Design philosophy and business strategy lessons taken straight out of the trash can

VIPP trash cans

Our lives are filled with everyday banalities and mundane consumer products which may seem unremarkable at first glance – things like cleaning products, trash bins and other convenience products.  These products seem to look the same. There’s no soul in them. There’s no heart or feelings.

Therefore, it seems completely unreasonable for a company to employ a high-end strategy for products that consumers are not paying much attention to and are not willing to pay more than a few dollars on them.

Well, not really. Just in the same way the mundane tasks of daily life deserve greater attention, because they are inextricably intertwined with our sense of well-being, mundane products can be totally magical when you give them a much closer look.

And this is exactly what a Danish industrial design company called VIPP understood very well, giving us some valuable lessons in terms of strategy, innovation and creativity.

VIPP specializes in the design of high quality and very expensive trash bins and toilet brushes. And the company is very good at making it seem reasonable to pay $400 for something that – in the entire history of trash bins and toilet brushes – you might have considered as being very functional or very mundane.

Over the past years, the company has grown between 30% and 50% annually and has successfully penetrated most markets. Not only do VIPP products sell very well but, when showing people images of these trash bins, you can read in their eyes “they just want one”.

So, why are people willing to pay $400 for a trash bin?

The answer is simple: because it’s more than a trash bin. First, take a look at this video.

Yes, this is a video about making evening gowns for trash bins. It might seem silly or extreme, but think twice. The company’s success derives from being very good at doing something that seems very unlikely.

VIPP designers are so good at integrating tangible and intangible features, that their trash bins and toilet brushes find their way into the permanent collections of the world’s design museums, like The Museum of Modern Art in New York City and Louvre Museum in Paris.

They conceive and then execute a trash bin as an “objet d’art”, showing that intangible and aesthetic values matter to consumers.

In their own words, their ambition is “to develop fewer, but better products” and their philosophy can be summed up in one sentence: “Good design never goes out of fashion”.

You will never see a fall or winter collection at VIPP, but the best solution for each product category. With an extensive experience in product design, a strong focus on quality materials, mechanics and function, and a concept thought out right down to the smallest details, VIPP successfully built a brand around things that last a lifetime, while getting their customers to believe in the same thing.

This is a beautiful example of strategy as a “pattern”, but also one that shows how companies compete differently when they rely on innovation rather than on efficiency in economies of scale.

This is also about feelings; emotion. It’s about creating something that touch the customers, about strong design aesthetic and a well-integrated product experience. This is about everyday products and their potential to be filled with nuance, beauty and wonder.

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