Very rapidly Dyson has evolved into a technology push organization, that progressively tries to create solutions without insight in order to justify the technology or IP they happen to own”, opined Mat Shore, Owner of Outside in – Innovation Consultancy and author of The 7 Deadly Sins of Innovation, in his recent blog post.

I agree.  Dyson has evolved from insight-driven to technology-driven.  Dyson turned the vacuum cleaner industry on its ear with the phenomenally successful bagless vac that he developed to address a consumer problem.   No such consumer insight informed the development of the bladeless fan that was introduced in 2009 and has had limited success.  Now the company is entering the hair dryer product category using the same technology-driven approach that they used to develop the bladeless fan.  Is this genius or a colossal mistake?

Dyson’s evolution from insight-driven to technology-driven

Consumer insight drove the development of the DC01 Vacuum Cleaner, the first-ever bagless vacuum cleaner.  Dyson identified a problem: Traditional vacuum cleaners “stop picking up dirt and dust when the bag gets full.” And came up with a solution: The Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner that “never loses suction.”

Consumer insight did not drive the development of the Air Multiplier, the first-ever bladeless desktop fan.  Dyson said that the reason they developed the bladeless fan was because fans had “hardly changed since 1890”.

According to Shore, “We can begin to see how the insight step of the Dyson approach is becoming side-lined in favor of the technology push. … 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 year, Dyson is introducing the Supersonic hair dryer, the first-ever hair dryer with a digital motor in the handle.

Now, according to Shore, Dyson’s evolution from consumer-insight-driven to technology-driven has “reached its pinnacle with the development of the Dyson hairdryer.

What’s wrong with being technology-driven?

Being technology-driven is a risky approach to delivering products“, wrote Gabriel Steinhardt, Author and CEO of Blackbot, in “Who’s driving your company?”. According to Steinhardt, “Adopting a technology-driven posture has, over time, proven low growth potential due to failure to implement proper marketing activities and because of the isolated manner in which products are managed. Many technology-driven products are characterized by having complex features or unnecessary features, and some technology-driven products are realistically unneeded.”

In other words, many technology-driven products do not fulfill an unrealized consumer need or solve an unmet consumer problem.

Why did the Air Multiplier fail?

The Air Multiplier failed because it did not solve a problem that was important to consumers.  According to the company’s “how it works” video, the Dyson bladeless fan eliminates the “annoying buffeting” caused by “spinning blades chopping the air.”  Is buffeting really so annoying that consumers would be willing to spend a huge premium for a fan that eliminated it, especially when, as Dyson himself said in the video, “It’s only when you turn it off that you realize how unsettling it’s been’?  Given the limited success of the Air Multiplier, the answer to that question appears to be “no.”

Consumers don’t buy technology; they buy solutions to problems.  If consumers don’t think a product will solve a problem for them, it is highly unlikely they will purchase it. (CLICK HERE to learn more about the relationship between need and purchase interest.)

What problem does the Supersonic Hair Dryer solve?

Does the Supersonic hair dryer solve a problem that is important to consumers?  A problem no other hair dryer can solve?  A problem that consumers will be willing to pay a huge premium for?

It’s too soon to tell.  The Supersonic hair dryer does not hit the U.S. market until Fall. However, we can get an early read from the bloggers and journalists who tested the product earlier this year.

Courtney Jespersen at  “If hair care is one of your top beauty priorities — and you have some extra cash to spare — this dryer may soon be your most coveted accessory. …  If you don’t care about having the lushest locks in the land, we’d recommend sticking with something more traditional and affordable. For many hair types, standard dryers will do the trick for a fraction of the price.”

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson at News Corp Australia Network:  “There is a lot of technology inside Dyson’s “Tesla of hair dryers,” and a lot of hype around it, but does it produce better results than another hair dryer?  After using it for a week, I’m confident it does. … Are its results better? Absolutely. Are they worth $700 to you? Only you can tell.

Blogger Rosemary McCabe: “Will it change your life? Probably not – I’m not an insane Dyson evangelist. But if you have curly hair, spend ages drying it and struggle with frizz, it might just save your sanity.

Lynne Hyland at “It’s undoubtedly faster, quieter and easier to use, and I’ve never had such shiny, smooth hair from a DIY blowdry before.  My hair still looked nearly as smooth the next day too. I can see that this is potentially going to save women a lot of heat damage and split ends.  £299 is an insane amount of money but then again, a good hair day is pretty priceless….”

The Takeaway

Dyson’s evolution from insight-driven to technology-driven should be a cautionary tale for companies adopting a technology-driven posture.  As Dyson has proven, adopting a technology-driven posture increases the risk of new product failure.  Adding consumer insight to the mix reduces the risk of failure considerably.  The product must provide a solution to a problem that consumers are having with the products already on the market or they will not buy it.

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