Case study: Philips

Picture of health: Philips projects soothing images onto the walls of MRI and CT scanning rooms

Chief design officer Sean Carney joined Philips last year from HP with a brief to make the brand fulfil its potential. Philips is applying new strategy to many of its lines – starting with audio and moving on to health and lighting – by focusing on the emotional appeal and benefits of products.

“What appealed about Philips was its history of design and the fact that it has one of the largest design teams in the world,” says Carney. “It has been first to market in many innovations and technologies. But before taking the job, the chief executive told me that Philips seems to have all the right building blocks, but is still not reaching its full potential.”

Carney is helping the business work in a more co-ordinated way. He explains: “We have formed internal online communities where we co-create new solutions. We pose questions in these communities about some areas of interest, then we let the dialogue take on the shape of the participants.”

While Carney is encouraging departments to talk to one another, he is also looking at how Philips can help people in a broader way than simply selling a product to a consumer or business customer.

In hospitals, for example, it examined the experience patients have before reaching a treatment room and now projects calming images onto the walls of MRI and CT scanning rooms so that patients – especially children – feel more soothed by the environment.

The company also carried out research into how children felt before arriving. “We had to understand their reactions prior to arriving at the hospital and making sure that we give them insight into what to expect,” explains Carney. “We had a more holistic focus on the entire customer journey, looking at the cycle from initial diagnosis through to how you educate them.

“We are dealing with parents too, coaching them on how they should react so you think about that total experience.”

Carney claims that, in some cases, this has resulted in 30-40% fewer children having to be sedated when going through an MRI or CT scan.

In a separate move, Philips has also produced Lifeline, a monitoring device that can tell when someone has fallen over in their home, and automatically sends a trigger to hospital or care staff. Carney sees this as not just designing a care product, but developing ‘ecosystems’ that look at how people feel before, during and after hospital visits.

It is now looking at how it can send data from its electric toothbrushes to a dentist or hygienist to facilitate better oral healthcare.

The materials used in its oral health products are also chosen to trigger a more emotional reaction, according to Carney. Philips uses a glass case for its DiamondClean toothbrush, for example. “We have focused on the quality of the materials and the finish, so when you see it on the shelf it is not just another chunk of plastic; you can feel the weight and finish,” he says.