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Case Study: How a Hearing Aid Company Doubled the Percentage of Sales to Valuable First-Time Buyers

by Laurie Lande  |  
October 2, 2007

Company: Oticon, Inc.
Contact: Gordon Wilson, VP of Marketing
Location: Somerset, NJ
Industry: Manufacturing (B2C)
Annual revenue: $960,000,000
Number of employees: 350

Quick Read:

The hearing aid industry for years has suffered from an image problem. Potential buyers were reluctant to buy hearing aids because the devices were perceived as ugly and only for elderly people. As a result, just 23% of those who needed hearing aids actually bought them. Denmark-based Oticon, like other manufacturers, faced a lack of market penetration.

In 2004, the company undertook extensive market research aimed at people with hearing loss who had opted not to buy a hearing aid. The research tried to identify the attributes of an ideal hearing aid and under what circumstances people would buy one. Oticon set out to use the latest technology to build a hearing aid that would address many of the concerns highlighted by the market research.

Two years later the company introduced the new device, which had a different look and fit from prior generations of hearing aids. The related marketing materials used younger-looking models wearing the small hearing in colorful designs. The new approach has paid off. In 18 months on the market, the new Delta hearing aid has helped Oticon nearly double the industry average in terms of the proportion of first-time hearing-aid buyers.

The Challenge:

Prior to 2006, Oticon's US sales—like those of its rivals—were stagnant, and its market penetration hadn't budged in years. The average age of the first-time buyer for all manufacturers was 69.

But hearing loss affects a large population of varying ages, and Oticon knew that it was leaving potential sales on the table because many suffering from hearing loss didn't want an unattractive hearing aid in their ear. However, it wasn't until the company conducted high-level market research that Oticon realized exactly what it was up against in terms of attitudes about hearing aids.

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  • by Sharon Natanblut Tue Sep 30, 2008 via web

    This is brilliant. My sister is an audiologist and very interested in bringing in new baby boomers to her practice. What advice do you have for her consistent with what you've done for your hearing company? (She already has the brochures and has worked with an Oticon sales rep and other companies' sales reps and she offers new devices for a test drive.)

  • by Susan Abbott Wed Jan 28, 2009 via web

    Excellent case study. I love the note about changing the product, not the consumers. As a qual researcher, I also appreciate the endorsement that game changing insights can come from good qualitative.

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