A load of hot air

Hands up anybody who’s been to the loo at London’s Victoria Station lately. Strictly speaking, it’s hands down, because that is the way you dry your hands with the newly installed Dyson Airblade. Insert your hands and the Airblade starts automatically. Then withdraw them upwards through the air, slowly. Don’t worry – the operation is, Dyson claims, ‘twice as fast [as] most hand dryers and four times faster than some’. It takes ten seconds and, as I can vouch, your hands are really dry.

But are they clean? Cleaner, it would appear, than with the competition since the latter ‘simply suck in dirty washroom air, heat it up and blow it on to users’ hands’. Moreover, since there are no start and stop buttons to push, there’s no risk of contacting harmful bacteria. And, besides, the casing contains anti-microbial additives which reduce any harmful surface bacteria by 99.9 per cent.

How do I know this? Last month, strategically positioned opposite the loo was a Dyson stand. Commuters could wash their hands in the basins provided, then sample the delights of the Airblade. (There is something sensual and seductive in the sensation of pressurised air caressing your hands at ‘more than 400 miles per hour through an aperture the width of an eyelash’.)

The stand made a telling argument. But, I wondered, who was it targeting? The literature affords a clue. The A4-sized booklet addresses the potential industrial buyer. Its 16 pages take the reader logically and efficiently through a classic process. The cover presents a claim and a stylised photograph showing the product in action. The first spread details the problems with other hand dryers: inefficiency, cost, time taken, bacteria and blowing ‘hot, dirty air on to clean hands’. The next spread surrounds a shot of the Airblade with statements of competitive advantage. There follow three pages of technical support – how and why it works better – and one of cost comparison. Next is an illustration of the machine with its unique features pointed out.

Thus far, everything clinically presented, with colour used sparingly. However, turn the page and you meet for the first time full colour – and people testing, testing, testing competitive dryers, the Airblade in use, air filtration, electrics, durability, misuse and so on, and there are endorsements from professional bodies. The final spread explains how to order, lease and install, and shows the product and summary bullet points. The back cover repeats the front cover’s claim, plus phone and Web details.

I’ve gone to some length to describe this booklet because I believe it provides an object lesson. The only thing clever about its design is the recognition that the product itself is clever and it is this cleverness that must shine through. The website, incidentally, is entirely consistent.

But to return to targeting. The booklet is relevant to a very small percentage of Victoria’s customers. But savvy marketers know purchasers aren’t the only focus. Hence a companion pocket-size, eight-page leaflet for the non-professional passing trade who Dyson, correctly, regards as ‘influencers’. The text ends, ‘Tell us which washroom you think would benefit from an Airblade hand dryer, and why – we’re giving away one every month in 2008.’

When it comes to marketing, the Airblade people win hands down.

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