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While Whirlpool wasn't first-to-market with a horizontal axis washer, it quickly leapfrogged to the head of the front-load class following the 2001 trade debut of its now legendary Duet laundry pair.
Sell-through statistics from Port Washington, N.Y.-based The NPD Group confirm that Duet dominates the field, with three models placing first, third and seventh among the category's Top Ten best-selling units for the 12 months ending May 2005.
Jeff Davidoff, marketing director of Whirlpool Brands, attributes the popularity of the platform — including the fully loaded, top-selling GHW9150 — to a combination of performance, eye appeal and on-message marketing that helped raise the lowly washing machine from a commodity item to a fashion statement.
The result: an almost rabid following by consumers, many of whom have formed the kind of emotional attachment to their tall, curvaceous washers that's more commonly associated with automobiles.
At the same time, shoppers' ready acceptance of Duet's previously unheard of retails — upwards of four times those of promotionally priced conventional models — made them a darling of the retail trade (see story, below).
“It's an amazing machine,” Davidoff said. “We made the idealized front loader with all the benefits of horizontal axis and an extremely consumer-friendly design.” Those benefits were also hammered home in “very straightforward marketing” that connected with consumers and “humanized” the washers.
“It's important to not brag about specs,” Davidoff said. “Rather than talk about the 1,000 RPM spin speeds, we explained that the washer can handle 16 pairs of jeans in a single load. That's a real-world benefit that the consumer can relate to.”
And relate they did. Davidoff says many consumers take pride in their Duets and imbue them with human attributes, as evidenced by the large number of photographs Whirlpool receives taken by customers with their washers.
Besides creating a new perception of washers, which were previously associated with drudgery and considered the least favorite household machine, Duet has also “reset the value bar in laundry,” making it a “great win for our retail partners too.”
“It's that balance of winning on the consumer side and the trade side,” Davidoff said. “You need both.”
For Success Stories in other categories, see the July 25 issue of TWICE.
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