Keeping brands alive through product innovation: Alessi

alessi-the-chin-familyWhat comes to your mind when you hear the brand name Alessi? To me, it immediately signals, "Italian design". Functional, funky and beautiful. Alessi is an Italian family-owned company based near Milan. For its third generation owner, Alberto Alessi, getting design right is the main mission of the company.

For a company that is deeply rooted in the Italian tradition of artisanship, keeping the brand alive and contemporary through product innovation is crucial. Objects that bear the name Alessi are conceived by a large team of designers who have freedom to propose and implement innovative product ideas. But of course, there has to be some set of criteria which would make an object coming from the pool of ideas look truly Alessi.

What is the way of getting this task right? According to Alberto Alessi, each of the objects is assessed based on the so called Alessi formula -- a set of two main parameters which was put together in the 90-s, and which represents the main elements of what constitutes the Alessi look and feel.

"The first central parameter is the degree to which people say, "Oh, what a beautiful object," which represents the creation of a relationship between the object and the individual. We call this SMI, which stands for sensation, memory, imagination. The second is the use that people can make of an object in order to communicate with other people. By this I mean that objects have become the main channel through which we convey our values, status, and personality to others — fashion is a typical case in point. Objects can have status value or style value. By way of example, a gold Rolex watch is a status symbol, which suggests economic wealth, whereas a style symbol may be exemplified by an Aldo Rossi teapot, which reveals cultural sensitivity and familiarity with the architectural domain. Jean Baudrillard, a French sociologist, brilliantly expounded concepts like these." (Interview with Alberto Alessi, McKinsey Quarterly; 2009, Issue 2, p22-23)

And here is a video in which Alberto Alessi gives some ins and outs of design management and product innovation: