“ Imagination at work” That is what GE represents, and that is what our Practicum project was all about. I am Jeannie Chan, along with my colleagues Arik Frankel, Tom Bollinger, Noa Hefer, and Justin Staggs,
We imagined what may be possible under the ecomagination initiatives. In 2005, GE corporation launched ecomagination, an aggressive initiative to bring new and better technologies to market. Our practicum was to perform a world wide search of existing eco products, and identify products that GE could market under the GE brand. Just to give you a little context. The green marketplace is estimated to be a $200 billion industry in 2006. 35 million Americans purchase green products regularly. And this market is estimated to grow at a 6% rate annually. So, for those of you who owns GE stocks, you’d be please to know that being green is not just good for the environment, it is also good business. Our research shows that two customer segments deserve additional attention: the cultural creatives, best exemplified by the whole foods shoppers, and the baby boomers. As part of our project, we were given the chance to visit a more progressive country, and to confirm what we found in our research.
We picked Japan. Japan is a resource poor country, yet it has the world’s tenth largest population. To keep up with demand, Japanese manufacturers has developed advance technologies with regards to energy and resource conservation. In Japan, it was very important for us not only understand the product, but it was important for us to understand the green marketplace. We believe that US is moving toward that trend, and we wanted to take insights that we learn about the Japanese marketplace and predict how the US will evolve in the future. Therefore, in addition to visiting company showrooms and conducting mystery shopping, we also interviewed company representatives and eco specialists. Through all these activities, we were able to gain an enormous amoung of insights. Even though we were just there for only 2 weeks.
We made several important observations. First of all, we observed that Universal Design is standard practice in Japan. It is a “Design for all” approach. For an eco product, it gives consumers benefits beyond the energy cost savings, which is abstract and hard to understand. It gives consumers concrete and observable benefits, thus improving the marketability of these products Universal Designs is particular relevant as our population ages. This is a washer/dryer manufactured by Matsushita. This is one of their latest eco products. It features a tilted water drum, which actually conserves water. However, in addition to conserving water, the tilted drum also makes the product easier to use. It makes loading and unloading laundry easier for children, pregnant women, and seniors. In addition, the power button is black on yellow, which provides the highest visual contrast for for people with glaucoma.
The second observation we made is that there are a lot of in-store displays promoting eco products. In Japan, space is at a premium. Therefore, retailers generally stack products one on top of another. However, you will still find many eco product displays. One of the largest display we found was over 5 ft wide. This observation is consistent with our research. One of the cited reasons why consumers are not buying eco products is that they cannot find the products! These in-store displays help consumers find eco products! In addition, the displays help educate consumers on the benefits of the products. Many of them includes energy saving calculations, and explanations of the various benefits. This also help the consumer understand the value of these products and why these products commands a price premium. Our team believes that both of these observations, Universal Design and in-store display signage are practices we can adopt here in the US.
In the end, our project was to identify products that GE can bring to the US market. In Japan, we identified a dishwashing technology, a clean air technology, and an heat pump product that we believe as good merits.
But of course, our search was not limited to Japan. We found two additional product through our research that we believe have good merits. We identified a home wind turbine system from the UK and an indoor composter manufactured right here in the USA. We believe all five of these products presents an extraordinary opportunity for GE. We believe that these products fit with GE’s business, and that they meet the market criteria GE looks for. For our practicum, we delivered a completed business case for all five of these products. Perhaps next year, GE may return to this conference and let us know if one of these products actually got incorporated into the ecomagination product portfolio. But in our own imagination, all of these wonderful eco products are already on the shelves.
Japan - imagination at work International Business Outlook Conference 2007 Sponsored by General Electrics ecomagination