family-owned firms have joined forces again: Frederik Flötotto, son of Elmar Flötotto, has commissioned Meiré und Meiré to develop a new corporate identity and communications strategy for the brand. So what needs to be changed and what approach has been taken to developing the new? In interview with Thomas Wagner Mike Meiré offered a preview and explained his ideas for Flötotto.

Thomas Wagner: You’re already linked to Flötotto by past projects. What do you find exciting about the renewed collaboration with the company?

Mike Meiré: Well, quite simply the question: How to support a company that already has a history of its own? A company that has repeatedly hit incredibly strong communicative “peaks”, precisely with the great items by Oliviero Toscani. But I believe that today it does not suffice to simply rely on such communicative “peaks”. Communications today require a certain flow, need constancy and substance.

Oliviero Toscani shot the well-known campaign for "Pro".

In other words, the collaboration with Flötotto centers on a complete realignment of the communications and not just some visual CI. So where does one start?

Mike Meiré: Flötotto today moves between the exciting twin poles of tradition and innovation. The question therefore is how to approach both a brand whose identity was defined in the 20th century, and its “estate”, namely its achievements to date? How to incorporate established brands and new entrepreneurial goals? I notice that as someone who has now been active in the communications industry for over 30 years I am now speaking to people who are younger than I. And that is why I ask: To what extent are Flötotto’s historical references still present in the minds of target groups today? And how can a brand that has a certain gravitas be experienced in a “new” way?

Meaning you want to sell younger people the old things as new things?

Mike Meiré: No, of course not. In fact, to be honest I believe there is no need for any new design brands in the furniture segment. And I don’t believe, even if we are confronted by this day in day out, that people are still always looking for the new chair or the new shelf system. But because the market, the industry and the platforms are forever calling for new content and demanding the latest, companies of course produce it like crazy. And in such a period, in such a dynamic environment, revisiting a brand like Flötotto, weighing things up, asking critically: What is needed and what is possibly no longer needed, now that is the real task with this task. As indeed new needs arise all the time, and of course people continue to want to live in a slick interior and look good in it. But the young generation possibly does not want to have to own that interior. It’s therefore much more about communicating a stance and not “just” about styling.

Since 2008, the family business is leaded by Elmar Flötotto and his son Frederik Flötotto.

That probably applies to quite a few of the brands you support. What is the special thing you wish to elaborate here for Flötotto?

Mike Meiré: On the one hand, we are working on the stance Flötotto takes in the market. What position does Flötotto adopt as a supplier in the knowledge society? On the other, we are looking closely at the company’s products: Into what frame can the decidedly heterogeneous portfolio fit? What is the potential of the profile system, which seems a bit out of date? Does it need an update, with attention paid to the radius, to providing new surfaces or does the whole thing simply need to be presented differently? And then you soon realize that the system is actually not so fuddy-duddy but actually pretty cool.

The furniture industry has for a few years been in a bit of a loop, with the selfsame stories from Mid-Century design regularly being updated and restored. Is that the approach you are taking for Flötotto?

Mike Meiré: No, we’re going a lot further! We’re changing the very way the systems and products can be read. Take, for example, “Add” by Werner Aisslinger. It is much more than a shelf system: It’s construction means it can be used with different surfaces. And that liberty in the choice of surface means the product morphs into a flat design, an “interface” that can be used as a backdrop for any number of projected ideas. Be it completely new textures, materials or prints that are at a slight remove from the classic world of wood. This flexibility enables collaboration with artists, new talents, material developers, companies and so forth.

A way of life becomes an icon: the Flötotto Profilsystem celebrated its 40th birthday.
A system for the digital generation: "Add" by Werner Aisslinger

But that would mean you not only intervene in the communications but also at a more profound level in the company, outfitting such products with a time factor as it were?

Mike Meiré: Some of the products have the potential to be communicated differently, creating a catalyst for the brand. However, a brand simply as the sender on its own doesn’t work. If the brand re-informs the products or infuses them with new information, for example as a “limited edition”, i.e. putting “objects with potential” into the channels, then a different type of communications approach arises. The furniture maker then addresses the digital habits of the young generation by offering such “objects with potential”. Because the goal must be not to develop more products, but to specify the few one has, classify them clearly and thus offer users a tool that can satisfy their needs. That’s much more exciting! Just take a look at what is already happening with sneakers, for example.

Alongside the systems furniture, Flötotto also offers Konstantin Grcic’s “Pro” family. What do you think it stands for and how does it contribute to the brand communication if it is not flat design the way “Add” is?

Mike Meiré: From the way Konstantin Grcic developed “Pro” you can clearly see that we live in a hybrid age. The chair is all about intelligent performance: “Pro” has to perform in a school class just as it has to function in a home office, and then I turn around and am sitting on a “Pro” at the dinner table. It is absolutely a piece of “hybrid furniture”. And this is what I find exciting: Of course you need strong design for communications. But these designs must much more strongly reflect the stance the brand takes today. And that needs to be emphasized far more strongly. Just how far “Pro” is updatable can be seen from the fact that the family has grown immensely since 2012.

What does the “updatable” nature of products mean for the Flötotto brand?

Mike Meiré: We want to position Flötotto as a solutions provider, and no longer communicate it just as a thoroughbred furniture or design brand. With its program, Flötotto supports hybrid life styles that are constantly changing. We’re moved by questions such as: Can systems shelving be understood as a buy-by-the-meter product? How is life in cities changing? How do we handle temporary housing? And what role can a furniture brand play here?