BlueAnt was struggling. They were competing on cost in a crowded headset market dominated by ‘me too’ products whose life cycle was typically measured in months. Their traditional business based on selling re-badged Asian products was no longer competitive.
They had secured proprietary rights to a noise cancelling technology which would give their headsets a significant technical advantage, but knew that great technology on its own is not enough. They needed a partner to help them fully exploit this technology by designing it into a product to really excite people.
Change the game for BlueAnt. Help them escape the cycle of short-lived, low cost products. Design a premium product experience that offers enduring value to BlueAnt’s customers, and by doing so, enable BlueAnt to make the shift from competing on cost and technology with OEM sourced and re-badged product to providing customers value from their own innovative and proprietary product range.
By working closely with BlueAnt, our discovery process moved ahead quickly along two lines – human and technical. We pulled apart over 150 competing headsets and analysed them in terms of features, engineering, cost of goods, market positioning and overall value. But we didn’t just want to come up with a product based on our own assumptions. We wanted to know the needs of the real people who would use and interact with BlueAnt. So we also spent a lot of time engaging with BlueAnt’s customers and other stakeholders.
The results were clear. People felt headsets were a corporate product, not a consumer product. This was backed up by our own review of the products in the market. Women especially felt incredibly alienated by the headset designs of the time, which were very masculine. Judging from their appearance, you’d be forgiven for thinking the primary target demographic for headsets were American hip hop artists, not (male!) corporate power-brokers. Gangster bling was in.
They also weren’t very adaptable to changing needs and trends. These products were on-trend, but they quickly became dated and irrelevant – hence their short life cycle.
We saw a significant opportunity for a consumer-focused headset that blended classic, clean, timeless styling with a modular and adaptive design that allowed it to incrementally change over time. It would have broad appeal, and would be inclusive to women. If we could do it right, BlueAnt would be able to attract a broad market segment and deliver compelling product that would be relevant not for a few months, but for years. Real quality lasts.
Achieving this would not be a simple task. The noise cancelling hardware had very specific and very strict technical requirements governing internal volume and harmonics.
Together with BlueAnt’s team, we explored hundreds of concepts in our quest to achieve a product that blended timeless quality, technical excellence and low cost of production. By collaborating closely with manufacturing stakeholders and end-customers, we rigorously tested numerous prototypes for harmonics, technical feasibility and market appeal.
Finally we arrived at a solution that excited us all. The selected concept was small, sleek and sophisticated appealing to both male and female markets. It was aesthetically on game relative to emerging trends in the corporate and lifestyle communication product markets. Stylistically our concept was supported with the release of the Apple iPhone 3 whose form language matched perfectly.
But for us, the work doesn’t stop until the product is in the market. CMD continued to work with BlueAnt throughout the pre-production engineering and launch process, designing distinctive packaging and point of sale materials, and even relocating designers to China to coordinate the pre-production manufacturing and handover.
Together we’d delivered a truly valuable product experience, and BlueAnt’s customers voted with their wallets. The 2007 launch of the Z9 product exceeded even BlueAnt’s wildest expectations, enabling them to establish a dominant market position. In its first year of release the product sold over 2 million units worldwide and won the CES International Design and Engineering Award.
On the back of this success, BlueAnt grew from a $5M company to a $25M company. CMD and BlueAnt continued to develop new products that extended the BlueAnt range. While competing products were struggling to last more than a few months in the market, BlueAnt’s Z9 range still sells competitively and profitably five years later.