Innovation Strategy: Creating a New Category Drives Major Growth

  • Capabilities Used
  • Strategy
  • Industrial Design
  • Engineering

Jarden Consumer Solutions’ and Altitude partnered to create one of the most successful new small appliance categories in the last several decades: products designed to serve as the center of great home parties. But before Margaritaville could become a $300M product line, the company had to introduce consumers to a new and unfamiliar category — a premium-priced home frozen-drink maker. That meant working creatively to ensure customer understanding and adoption.

Passionate early adopters created social media buzz and gave Jarden the toehold in the market. The company ramped up volume from there.

Demonstrating Value Through Design

Inspired by a popular Jimmy Buffet song, the Margaritaville brand originally represented a restaurant chain, whose distinctive logo appeared on t-shirts, frozen food, tequila, and drink mixers…but no products. When Jarden licensed Margaritaville for home appliances, the company turned to Altitude to help them create one. Through extensive research, analysis, and innovation strategy, we brought to life the opportunity for a Frozen Concoction Maker (FCM) that would tap into the aspirations of consumers with deep home-entertaining budgets. The FCM is the perfect fit of brand, design, and technology. It delivers a restaurant-quality drink experience, bringing a party to life while allowing hosts to focus on their guests. Better yet, there was nothing like it on the market, giving Margaritaville the chance to define and lead the category.

But the product also represented a significant challenge: how to introduce consumers to an unfamiliar concept in a way that resonated with their lifestyles. The Altitude research team conducted design research studies to establish the appropriate personality and features for this new category. Giving consumers restaurant-quality frozen drink machines to gauge their reactions, we discovered part of the pleasure for them was watching the magic of the ice swirling around as the drink was being made. In our design, we incorporated that feature in transparent chambers not only to recreate the excitement of a bar-made drink, but also to clearly demonstrate what the product does, so consumers can immediately understand its value. Altitude’s engineering team also engaged in serious experimentation to perfect the precision choreography of shaving the ice and blending the ingredients, without which the product would never have caught on.

Harnessing a New Business Model

Despite the FCM’s innovative design, it was still an untested new product category with no obvious shelf space in a retail environment. Jarden departed from its standard big-box business model and instead launched in Frontgate, a luxury mail-order catalog targeted to high-end consumers avid about entertaining in the home. Passionate early adopters created social media buzz and gave Jarden the toehold in the market. From there, the company ramped up volume through higher-end retailers such as Williams-Sonoma and Macy’s before reaching traditional channels like Target and Walmart. Finding that niche channel and harnessing passionate advocates completed the integrated business model that Jarden needed for this category creation.

The unprecedented functionality and distinct look of the drink maker made it enormously appealing, driving unprecedented growth for Jarden, which sold over 1 million products in five years. Subsequently, Jarden has introduced additional variants, all designed by Altitude: a deluxe Premium model, a budget-friendly Bahamas version, a battery-operated model for the boat, and a mixed-drink maker, further expanding and establishing Jarden’s hold on the product category. Altitude Green Logo