Thursday, April 07, 2005

Losing the conversation, taking it back

Dyson has done an amazing thing with vacuum cleaners. He's managed to completely change the conversation around vacuums. Although his machines deliver on the claim of not losing suction, they're still not great vacuum cleaners. But by changing the conversation, he's convinced people that they are not only good enough, but better in new ways. Even people who should know better are momentarily blinded by the glittery lights (kidding, Diego, now I bet he won't let me borrow his copy of Thoughtless Acts)

OXO did the same thing with the salad spinner. It created a whole new market, by transforming the spinner from a serious, boring, prep tool into a fun, family-bonding kitchen friend. So what did Zyliss, the inventor of the salad spinner, do? Accept the new rules of OXO's conversation? Hell no, Zyliss took back the conversation with a radical new spinner that celebrated their heritage as a maker of high performance kitchen tools, heaped on loads of user centered design, and presented it all in a dangerously elegant form. [disclaimer, I worked on the Zyliss salad spinner project, so my views may be a little skewed].

So, what are Dyson's competitors going to do, to take back that conversation? WWSD?

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