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We helped a major lighting manufacturer achieve its largest-ever new-product success by dramatically demonstrating that (contrary to conventional wisdom) the value of more evenly distributed, soft, comfortable light was much more important to commercial end users than the product’s technically-lower light levels.

This commercial-lighting fixture manufacturer had long been a successful low-cost fast-follower, but felt the need to become more innovative. In a key US commercial segment, fixtures went through a long complex business-chain including Agents (representing multiple manufacturers), Distributors, Electrical Engineers (EEs), Contractors, Designers, Architects, and Building Owners (whose clients, the final users, paid the rent but generally were not involved in fixture decisions).

The manufacturer focused primarily on Agents (their Sales force and immediate customer) and then the EE, seen as specifier and key decision-maker. Via Agents, EEs had made clear that, in a new fixture, they wanted: energy savings; the same light level as current fixtures; a better-looking design; and close to the current price. Manufacturers, including our client, had tried to satisfy these criteria, but these fixtures’ higher cost could not be paid out fast enough by the energy savings, so these attempts had only achieved niche volumes at best.

However, the manufacturer formed an R&D team to try again. Encouraged by company leadership to read our book Delivering Profitable Value, the Team applied our DPV discovery methodology. Thus they studied current experiences (what people did, not what they claimed they wanted) among entities downstream from the EE, including Architects, Designers, building Owners, and their clients, the final-users. The Team discovered major opportunities to not only reduce energy consumption, but also to improve final-users’ lighting experiences and satisfaction with the building, indirectly enhancing Owners’ revenues.

Helped by these insights, the Team developed exciting new breakthrough (albeit costly) technology. The new product achieved energy efficiencies, while improving final-user lighting experience through much more even, comfortable distribution of soft light. However, at the same technically-measured light levels as the current standard fixture, energy savings from the new product would still not pay out in an attractive timeframe. Lower light levels could allow an acceptably fast payout, but Agents were adamant that EEs would never accept lower light levels (‘complaints about inadequate light would quickly get them fired’). The product seemed destined again for a small, obscure niche.

DPVG was then asked to help the Team rethink the launch value proposition (VP) for the new product. We learned from R&D that, in theory, the new technology’s more even light distribution may actually create a perception of light levels higher than indicated technically. So we helped the Team explore the possibility that this perception was the resulting-experience that really mattered. Experiments were conducted in which highly trained and experienced EEs, taken into a typical office space, were asked to compare lighting from two sources – the traditional vs the new fixture – without knowing which was which. Technically, the new fixtures produced about -20% lower light level than the traditional fixtures, but the great majority of EE’s perceived that the new fixture produced equal or higher light levels (and a more pleasing quality of light).

We then helped the Team develop dramatic side-by-side demonstrations for use in the new-product launch. These demos showed EEs that Owners could enjoy fast payout from energy savings (with technically, but not perceived, lower light levels), and end-users would simply derive an improved lighting experience. The new product was widely hailed, by lighting-design thought leaders, as a major innovation and quickly became the company’s largest ever new-product success. We had helped our client escape the commodity pressures of this long, complex chain: first by deeply understanding the experiences that could matter most to Owners and thus EEs, including light levels as actually perceived, rather than as technically measured; then by dramatically communicating these experiences during the launch.

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