AbstractsBusiness Management & Administration

The Philips Easy Line: A Retrospective Case Study:

by M. Mak

Institution: Delft University of Technology
Year: 2009
Keywords: case study; exhibition
Record ID: 1251155
Full text PDF: http://resolver.tudelft.nl/uuid:c4fe6923-c071-46ca-915b-ccb0b9796a07


Usability, simplicity and ease of use are still ‘hot topics’ in product design. To illustrate how important the user became in product design, Philips introduced Sense and Simplicity as their brand promise in 2004. However, in the early nineties, Philips had already launched a product line that aimed to be specifically easy to use. The line was named the Easy Line and consisted of four audio products: an analogue clock radio, a portable radio, a radio cassette recorder and a HiFi set. Although, the line was intended to be THE solution to difficult to operate audio equipment, it didn’t sell well. The question arose: why? The desire to find the answer to this question formed the basis for this study. The study into the Easy Line was approached as a retrospective case study. The main research question was: ‘Why and how was the Easy Line developed and how come it was (not) a success?’ During the study, multiple sources of evidence were used. A large and important part of the information was obtained by interviewing people who played a role in the Easy Line project. When data were collected, mind-maps were made that formed the basis for ‘The story of the Easy Line’ which is told chronologically: The Easy Line Fierce competition in the consumer electronics market from Japan (Sony particularly) made it necessary for Philips to react and innovate to maintain a profitable market share. The combination of the growing dislike of complex products, the graying of the population and the then recent successful segmentation of the audio market into target groups was seen as an opportunity for Philips to develop easy to use products. Philips’ Business Group Audio thought that easy products would fulfil an unsatisfied need for uncomplicated products and would therefore result in sales and sustainable profit for Philips. The initial target group Philips chose for the Easy Line were the elderly, however, this has been adjusted at the start of the project to (almost) everyone. The Easy Line project was initiated by Philips’ Business Group Audio. The development of the portable Easy Line products (i.e. the analogue clock radio, the portable radio and the radio cassette recorder) started first. The design was done by Philips Corporate Design. The design phase of the portable range was relatively short: it took the designer about three weeks to finish the concepts. The development and design of the HiFi set was done by an external company: Cambridge Consultants Ltd. During the process there was little communication between the two project teams which resulted in a HiFi set that had little in common with the portable Easy Line products. During the development, especially of the portable Easy Line, no real user tests were done: the step to see if people really needed or wanted ‘easy’ products and what they expected of them was skipped. The Easy Line products were positioned in the ‘high-end’ segment. The high price was justified by emphasizing that the products were of high quality and had a special design. In the sales situation it…