James Dyson's 15 Year Process In Launching 'Dyson' Vacuums
In the late 70s, James Dyson had become extremely frustrated with his Hoover vacuum. Like any entrepreneur, he decided to take action on his pain. Dyson was frustrated with the suction power and dirt residue that was always left when using a Hoover.
The process of removing the bag and the dirt moving seamlessly through the capturing kit was a mess. He realized that the more the vacuum pulled in, the less power it had to continue a job. Dyson ripped the Hoover bag out and built his own cyclonic capture kit.
Dyson spent the next decade innovating and perfecting his idea. He spent 15 years creating this vacuum and had 5,126 versions before he found the right one that worked. At one point, he had to rely on his wife’s income to keep him going.
His idea was to improve the suction of the typical vacuum. He also wanted to get rid of the dirt bag as this made the vacuum lose power, make it easy to clean, and improve the design.
Dyson approached vacuum manufacturers with his innovation in the hopes of landing a licensing deal. They all laughed at the idea and told him to keep it moving. He even approached Hoover but they rejected his idea.
At the time, the core business model for vacuum cleaners was making money on replacing old bags once the vacuum was sold. Manufacturers thought it was bad for business if they were to adopt this new model. He took his vacuum to other markets and decided to head to Japan to launch his concept in a magazine catalogue.
Dyson’s vacuum was a hit when it appeared on the catalogs. It gained some much press and ended winning the International Design Fair in 1991. From then on, he founded the Dyson company in 1993. He pushed his branding onto the TV screen with his ‘Say Goodbye To Bags’ campaign and the company took off.
In the early 80s, Hoover was one the largest vacuum brands in the world. You would hear someone say “I have to Hoover my carpet” the way someone would now say “I need a Kleenex to blow my nose.” During this time, the Hoover brand transcended vacuuming. To “Hoover” meant you’re cleaning your carpet. You won’t use the word vacuum like the way we rarely say tissue instead of Kleenex or say “search” to Google for something.
It took James Dyson close to 20 years to make his vacuum a success. It was a blessing in disguise that the manufacturers kept turning him down for a licensing deal. If they had accepted it, we wouldn’t have the Dyson products we have in our homes today or the dryers we see in public restrooms.
Takeaway: Dyson was ahead of his time. He had the eye for innovation while the industry was sticking to what works and what made money. If you have an innovative idea, you need the right audience to see what you have made. Industries fear change because they are not ready to adapt. Instead they reject the idea until innovators cannibalize the industry and businesses that refused to adapt become ancient. A great example of this is how Uber forced the Taxi industry to change by offering an unrivalled experience. If you are innovating on something, stick to it and keep progressing with it. It’s not that the world doesn’t want your innovation, they’re just not ready for it.