Dyson takes on vacuum giants

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James Dyson, who swept England when he invented what was touted as a revolutionary new vacuum, is now trying to clean up in America with the brand's first national TV campaign.

"Our goal is to completely change the way vacuums are marketed in the U.S.," said Doug Kellam, president of Dyson, Chicago.

Mr. Dyson's high-priced, bagless vacuum first entered the $3.4 billion U.S. vacuum cleaner market in January with small, elite-targeted distribution in tony New York store the Terence Conran Shop, and later Hammacher Schlemmer. Following the debut, Dyson's bright colors and unconventional design helped it land a number of TV appearances.

In the months that followed, Dyson garnered mass distribution of its $399 to $500 vacuums in stores such as Sears, Roebuck & Co., Target, Linens `N Things and Best Buy and online at Amazon.com. With a national distribution network in place, a national broadcast effort was needed, said Mr. Kellam. In the first campaign, estimated at $15 million, Mr. Dyson tells the story of his frustration with conventional vacuums which, he says, become clogged with dirt and quickly lose suction. He then details his invention of the Dyson's "cyclone" technology, which uses centrifugal force to collect dust in a central cylinder. .

The TV spot, from Publicis Groupe's Fallon, Minneapolis, will air on national cable and syndication programs on A&E, Lifetime, HGTV, TLC and WE, in addition to running in the top 10 or 15 markets on prime time and fringe programming. Print is planned for House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home, Parenting, InStyle and O, The Oprah Magazine. The campaign is targeted to 30- to 40-year-olds, with additional emphasis on allergy sufferers and pet owners backed by events and promotions at dog and cat shows, said Mr. Kellam.

New York-based independent Patrice Tanaka & Company, handles PR activity, while Grey Global Group's MediaCom, New York, handled media buying.

Dyson has grown in Europe in the ten years since its debut, having established a 26% share by volume, and 50% by market value, according to Mintel International Group.


It is moving into the U.S. vacuum market at a time of transition for the 96-year-old industry. In the U.S., longtime market leader, Maytag's Hoover division, has a 23.3% share, according to Mintel. But Hoover's share has been dropping, down from 30.9% in 2000.

The No. 2 player in the category, AB Electrolux, has maintained a consistent 20%, while "other brands" have jumped from 18.3% to 28.8%.

Some vacuum market watchers aren't sure Dyson will blow through the U.S. market quite as easily as it did in Europe. Dyson's pricey product is entering a retail environment in which Wal-Mart Stores and other discounters have pressured manufacturers to drop prices.

The once premium bagless models have dropped below $100 while uprights recently dipped below $50. "Dyson is a leading brand in Europe at those high prices, but the American consumer's mentality is price, price, price," said Gerry Beatty, senior editor, Fairchild Publications' Home Furnishings News.

Dyson has upped its media budget from $750,000 in 2002 to $4.7 million from January through June of this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Measured media in the vacuum and electric broom category totaled $107.7 million for 2002, down slightly from $109.3 million in 2001.

contributing: kate macarthur

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