MARKETING - JAMES DYSON Pot call

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					Marketing Week. London: Nov 30, 2006. pg. 20

Abstract (Summary)

James Dyson really stuck the knife into marketing in his controversial speech to the
Marketing Society last week. The inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner used the talk to
promote the benefits of design and engineering over branding and advertising. He accused
many companies of using marketing campaigns to "oversell" their goods and of making
false advertising claims rather than creating real improvements in performance. Dyson is a
polymath who is brilliant in a number of fields - design, engineering, inventing and,
irritatingly for his audience last week, marketing. Dyson plays down the idea that anything
other than efficacy helps command a higher price. It should be remembered that Dyson's
foray into white goods with the "contrarotator" washing machine was ill-fated. If anything,
the former art student and interior designer portrays himself as an accidental marketer. He
has never studied marketing in his 59 years. Dyson claims that, contrary to popular belief,
he is not anti- marketing. The demolition job he did on marketing last week may have been
intended to provoke debate, but it rankles with some marketers nevertheless.

Full Text

(1262 words)
The inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner has ruffled a few feathers with his
controversial criticism of the role of marketers in product innovation. In fact, James Dyson,
the tireless promoter of his own range of products, is himself the ultimate marketer. By
David Benady

James Dyson really stuck the knife into marketing in his controversial speech to the
Marketing Society last week.
The inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner used the talk to promote the benefits of design
and engineering over branding and advertising (MW last week). He accused many
companies of using marketing campaigns to "oversell" their goods and of making false
advertising claims rather than creating real improvements in performance.

Marketers are "immensely powerful" in influencing innovations, he said and warned:
"We've become more concerned with the cerebral process of communication rather than
actually making things."

Charming, urbane and cultivated, Dyson is a stark contrast to other, less genteel
entrepreneurs, such as Sir Alan Sugar. You certainly could not imagine Dyson effing and
blinding. But despite his gracious demeanour, some conference attendees wondered
about the validity of his criticisms of marketing, given that they conveniently skated over
his own role in creating a powerful global brand.

Image manipulation

Was this a willfully self-aggrandizing message calculated to boost his image? It positioned
him as a brilliant inventor who uses sheer technical prowess to create superior products.
Not for him, the daily grind of promoting low-grade goods. Just have the best product, it's
that simple.

If this all sounds a little smug, who wouldn't be if he had made an estimated fortune of
pound 1bn from one of his own inventions? Dyson is a polymath who is brilliant in a
number of fields - design, engineering, inventing and, irritatingly for his audience last week,
marketing. But while those at the Marketing Society conference have spent years
beavering away in companies by day and studying marketing textbooks by night, he just
does it naturally.

The bagless vacuum cleaner he invented in 1979 was the culmination of over 5,000
prototypes, and uses cyclonic technology to separate air from dirt. The DC01 model
launched in 1993 became the biggest-selling vacuum cleaner. In all, more than 20 million
units have been sold, and today the company operates in 44 markets. Last year it overtook
Hoover in the US. Its 2005 profits surpassed the pound 100m mark for the first time.

At two to three times the price of competing products, the big question is how Dyson
vacuum cleaners command such a premium. Is it the simple fact that they do not lose
suction as they have no bag or filter to get clogged up? Or could it be the space-age
design of the machine, with its inner workings exposed to view and a modern brand image
built up through advertising?

Dyson argues it is the former. "The reason we are able to charge a premium is because
the vacuum cleaner works better," he tells Marketing Week. However, others believe he
has intuitively managed to create a sense of desire above and beyond the function of the
product. Throwing in technical jargon such as "cyclonic action" gives it a "scientific"
sounding authority, a bit like an ad for women's cosmetics.

Because it's worth it

But Dyson plays down the idea that anything other than efficacy helps command a higher
price. "Design - in the sense of how it looks and appears - is important, but engineering is
more important," he says. "If I had a choice between the two, I would say performance is
more important."

However, Mark Lund, chief executive of ad agency Delaney Lund Knox Warren thinks
differently: "The Dyson price premium is purely about being seen to be better than your
neighbor. It is a BMW positioning. It is a perfectly good product, but it reflects on the owner
and makes them look hi-tech. A large number of middle-aged men have the beginnings of
obsessive compulsive disorder and vacuuming is a way of re-establishing order in a world
beyond their control."

A little rain must fall

It should be remembered that Dyson's foray into white goods with the "contrarotator"
washing machine was ill-fated. Launched in 2000, it was withdrawn last year after poor
sales. "Withdrawal from washing machines was because we were losing money from it,
but we definitely want to be back," says Dyson. "It cost too much to make, we weren't able
to get costs down, it had a lot more machinery and - more crucially - we didn't have a
supply chain that produced things economically."

His latest venture is an ultra quick hand drier, the Dyson Airblade, which dries hands in ten
seconds. Recently launched, it sells for over pound 500, much more than traditional hand
driers.

If anything, the former art student and interior designer portrays himself as an accidental
marketer. He "stumbled across" the idea of a bagless cleaner while renovating his country
house in the Cotswolds, according to his profile.

But he has never studied marketing in his 59 years. "I don't know anything about it at all,"
he says. "But I have been a salesman in my time. I've never looked at a gap in the market,
and have never been opportunistic in that sense - the hand drier was so easy because we
have all waited for 20 seconds and ended up drying our hands on our trousers."

So does he consider himself to be a brilliant marketer? "I can't be the judge of that,
marketing is done out of house. In the beginning - when I was more heavily involved - I
was just saying what I'd invented, and why. I didn't think we were being particularly clever."

From the word go

And he rejects claims that he is meddlesome in advertising campaigns. "If I am involved at
all, it is right at the very beginning, providing the engineering input and what performance it
has, rather than putting the message across."

Dyson first hired an ad agency in 2000 with the appointment of Miles Calcraft Briginshaw
Duffy (MCBD). Previously, Dyson ads were produced in-house with ad creative Tony
Muranka.

MCBD called in legendary copywriter David Abbott to help script the campaign. One
source says that Abbott was famously accommodating with clients and would prepare a
number of different scripts for them to choose from. But ultimately, according to the source,
"Dyson thought he knew more about copywriting than Abbott." The annoying thing about
Dyson is that he may well have done. The advertising returned in-house. Vallance
Carruthers Coleman Priest was appointed to the pound 4m account in 2004.

On his inspiration for his inventions, he says: "Most of them come out of problems we have
every day. I do a bit of housework - I was a metrosexual from the beginning. I enjoy a bit of
ironing, washing and gardening, I like using machines and it is good products that I look
for." No focus groups for him, then.

Born to sell

Last week, Dyson hired former London 2012 Olympic bid marketer David Magliano -
himself a trained engineer - as a non-executive director. Magliano says of Dyson: "He's a
natural marketer. The theatrics of product demonstrations, the role of public relations, the
confrontations with other manufacturers have all been part of the story of making Dyson
the success it is today."

Dyson claims that, contrary to popular belief, he is not anti- marketing. The demolition job
he did on marketing last week may have been intended to provoke debate, but it rankles
with some marketers nevertheless.

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