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Why good products fail
Skimping on market research can prove a fatal flaw
By Robert Weisman, Boston Globe Staff



Boston Globe article opens in a new window
The evidence from the Globe's role models
How the
microwave oven
became a super success
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How the microwave oven became a super success

Rob Weisman's Boston Globe article begins with his introduction to the microwave oven:

"Raytheon Co. reapplied its radar technology after World War II to invent the microwave oven.  But the original model was a clunker ... Though innovative, Raytheon's original microwave oven was too bulky to find a market"

What he didn't tell you was how the microwave oven became a super success.  From 1944 to 1965, Raytheon's RadaRange was engineering directed:

  • It sold for $50,000 (2006 $)

  • used special 220 Volt wiring
    (needing an electrician)

  • and was water-cooled
    (requiring special plumbing)

Like the proverbial 800-pound Gorilla:

  • It was nearly 6 feet tall and

  • weighed almost 800 pounds

Weisman concludes, "Engineering firms neglect marketing at their own peril."

Raytheon's RadaRange suffered from an M/E Ratio™ of 0.033.  The microwave oven began life as Raytheon's largest commercial failure. 

Photo courtesy of the Spencer Family Archives and Rod Spencer, grandson of Percy Spencer, inventor of the microwave oven.


click image for 1024 x 768 view with names

Recognizing that they needed to dramatically increase the Marketing investment, Raytheon bought Amana Refrigerator  in 1966 for their Marketing expertise.

Amana raised the M/E Ratio™ to 1.

Amana's Marketing directed their engineering effort and the RadaRange microwave oven to success:

  • It must sell for <$500

  • be portable to the countertop
    (can be lifted by a woman)

  • uses standard 110 Volt wiring
    (no electrician needed)

  • and air cooled
    (no special plumbing)

Furthermore, it came with a home economist.  Literally, when you purchased an Amana RadaRange, a professional home economist, hired by Amana, came into your home and taught you to become a successful microwave oven user.

The picture below was scanned from the cookbook brought into my home in 1972 by Amana's home economist when I bought my first microwave oven.

The difference was dramatic.  Just look at the two images:


Raytheon RadaRange Amana RadaRange
  • Unappealing box of electronics.
  • Put our food  into a black hole?
  • Are you buying a black hole?
  • Where's the beef?
  • Inviting, hot, hearty meals!

  • See a reflection of the food.

  • You are buying the food, not the hole.

  • Romantic hot Cocoa with marshmallows, wake-me-up bacon-and-eggs breakfast with down-home raison-bread toast, piping hot biscuits, steaming baked potatoes with melting pats of butter, hearty pork chops, and a delicious casserole!

Which would you rather purchase?  The microwave oven is now the world's largest selling home appliance, an incredible success.

Read Robert Weisman's story on the Grabowski Ratio™.


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Boston Globe article opens in a new window
The evidence from the Globe's role models
How the
microwave oven
became a super success
Dig deeper

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