Giving Commodity a Dash of Culture

Oster wanted to build a better countertop oven, but simply didn’t know a lot about who purchases them or why, much less what would capture buyers’ attention. THRIVE* stepped in to rethink the toaster oven category from the consumer point of view.

Focus on User Value As You Retool the Commodity

Innovation in this market usually means adding a new feature or a button, but we knew there was more to learn about customers’ needs and wants. We dug deeper, visiting 12 ethnically diverse households—singles and families, stay-at-home moms and empty nesters—to discover how people cook, how they feel about kitchen tasks and how toaster ovens fit into their daily lives.

Ask the Right Questions

Our research uncovered some interesting insight: that while some people don’t like using a standard oven, they do want their toaster oven to behave more like one. Complaints about countertop ovens in general ranged from “they’re too small” to “they’re too hard to clean.” We took the voice of the customer and abstracted these issues into needs, mapped them into a hierarchy and then looked for ways better design could help.

Design Just Enough

The toaster oven market is fraught with contradictions. One important one: people wanted a better looking, higher functioning device, but didn’t really want to pay for it. Our answer was to design for the right mix of style and substance; professional looking and friendly with only the bells and whistles that really solved pressing safety and functionality issues.

Lure the Right Retailer

The process culminated in dozens of design concepts. Oster chose two products to produce, and the models were quickly picked up exclusively by Target—appropriately known for its high design/low price ideology.

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