I’m sure you’ve heard of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, or seen one of the commercials on TV with the earnest inventor himself, talking about how other vacuums lose suction, but his doesn’t. To be honest, when I first heard the ads I was skeptical. I had never really thought about vacuum cleaners much (who has?) but I didn’t think that all existing ones lose suction. What annoyed me about most of them was the bags and filters and the messiness of emptying them, and the hair and dirt that gets intertwined in the brush bristles.
But then, shortly after moving into a house, the built-in vacuum unit died. I didn’t really like the unit much, particularly the ridiculously heavy hoses we had to lug up and down the stairs. Also, I don’t really think that built-in vacuum systems are very effective. How much suction can be transmitted from the motor in the garage, to the end of the hose, which is well over 50 ft. and several 90 degree turns away? Replacing the built-in unit would cost us at least $500, so we decided to evaluate the various cannister and upright models available.
At this point I did what I typically do in situations like this: I turned to the Web for information. Consumer Reports was the first stop. They didn’t give the Dyson a great review. Vacuums from the traditional vendors such as Kenmore and Hoover came out at the top of their list. I also found other reviews online and read those. At first, I was really looking to avoid the Dyson, mainly because of it’s hefty price tag. I could buy 2 or even 3 competitive models for the price of one Dyson.
But when I started looking at the competing models, they just started to get on my nerves. All had disposable HEPA filters that had to be replaced at roughly $20 per pop. Many were heavy and felt cumbersome. One in particular had a really dumb design whereby the power cord connected to the vacuum just above the on/off pedal. Thus when extending the vacuum, the power cord would turn off the unit!
Then, after speaking to a friend who had bought a Dyson and raved about it — yes, he raved about a vacuum cleaner — Sears had a sale on Dyson vacuums. I went to the store and the sales lady demo’d the unit. Everything seemed very well designed. No cord problems, it wasn’t heavy and lumbering (at least to me), and it has a reusable HEPA filter, so no ongoing expenses and trips to the store in search of filters. Being a product manager, I like good design and well thought out products. The retractable hose (built right into the handle!) sealed the deal. I bought one. And to top it off, the box that the vacuum comes in has a handle positioned about 1/3 of the way from the bottom of the box. Why? It’s at the balance point so that when holding it, the box is balanced horizontally, making for easy carrying.
As I left the store and headed towards my car, the product manager in me couldn’t stop thinking about user experience. Here I was, having just dropped about 5 bills on a vacuum cleaner and I was feeling happy. The handle on the box told me that these guys cared about the product they had designed. They cared about the user and the user experience. And if they paid that much attention to detail for the box — a box that I would likely discard after I got the machine home — then what effort had they put in to the unit itself?
Now, having used the vacuum for a few months, I have to say that it is not perfect. A plastic connector tube on the bottom falls off occasionally, and I do find it a bit heavier than I first thought. But other than that, it’s works as advertised, and yes, aside from this blog, I too have told friends about it.
I read recently that Mr. Dyson is now a billionaire, and that Dyson is the #1 or #2 brand of vacuum in most major markets it is in. So, getting back to the original topic…why is Dyson doing so well? Dyson has done a great job of consistent and clear messaging and consistent branding. “It doesn’t lose suction” is the phrase repeated over and over in the ads. But beyond that, when you build a superior product that turns a dowdy market-segment into one where customers rave about the product to their friends, you deserve success. Let’s see if others will learn from this success story.