The Case Centre’s top 40 bestselling cases

 Eighteenth place - Aqualisa Quartz: Simply a Better Shower
The case
Case: Aqualisa Quartz: Simply a Better Shower Aqualisa Quartz: Simply a Better Shower
Authors: Youngme Moon and Kerry Herman
Institution: Harvard Business School
Ref: 9-502-030
Date published: 2002

Aqualisa, a major UK manufacturer of showers, had just launched the most significant shower innovation in recent history: the Quartz shower. The shower provided significant improvements in terms of quality, cost, and ease of installation. In product testing, it received rave reviews from both consumers and plumbers. However, early sales of the Quartz were disappointing. Aqualisa’s Managing Director, Harry Rawlinson, was faced with some key decisions about his channel strategy, promotional strategy, and the overall positioning of the product in the context of his existing product line.

The authors

Youngme Moon is the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration, Senior Associate Dean, and Chair of the MBA Programme, Harvard Business School.

Kerry Herman is Associate Director, Global Research Group, Harvard Business School.

The teacher

David Arnold David Arnold is Adjunct Professor of Marketing at London Business School. He was a member of the Harvard Business School faculty when Youngme Moon produced this case. David describes it as a ‘perfect brain-teaser’ and has used it to teach students all over the world.

It's a great product that the company is struggling to sell - a perfect brain-teaser for business students. As it turns out, the challenges faced by the firm in the area of selling and distribution are common to many businesses launching new products, and so it offers substantial learning to students who are typically rather gung-ho about innovation. Finally, I like the fact that it is not set in a 'sexy' brand market, but in an everyday market that we all understand.

Flexibility and variety

I usually employ this case on core marketing courses, but have also used it as a specialist case for teaching distribution channel design and/or pricing, as well as innovation and new product marketing; value-based pricing; and consumer behaviour.

I have also used it on many in-company executive programmes, where it works because everybody understands showers. I have lost count of how many times I have taught it, but at least 50 – in countries around the world.

Assumptions and reactions

Students most commonly assume that the best way forward is to build a consumer brand and advertise heavily; the 'ah-ha' moment is that most consumers only buy a shower every 10-20 years, while plumbers buy one almost every week. I have been surprised most recently in China, where students are amazed that consumers would place so much weight on the advice of a tradesman, ie, the plumber!

 A real eye-opener

I recommend this case very enthusiastically. With the right teaching approach, the case can be an eye-opener for students whose expectations are that marketing always involves brand-building and advertising.

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