1 August 2006

The new simplicity at Philips [Business Week]

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When Gerard Kleisterlee took the helm at Royal Philips Electronics in 2001 the Dutch conglomerate’s vast empire spanned sectors from TVs and light bulbs to semiconductors and medical devices. But one important thing was missing: a coherent brand.

“It was clear the missing link between Philips’ great technology and business success was marketing,” Kleisterlee says.

Countless focus groups across the company’s divisions all led to the same conclusion: New technology was often just too complex. So Philips stopped talking tech and started speaking the language of its customers.

It’s all part of a new branding effort launched two years ago called Sense and Simplicity. The idea is to create a “health care, lifestyle, and technology” company whose products promise innovation but are easy to use and designed around consumers. Kleisterlee hired a new marketing boss and quickly moved to ensure the company’s strategy filtered down to the troops.

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Slideshow: The New Simplicity
Philips’ latest design philosophy aims at making people’s lives not just more pleasing but less cluttered. Under the leadership of new Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Ragnetti, Philips products increasingly serve multiple functions. A chair and a TV set, for instance, double as lamps, casting a soft light on their surroundings. A futuristic portable music player encourages strangers to interact through sharing their favorite tunes.

Slideshow: A History of Hot Ideas
Over the decades, Philips has turned out a long series of iconic and fast-selling designs. Here’s a look at some of the most memorable creations by Philips Design.

Slideshow: Products That Just Missed
As part of its innovation strategy, Philips Design works on about three thousand projects in any one year. Some of those projects are more experimental, and never make it to production. Here are a handful of the studio’s concept projects. Others prove too tough to bring to market — or just come along at the wrong time.

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