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James Dyson: 'I Don't Believe in Brand'

But Does the Design Icon and Vacuum Cleaner Salesman Protest Too Much?

By Published on . 27

James Dyson, industrial-design icon, purveyor of luxury vacuum cleaners and one-time star of his company's TV ads, doesn't have a lot of use for a rather important marketing concept.

"There's only one word that 's banned in our company: brand," Mr. Dyson said, speaking at "Disruption By Design," a conference put on by Wired on Tuesday. "We're only as good as our latest product. I don't believe in brand at all."

It's an interesting statement coming from someone whose company has invested heavily in advertising since its line of high-end, bagless vacuum cleaners broke through over a decade ago. You'll probably remember the ad starring Mr. Dyson himself. In his aggressively British diction, he whinges for a bit about the existing crop of vacuum cleaners and then tells us about his experimentation, which resulted in a model that wouldn't lose suction: "A few thousand prototypes later, I had it."

This ad and others since have played a not-insignificant role in turning the erstwhile sucker-up-of -crumbs-and-pet-hair into a status symbol that retails for more than $300. Given that , should we buy his line about brand?

Maybe not.

While Mr. Dyson certainly has a point that the best marketing is a great product, his company has invested a bit too heartily in advertising to convince that brand doesn't exist. Putting Mr. Dyson, playing the part of the tireless innovator, front and center in that foundational marketing campaign clearly had a lot to do with appealing to fussy boho types who might shell out for upmarket alternative to their Hoover. I'm not sure a direct TV spot or some other pure expression of product attributes such as the great suction would have had the same effect. More than anything, this seems like standard-issue mistrust mistrust of marketing in the design community.

What do you think?

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