Sam McKeown ID: 216044078
I thought the Thermomix was a relatively new product. Apparently not. Launched in 1971, it’s actually been around longer than I have! Owned by it’s German parent company Vorwerk, the Thermomix is now a kitchen appliance with ‘cult status’ and it apparently graces the kitchen bench tops of over 1 in every 100 homes here in Australia – a surprise no doubt to Vorwerk who initially said it wouldn’t work in a country where people were only interested in barbecues!
So what actually IS a Thermomix?
This beautiful space age machine sits at the top of the ‘thermal blender class’ of appliances and can not only stir, mix, blend and chop, but also cook, steam, weigh, grind, knead, whisk, simmer and emulsify. The Thermomix Division is the best-selling division in the Vorwerk Group and in 2015 generated sales totaling €1,375 million. Vorwerk describe it as ‘the most superior kitchen appliance’.
So does the product stop here for Vorwerk? This appliance, ‘the smallest kitchen in the world’, does not come cheap, and with a price tag of just over $2000 it is no impulse buy. So beyond the tangible machine itself what else do Vorwerk offer in terms of their product? On the goods to services continuum of products (Iacobucci 2013, p.68) Vorwerk recognize that to gain initial sales they needed to provide more, and therefore via their direct selling in home demonstration technique they provide an ‘experience‘ for potential customers.
Thermomix Australia managing director Grace Mazur says that they do not hard sell to customers, they recognize that they prefer to go home from a cooking demonstration and consider the purchase before signing on the dotted line read the full article here. The Thermomix consultants also want to prove the value of the machine and they are passionate about it’s benefits. Beyond the sale, the consultant will also stay in touch, making sure purchasers are getting the most from their machine, providing invitations to cooking classes etc.
Indeed, Direct Selling Association Australia executive director John Holloway says that the technique moves far beyond sales, it is about creating an ongoing relationship to benefit the consumer (see link above to article), which is evidenced in the vast online community of Thermomix users. The product is therefore more than the appliance, it is an experience which lasts beyond the purchase.
However, it has taken a long while for Thermomix to reach it’s current dizzying heights of success. Indeed the first to market is often first to fail, and a new concept can take a while to sink into the minds of the customers (Iacobucci 2013, p.102), in this case 40 years or so.
Thermomix the brand
Technically competitors have more than caught up with Thermomix, however, no one talks about the “KitchenAid Artisan Cook Processor” or the “Kenwood Cooking Chef”. Everyone only talks about the Thermomix!
Via their direct selling method, anyone wishing to even consider a Thermomix must have a demonstration by a consultant. So while Vorwerk acquires fewer customers this way, it also has full control over the presentation of its product. Their appliance is not sandwiched between many other electrical devices, but is the sole star. Read the full article here.
In addition Vorwerk have released a number of accessories under the umbrella brand ‘Thermomix’ to compliment the purchase, and these are only available from their website, or from a consultant.
Interestingly during the global roll out of the Thermomix, Vorwerk hit a stumbling block in Portugal and Italy, where the name ‘Thermomix’ had already been registered by another appliance. In these countries Vorwerk decided to register their appliance under the name Bimby, and this has become a friendly nickname for the appliance globally as a result. The logo, although different maintains the ‘Thermomix green’ and incorporates the blades symbol synonymous with the brand.
Although this has resulted in a different brand name and logo, I would still argue that Thermomix remains a global brand despite this.
Has Thermomix reached it’s peak?
Vorwerk has not rested on its laurels with the success of it’s appliance, and in 2014 it released a new and improved TM5 model to the market. In terms of the product life cycle, the older TM31 had reached a maturity in the market (Kotler & Kellar 2012, p.314) and a product modification was planned. To rejuvenate the product, they released a new model with many new functions desired by current Thermomix users. It is essential to recognize that with changing market conditions over the life cycle it is important that the product and service strategies are designed to match (Hooley, Piercy and Nicoulaud 2012, p.297).
However the launch of the TM5 was not a smooth one. It was launched quite suddenly without any prior warning which angered existing customers who had only weeks early bought the older model. Thermomix appeared to have damaged it’s carefully crafted customer relationship. Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey commented that it did not appear the company had broken the law, but it had caused damage to its brand with the way the launch was handled. Read the full article here..
It does seem however that this has done little to damage sales. Research by Berger, Sorenson and Rasmussen (2010) p.824 ,suggests that in some situations negative publicity does boost sales, however it depends on public awareness of the product. Although it may hurt a product with a broad awareness, it may help products that are relatively unknown. It is possible therefore to argue that a product such as Thermomix, although well known in thermal cooking circles, is not a mainstream product just yet and may have benefited from such publicity following the TM5 launch. Whether or not that was a planned marketing strategy for Vorwerk remains to be seen, but it certainly hasn’t done them any harm.
Hooley, G, Piercy, N, Nicoulaud, B 2012, Marketing Strategy and Competitive Positioning, Pearson, Harlow.
Iacobucci, D 2013, Marketing Management (MM4) Student Edition, South-Western Cengage Learning, Mason.
Kotler, P, Keller, K 2012, Marketing Management 14E, Prentice Hall, New Jersey.
Berger, J, Sorenson, A, Rasmussen, S 2010, Positive effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales, Marketing Science, Vol.29, No.5, pp815-827.