Dyson Tries to Reinvent the Fan

Discussion
Jul 13, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Dyson was successful in getting consumers to think differently
about vaccuum cleaners and in the process got them to willingly pay a premium
price to clean their floors. Now, the company is looking to do the same with
fans and, in the process, get people to shell out between $300 and $450 to
keep cool.

The manufacturer doesn’t even call its product a fan; it’s an air multiplier.
In its marketing, Dyson is going back to what worked with vacuums. Its ads
criticize traditional fans with blades by contending they make too much noise. "Turn
it off and you realize how unsettling it’s been," Sir James Dyson says
in a commercial.

The Dyson fans work differently from conventional fans, according
to the company’s website. The technology, which does not use blades, draws
in air and amplifies it up to 18 times, depending on the model. The non-fan
produces "an uninterrupted
stream of smooth air" without the sound and it’s said to be easier to
clean because it lacks blades and a grill.

While this all sounds nice, an Advertising
Age
article points out, the
real question is whether Dyson will have the same success with fans as it had
with vacuum cleaners?

Bill McLoughlin, editor of Homeworld Business,
has doubted Dyson in the past.

"I was skeptical in 2002," he told Ad Age. "His vacuum
was $200 more than the competitors who were headed in an opposite price direction.
At the time, it looked like he was running the Kentucky Derby backwards. But
anyone who thought that back then was certainly proved wrong."

According
to Homeworld Business, portable fan sales reached $527 million
in 2009. By comparison, upright vacuum sales were nearly $2 billion.

Despite
costing up to ten times what other portable fans cost, there is some evidence,
at least in the U.K., that Dyson is achieving success.

Paul Martin, buyer for
small electrical appliances at John Lewis, told The
Telegraph
, "Sales of fans are up 177 per cent year on year and the
new Dyson model has led the way. Whilst it might be more expensive than a
regular desktop fan, customers love the design, the way it works and see
it as an investment purchase for the future."

Discussion Question: Will Dyson do for portable fans what it did for vacuum
cleaners?

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19 Comments on "Dyson Tries to Reinvent the Fan"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Dyson did a fantastic job with taking their innovative designs to market with vacuum cleaners. I do not believe that fans are quite the same market, however, if Dyson personalizes the fans and styles them for trendy desk top use I think they will do quite well!

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

The Dyson air multiplier has several things going for it the vacuum cleaner doesn’t:
The buyers are more likely to be men who like gadgets (at least that is what our grandmother research tells us) and can self justify the expense.
The buyer can keep it out in the open for all to see how “cool” they are.
It has the sizzle factor.
It can be purchased, and depending on company policies, brought to the office.
It can be sold as a child safe devise for the home.

The big issue is the price. While it may never replace the standard fan, I expect Mr. Dyson has hit another home run.

Anne Howe
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Personally, I like the white noise a fan in the bedroom makes, it helps me sleep. But cleaning the blades is a chore I’d leave behind in a minute.

Dyson has done a great job of re-thinking the complete benefit picture consumers take into consideration when making a personal investment purchase. From the functional benefit, to the quirky cool factor, to the epitome of great design, to what the brand can stand for, they’ve included it all.

I think they’ll win. Wonder what’s next in the innovation hopper to support what appears to be a long term premium brand strategy?

Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Dyson will win (thanks in no small part to Best Buy’s merchandising on their product )–but it will be like their other lines–they’ll probably make little impact among price sensitive shoppers.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

As more people search for ways to eliminate the use of air conditioning in an effort to save energy, this new “air multiplier” may do very well. Affordability will be an issue but there certainly is a market for those who like gadgets and want to “show off” their energy conversation efforts.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 9 months ago

Wow, a really cool (sorry, couldn’t help myself), sleek new appliance with a different technology that costs a lot more than the alternative. Will it work? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll make some calls on my iPhone to find out.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

If the innovation makes sense, it wins. And, with regard to price, it is only going in one direction, down. Dyson will do more to the fan business than it did to the vacuum cleaner business.

One can only fret why it takes a vacuum cleaner company to innovate in this area and not a leading fan or air conditioning company. But, that is the story of innovation isn’t it?

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

It’s a jaw-droppingly interesting product that’s sure to attract new fans (ugh, sorry.) It’s sure to carve out a successful niche among the newer-is-better crowd.

Tina Lahti
Guest
Tina Lahti
10 years 9 months ago

I use my vacuum once or twice a week on every floor and upholstered piece of furniture in my house. My new Dyson was around $100 or 30% more than I paid for my last vacuum 15 years ago. That price difference doesn’t seem like much considering price inflation and the amount of use I get from a vacuum. Yes, I understand that in general, vacuum prices have gone down, but so has my perception of their quality. It seems like Dyson simply took over the mid-price segment of the market as others walked away from it.

I have a desktop fan somewhere in the basement that I probably paid $25 for and never use. I don’t know anyone who uses a desktop fan enough to justify paying $275 or 1,200% more for one. I’m sure that there are a few. Of those few the fewer still who can easily afford it will buy a Dyson.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I blew it by waiting so long… the stock of puns seems to be nearly exhausted (HA HA HA).

OK, enough. Dyson’s earlier success, I imagine, had to do with having a superior product at a comparable price (“sort of” comparable, at any rate). This item has a considerable price differential – indeed, one might conclude it has that differential for the purpose of attracting attention. And there is little mention how well it does (or doesn’t) work. Time will tell.

Brian Kelly
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I say Dyson wins.

Ever use their hand dryer in a public washroom? Dyson has found innovative ways to move air for mundane tasks that exceed user expectations. That usually does the trick.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
10 years 9 months ago

Dyson is the Apple of the household appliance segment. His products work and the new fan looks quite remarkable. However, I don’t think the design is patentable and I expect clones to pour out of china in the next six months. Furthermore, I expect longevity issues to start increasing in the coming years as the system creates back pressure on the fan motor which will lead to bearing wear and the products probably will become noisy as they age. The engineering and design will produce enough of a WOW factor that this could become the next “must have” consumer product.

Kai Clarke
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Dyson is reaching for product differentiation and innovation on this product. This is a product looking for a problem to solve. Fans are inherently low-cost, safe products. The noise difference between a Dyson product and a standard fan (at 1/10th the price) is very little. People do not complain about the noise of fans, so much as their power. Ironically, the amount of perceived air that the Dyson product blows, is not as strong as many fans. Unfortunately, this product is too expensive and offers no true benefits for the consumer.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Yes, Dyson did an excellent job developing, marketing and convincing the buying public to purchase a vacuum double the price of a conventional one. I have marveled at his style and wondered how he manages to convince us to spend more than we want on a product we may not have known we needed.

I am not one to bet against Dyson’s success with the conversion of a typical fan to his model of moving air. I just don’t know that the market has enough need to make it a worthwhile undertaking. Maybe there is a significant product need in Europe and the U.K. to make it successful. I am not that confident the U.S. market will be.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Apart from the fact that air conditioning uses a lot of energy and costs a lot to run, it is extremely unusual in private homes in Britain. Come a heatwave (as recently), plus anticipated future climate unpredictability (for whatever reasons), there is likely to be increasing demand for immediate solutions to keep people comfortable. Cost may become irrelevant under extremely uncomfortable conditions. This could be especially true for those most vulnerable to excessive heat.

No one here seems to dispute that Dyson comes up with good solutions, albeit at a cost. I definitely agree with the observation that hand dryers in public restrooms have become ubiquitous. Prices may or may not come down, and the comment about the longevity/patentability of the technology may be true, but for the time being at least, I think Dyson non-fans could attract a lot of new fans (and yes, I know, someone already used that line so apologies for the repetition).

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
10 years 9 months ago

There will be a select group of people who are willing to spend $300 for a fan. But not the masses.

Remember when the Segway came out and how people said it was revolutionary? It was, but it didn’t mean people would purchase it. They didn’t.

I fear that the same will hold true for this fan.

James Avilez
Guest
James Avilez
10 years 9 months ago

As someone who works in the design professions, I think it’s beautiful, sexy, and something that would look great on a Thos. Moser end table. The only thing I wince at is the price. I could justify buying one at that price if it was made in the US, UK, or Italy but I doubt that very much. Alessi should have made something like this!

Somehow in two years time I could see a knockoff on one of the home shopping channels with the announcer showing a pretty girl waving her hand through the design saying that you can purchase this with three easy payments of $55.49. By that time the whole coolness/sexy factor is over but in the mean time I hope the design for Dyson is a success.

Devangshu Dutta
Guest
Devangshu Dutta
10 years 9 months ago

This is certainly a fantastic idea, and the uphill struggle should be significantly less than when James Dyson was trying to sell bagless vacuum cleaners. If anything there is now a “Dyson premium” available to him on the price. [It’s curious how he consistently gets “more” (price) for “less” (components).]

However, in this case, I think the prices need to be more accessible, or he’ll be facing clones within months. Fans are already a more acceptable reality in income poor countries, and the market significantly larger in those countries. At some lower price point, the addressable market will be exponentially larger, and someone else will definitely tackle it. Patent or no patent.

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
10 years 9 months ago

Let’s just hope that their patents are good enough to allow them to re-coup their investment before the knock-offs show up.

Minutes before reading this my 12 year-old was in my office complaining about the vibrations in his fan every 10-12 seconds as it oscillated….

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