Toilets and Innovation – Can The Two Mix?

A funny thing happened the other day when I was on my toilet, I started thinking about innovation and toilets.  If you are thinking what I am thinking, innovation and toilets are two words that rarely (if ever) end up in the same sentence.  Yet see how far toilets have evolved from their humble beginnings.  But early in the last century, toilets have just stopped evolving.

What a red ocean this category is in the U.S.:

–          All toilets are basically the same (sure you have elevated and elongated toilets but that is a line extension, really)

–          All toilets are basically white (sure, you have black, bone (that’s a weird name, but OK), linen, but really most toilets are white)

–          Price points hover around $300-400

Given how everything else in our lives seems to have different flavors, different colors, different options, toilets have remained basically….basic.  You can customize your toilet seat, but that’s about it.

So why so little innovation when the category is so mundane, so plain, so homogeneous.

It is not for lack of usage – depending on the user, it usually is daily.

It is not for lack of need – can’t really do without one.

It is not for lack of importance – I wouldn’t buy/rent a home without one.

It is not for lack of profit – can’t imagine it costs that much to make.

It is not for lack of cultural hygiene – Americans are quite picky about cleanliness.

It is not for lack of inginuity in the bathroom – look at the Kohler showerheads.

Looking at toilets from a cultural perspective, the Japanese definitely have taken cleanliness and toilets to the ultimate level.  

So is there a lack of demand (if it ain’t broken, why fix it?) or is it a lack of innovation (if you build it, they will come)?

 What do you think?

This entry was posted in Long-tern innovation, New Product Development. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *