Let me start by saying, I am a fan of Dyson (pun intended).

Dyson is a British business that actually manufactures something (a pleasant change from the norm). It also invests heavily in design and development and employs hundreds if not thousands in trying to create innovative solutions.

So far so good.

My issue is that very rapidly Dyson have evolved into a technology push organisation, that progressively tries to create solutions without insight in order to justify the technology or IP they happen to own.

Let me take you on a journey that explains what I mean.

Dyson has its origins as a vacuum cleaner manufacturer. James Dyson took the idea of a cyclonic vacuum from industrial applications (not something he invented personally) and applied it to a home use environment.

The key to the success of the Dyson vacuum cleaner and the thing that made it a leading brand which demanded a huge price premium was not just the clever miniaturisation of the cyclone, but the insight and value proposition that explained its value.

Dyson’s insight for his vacuum cleaner was simple.

“All vacuum cleaners are becoming heavier and heavier, more and more powerful and using more and more electricity.

But that’s no use to you if they stop picking up dirt and dust when the bag gets full.

In a perfect world you need constant suction, so that your vacuum cleaner works just as well, all the time”

Here is the original advertising that Dyson used to reflect this insight and then to describe his value proposition of a cyclonic vacuum cleaner.

Straightforward, logical and focused. ‘No bag, No loss of suction’

He had a technology and then he looked for relevant insights and value propositions that explained its value. A winning model.

Move on a few years.

Dyson has invested heavily in R&D for a bladeless fan. A fan that uses a unique method to blow air without spinning blades.

The insight for why you or I might need that?

Not sure, quite honestly. It’s now starting to look like a design driven approach. You might want to pay 10 times more for a Dyson fan, not because it has a clear insight, but more because it’s a design statement.

By this point, Dyson’s adverts have stopped having such clear insights and the value propositions seem to become more vague.

In this advert for the fan, the phrase to describe the alternatives ‘ A fan, nothing much wrong there’ at the start of the advert, pretty much sums it up.

Dyson then goes out of his way to try and contrive issues and complaints that most normal people have never expressed and sure as hell won’t pay £300 to fix.

The phrase ‘It’s only when you turn it off that you realise how unsettling it’s been‘ is tacit acceptance that when it’s on, you don’t notice and happily can live with it’

If an advert can’t tell you the disadvantages of the alternatives, especially when they cost 10 times less, then it’s starting to get worrying.

In this advert for the fan, the phrase to describe the alternatives ‘ A fan, nothing much wrong there’ at the start of the advert, pretty much sums it up.

Dyson then goes out of his way to try and contrive issues and complaints that most normal people have never expressed and sure as hell won’t pay £300 to fix.

The phrase ‘It’s only when you turn it off that you realise how unsettling it’s been‘ is tacit acceptance that when it’s on, you don’t notice and happily can live with it’

We can begin to see how the insight step of the Dyson approach is becoming side-lined in favour of the technology push.

It’s How it works that matters to Dyson, rather than Why it works.

The resulting sales figures for the fans vs the vacuum cleaners tell the true story of how technology push without insight plays out in real market conditions.

This evolution has reached its pinnacle with the development of the Dyson hairdryer.

Dyson has now unveiled its first personal care product –  the first hairdryer powered by a miniaturised air pump in the handle, using the same airflow technology as Dyson’s desk fan. .

The company said it had invested £50m in the development of the device. I’d argue that the start point was not customer driven though.

It would be naive to believe that they spent £50 million thinking about you and your hairdrying needs.

I do believe however that they spent a large amount in the development of a miniature version of their fan and then thought, ‘Where can we stick this?’

This is not a subtle differentiation in approach. It changes everything!

The £299 price tag makes it at least twice as expensive as salon-grade dryers made by rival manufacturers according to the BBC. This makes them about 6 times more expensive than even the most expensive consumer positioned ‘professional’  hairdryer I could find on Amazon.

£300 is very expensive for a hairdryer. It would need to solve a major issue that others couldn’t or bring a defined benefit that hugely outweighs the attractiveness of the alternatives.

It is here that we need the insight.

The company’s founder Sir James Dyson said developing a hairdryer was an “obvious” choice.

“There just happens to be a huge field in airflow,” he told the BBC.

?

What, does that mean?

The consumer is sitting in the market thinking, ‘Hang on a minute, there seems to be a real missing link in the airflow of my hairdryer!’, I need to fix that.

If Dyson can’t explain it, let’s try and deconstruct the communication ourselves.

The mixed messages coming from Dyson about the benefit seem to deviate from less damage to hair, lighter hairdryer, shorter time spent doing the task, easier styling, less noise.

It’s hardly single minded and all other alternatives promise the same.

That’s because the truth is Dyson was going to do this anyway. It’s not the need that has driven the miniaturisation of existing IP into a new application.

Whether the hairdryer is of use to the most people, seems to be less the point of the Dyson business anymore, more the intellectual exercise of creating and trying new technology.

This is clear from Dysons quote last week

“I don’t mind if I only sell 100 a year, as long as those 100 people think it’s really good. I wouldn’t make much money but that’s not always the point. That’s not what drives us, that’s not what makes it exciting.”

People seeing the relevance and need is not the point? It’s not what drives us?

Appropriate pricing that is tied to the real value of a solution, creates shareholder return. Inappropraite pricing tied to the intellectual challenge of creating things to challenge your personal vision.. well that way leads to disaster.

The final defining phrase in the Dyson communication that shows how the company is thinking is its tagline,

“Dyson Supersonic, The Hairdryer we thought”

We thought?

The comment beneath on youtube says it all about the consumer response.

“The Hairdryer you thought what????”

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Mat Shore is an expert on innovation, insights and value propositions. He has trained 35,000 people worldwide in applying this thinking to improve the outcome of their innovation. You can read his book, the 7 Deadly Sins of innovation to find out about innovations and ideas that succeed or fail based on the quality of their insights. Click here to see more.