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WHIRLPOOL : strategy

(w/ Whirlpool, 1999-2003)

Problem: Demonstrate the strategic value of design to the senior European management team of a global, multi-product manufacturer by delivering on day-to-day operational challenges, developing practical tools for near-term strategy and engaging in open-ended innovation for futurecasting.


Solution: The design team allocated 70% of its resources to the day-to-day. This included ongoing customer and trend research, product and interface design, exhibit stand design and managing reseller and partner relationships.


To develop the strategy, 20% of resources were allocated to create a strategic overview of the European appliance landscape, taking into account competitors’ offers, general trends in design and predicted consumer dispositions. Combining this intelligence with first-hand user research, a comprehensive picture of current market perceptions and future sector needs was built.


The opportunity map generated a clear positioning for Whirlpool, which was interpreted in concept and mock-up form, addressing not only the visual aesthetics of the products, but also the interactions, sounds and tactile qualities of the entire consumer experience.


In addition to the above work, the design team spent 10% of its efforts on future concept creation. Based on existing research, but moving the time horizon out twenty or more years, credible futures for electrodomestics were developed. New typologies and ways of living were proposed that reflected a new internal capability for innovation, focused on people first. 


Impact: Day to day design efforts provided market winners such as the Dreamspace (the Duet in North America), which captured an additional 23% in market share. The new strategy gave senior executives the confidence to approve tooling investments, as well as providing an instrument for sharper distributor negotiations, while the forecasting projects raised Whirlpool’s profile as an innovation-led company, capturing the imagination of the public and the press. They generated media coverage worth the equivalent of €10 million, a 15x return on investment.

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