Frigidaire Company: Launching the Front-Loading Washing Machine
In 1996, Frigidaire Company, at that time the 4th largest producer of household appliances in the United States (Palan & Dannels, 1997), launched what the company thought was an innovative product- a front loading washing machine that ostensibly represented a better performing, more energy efficient and less wasteful product, and it was believed that the emerging trend in conservation, along with the classic desire to save money, would make the new product an instant success. However, this was not the case. This study will present critical elements of that case study, leading to the development of alternatives, evaluation of those alternatives, and ultimately, the choice of an alternative.
A. Identification of the Problem(s)
In order to fully understand the challenge that Frigidaire faced in this endeavor, an overview of the problems is in order. Overall, historically, the front loading washing machine has suffered from mechanical problems, excessive operating costs on the part of the consumer, and a resulting poor reputation; likewise, Frigidaire encountered delays in launching this product for some of the same reasons, but held fast to the belief that their version of the product represented an improvement over earlier offerings by other manufacturers (Palan & Dannels, 1997). However, even after launching what they thought to be a solid product, Frigidaire was faced with sluggish sales, consumer complaints about equipment failures, and performance issues, in that the unit did not clean clothing very well.
All of the aforementioned problems that emerged are indicative of improper planning at the strategic level on the part of Frigidaire (New Products, 2003), for it is apparent that an ill-planned product was thrust upon the public, with haste truly making waste in terms of a product that was largely unsuccessful on its first outing.
In the possible “re-launch” of the front-loading washing machine, Frigidaire faces both a tremendous challenge with the potential of failure as well as an excellent opportunity to gain market share through innovation. Admittedly, the front-loading machines of the past were not well received by the consumer; however, there is a possibility that through proper product development, smart marketing, and proper launch/monitoring, Frigidaire could gain a substantial advantage over competitors. With this in mind, there are alternatives for Frigidaire to consider strategically.
Going back to the strategic elements of the Frigidaire case study, it is possible, in retrospect to offer possible strategic alternatives and their merits. Those alternatives, in no particular order, are as follows:
Ø Current Market Research- Before any tactics are considered, and any other resources are allocated, the firm needs to conduct a present-day marketing study to determine if there is a strong enough demand for the product, what attributes the consumer wants in the product, pricing thresholds and the like. This will determine outright feasibility of moving forward.
Ø Use of Cross-Functional Teams- Internally, Frigidaire needs to bring together the managerial, marketing, production and other operating units to brainstorm the product’s production, launch, and beyond, if/when it is determined that the product should be “reborn”.
Ø Post-Launch Follow Up- If the product is relaunched, every aspect of the relaunch must be monitored, so that changes can be made quickly, before problems become lethal.
Ø Abandonment of the Project- The entire project can, and should be discontinued if closer analysis determines that the project is impractical.
D. Pros and Cons of the Alternatives
Strategically speaking, abandonment of the product outright is impractical, as many resources have been allocated to date, and there is the possibility that a suitable product could be successful; this being said, there are logical reasons for the use of current market research, cross-functional teams, and proper follow up. First, the use of market research that is up to date will provide the sort of cutting-edge, relevant data that is needed to decide what strategy to undertake. With strategy in place, the cross-functional teams will be able to implement strategy in a way that makes best use of resources, and to obtain resources that may be needed if they are not readily available. With these pieces in place, follow-up and review will allow for quick adjustments to strategy should a problem arise.
Taking into account the pros and cons that emerged in the preparation of the case study, it is recommended that first, new marketing studies be conducted, and if the studies indicate viability, the re-launch should be undertaken in the manner that the previous alternatives indicated. Proper diligence prior to a product launch can avert disaster; this is a fact that is documented in published studies on the strategic launch of products (Cooper, et al, 2000), and the lack of this sort of strategy on the first launch of the product likely contributed to its difficulties.
Cooper, R. G., & Kleinschmidt, E. J. (2000). New Product Performance: What Distinguishes the Star Products. Australian Journal of Management, 25(1), 17.
New Products. (2003). The Technology Teacher, 62(8), 3+.
(Palan K Dannels T 1997 Frigidaire Company:Launching the Front End Washing Machine)Palan, K., & Dannels, T. (1997). Frigidaire Company:Launching the Front End Washing Machine. In (Ed.), NACRA Journal (pp. 75-89). Iowa State University.
Zahra, S. A., & Ellor, D. (1993). Accelerating New Product Development and Successful Market Introduction. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 58(1), 9+.