Dyson as a company is synonymous with innovation, luxury, modernity, functionality, reliability and effectiveness. So it is not surprising they recently added a new (or rather an existing commonly used but significantly improved) product to their range, the Dyson Supersonic hairdryer. Now this is not any old hairdryer, as James Dyson himself says, ‘this hairdryer will revolutionise hair care’ and the product has also been labeled ‘the tesla of hairdryers’.
Whilst new product development sounds easy – have an idea, develop it and put it to market – the process can be much more challenging in terms of time, resources and risk and Dyson’s new Supersonic hairdryer is testament to the many complexities of this process.
Cleverly however, in launching the product this year, Dyson has also used the challenges of the new product development process as a key marketing strategy to show customers how detailed the products journey has been and how superior it is to its competitors.
New product development process
This process involves a series of steps from the initial idea to the launch of the product. Despite appearing simple, it may not always be a linear process and can involve moving back and forth between stages a number of times. This is the case in the development of the Supersonic hairdryer.
The first step in new product development is idea generation. In this case, Dyson and his team were likely asking themselves what else can we do that is better than our competitors and will appeal to our customers? With Dyson’s strengths lying in technical engineering, and the hairdryer having not been overhauled in the last 50+ years, it seems like a natural fit for the British company.
Having established an idea, the next phase is determining the marketing potential of the new product. A company’s ability to effectively process marketing information, in understanding customer’s wants and needs, is key to the success of a new product.
Establishing a target segment for the product, ensuring it does not cannibalise other Dyson branded products and determining the new product fits within the company are all important at this stage. A hairdryer appears to fit well with Dyson, being a brand leader in vacuum and hand dryer technology; it seems like a natural extension to their company product line. Further, utilising their engineering capabilities, the design of a digital motor for a hairdryer is a revolutionary idea.
Marketing research is a crucial step to concept testing. Determining which characteristics and features are most attractive to customers is important prior to product development. Dyson identifies a quiet hairdryer and one that causes less damage to hair as key features that will appeal to customers. The cooperation within a company between marketing teams and research and design teams is essential in these early stages of new product development for success.
Design and Development
Design and development of the product is where a considerable amount of time and expense can occur in the process. In this case, Dyson built their own hair lab and committed 103 engineers to the project. Here they tested 600 prototypes on 1625km of human hair over 4 years.
The timeliness of new product development varies from product to product. Whilst shortening the time to market is increasingly required in todays competitive markets, in firms developing complex products implementing a well thought out process can be more important to the firm. Although potentially risky this was clearly the case for the Dyson hairdryer. Their technological edge over competitors likely justified the lengthy product development process.
The last step before commercialisation is to trial and test amongst the market. In their website marketing Dyson refers to the process as ‘We researched. We designed. We developed. We tested. We went back to the drawing board. Every improvement came through iteration.’
As is common in new product development, this series of stages were not linear. The concept, prototype and beta testing occurred for many months across the new product development cycle.
After 4 years and $86 million in product development the supersonic hairdryer was finally launched in the market. A range of marketing strategies have been implemented including celebrity ambassadors and social media. But it is Dyson’s engineering focused product-development story, that tells of each of the new product development stages, that offers a unique marketing strategy, and commands its premium position in the hairdryer market.