03 Jan 2005
Design and Branding in a Vacuum
Technology has always been used to try to make life easier, but often (amongst geeks in particular) the real aim is to somehow minimise tedium by introducing nifty gadgetry into mundane tasks; at least that way things are slightly more interesting, if not necessarily any more efficient.
Cleaning is boring, so last year I bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner; I know, I’m a predictable geek. It’s effective, yes, but it also, unlike rivals, looks designed. Whether you find it an attractive object or not, you know someone put a great deal of thought into form and function, and that makes it more interesting (and tempts geeks to spend far too much money).
It struck me that, as a brand, Dyson seems close to Apple. It’s arguable whether Apple hardware and software is any ‘better’ than rivals, and I’m no raving Mac fanboy myself, but their best products feel like they’ve been given special care and attention, making rivals seem mundane in comparison (something I touched on when slagging off Sony’s music players). Both companies have successfully relied on making industrial design a key part of strong branding. In the same way use of the word ‘iPod’ often eclipses generic terms such as ‘MP3 player’, in this household we tend to refer to ‘the Dyson’ yet would undoubtedly still use the generic ‘hoover’ or ‘vacuum cleaner’ for a weaker brand; clearly there are some interesting evaluations being made subconsciously.
Each Dyson comes with a printed booklet smugly featuring a section about how they took a rival to court for patent infringement and won. I can easily imagine Steve Jobs doing the same kind of thing nowadays if the lawsuit against Microsoft had succeeded.