The Internet of Things (IoT) is an arms race focused on disrupting incumbents and brands grabbing their share of a multi-trillion-dollar pie. If you’re an existing appliance manufacturer out to “win”  – or even stake a claim – in the IoT, you’ll need to reimagine your brand and seize the strategic advantages you have over late entrants and “disruptors” in your category (more on disruptors here).  For your brand to be successful in the IoT, you’ll need to 1) Build products people love AND have connected features, 2) Disrupt your business, and 3) Collaborate.

Smart Kitchen Summit

Last week in Seattle, I had the privilege of attending the first ever Smart Kitchen Summit. Michael Wolf and his team brought brands, manufacturers, startups, and retailers from around the world to learn how the Internet of Things (IoT) is impacting our relationship with our kitchens.  As expected, I got to meet and hear from a number of IoT startups who are bringing smart appliances to market. But, more interestingly, I learned first-hand about the challenges traditional, big-brand appliance manufacturers face when trying to enter into the IoT economy.

1) Build products people love AND have connected features

No one is sure how any individual connected device will be received, but Jen Miller, Global Digital & Social Marketing Director for Coca-Cola said it most succinctly in a recent tweet:


Brands need to challenge their assumptions about what their first generation of connected appliances should do. Throughout the Smart Kitchen Summit, there was general agreement that “great connected appliances” were “great appliances” first with connected features that offered value because of their connectivity. In a nutshell, great connected products are:

  • an improvement in the consumer’s experience
  • easy to use
  • able to inspire consumers to want more connected features

What’s left is the fun part – or, as Anova CEO Stephen Svajian posed to the crowd, “What can you do now that traditional devices can connect that you couldn’t do before?”

2) Disrupt yourself – reimagine yourself or fall behind.

While the IoT is still in its early days, it’s important for brands to be perceived as having the “First Mover Advantage.”  This will be easy for disruptive start-ups, but not so easy for entrenched, incumbent brands who are focused on traditional appliance metrics and margins. Traditional brands need to recognize that there is not a 3-5-year window through which they can wait-and-see where this “new-fangled interwebs gizmo market” is heading. In fact, it is more important for the consumer brands that consumers already know and love establish a beach-head in the kitchen with a solid, connected feature set to help nudge consumers – and the market – into the next generation of valuable features.

To compete in the IoT, brands need to disrupt their old ways of thinking and adopt a Lean Startup mentality, buck their own cultural status quo, and take intelligent risks with a small product line of connected appliances. Further, they will need to design the physical appliances with an eye toward early adopters and then cascade these improvements to the mass market. Finally, appliance manufacturers will need to reimagine themselves not only as hardline goods producers, but also as technology companies. When entering the IoT, big brands have big responsibility to get it right – consumers have a long memory for bad experiences.

3) Collaborate

The good news for appliance manufacturers and traditional big brands is that they don’t have to go it alone. IoT platform companies, like DADO Labs, allow brands to focus on what they do best, while providing a turnkey, IoT platform that simplifies the creation of connected product lines.

When choosing an IoT platform partner, big brands should look for a collaboration partner that has:

  • experience with bringing other big brands to the IoT
  • an end-to-end solution – from hardware/firmware expertise to native app development
  • a robust cloud, data, and analytics package to help manage, make sense of, and monetize the steady stream of data

Lastly, you should look for an IoT platform partner that understands your brand and that will be as focused on protecting your brand as you are.

You can watch all sessions from the Smart Kitchen Summit here.

Frank D’Andrea is the Vice President of Software and Business Development at DADO Labs.