Bongo: A Case Study in Blue Ocean Strategy

We work with clients across a broad range of activities to accelerate the development of user-focused, differentiated, smart product solutions. This case study highlights the full cycle development of low-voltage power solutions for applications in the retail environment.

we help our clients sail into blue ocean.

Several years ago we sparked on an opportunity to partner with one of our clients in the retail space. Harbor Industries is a third generation, privately held Michigan enterprise focused on the design and build of point-of-purchase displays for the retail environment.

Harbor identified product diversification as a key to their long-term success in the demanding retail industry. The company has been successful over three generations in meeting the needs of retail customers in a range of markets and product categories.

Harbor and Fredricks partnered on a multi-year agreement to explore the identification of unmet needs and opportunities for new retail product and service solutions.

Fredricks facilitated a series of workshops with cross-functional teams to organize the areas of opportunities for more detailed exploration. We included leadership, marketing, sales, design, engineering and manufacturing experts in the workshops to establish initial direction for our exploratory work.

we develop quick sketches and renderings to tell the story.

We then created sketches and renderings to visually describe our rough concepts. Our work was shared with leading customers and experts in a wide range of retail environments, including big box retailers, boutiques and emerging retail models. Our team applied tools and methodologies to organize the insights and feedback from over 30 retailers and experts.

we invest extensive time in the field with market experts.

We also spent a lot of time in the field to validate and re-direct our initial concepts. This time with key retail experts validated several emerging trends:

  • The application of digital content will continue to expand. Consumers are equipped with smart phones and tablets to do the homework before visiting a “bricks and mortar” store.
  • Electronics will continue to expand in consumer products. Our focus bandwidth as consumers will continue to be a challenge as we are all bombarded with too much content each day.
  • Consumers will demand a new experience every time they visit a store. Leading retailers must be flexible to reconfigure the retail environment to attract repeat consumers. Smart installation of power delivery and the flexibility to move things around over night (or over the course of 15 minutes) will be competitive advantages in the crowded retail space.

These key trends confirmed our initial thinking that there was a market opportunity for flexible, low voltage solutions to power small consumer electronics in the retail environment.

We scanned the market and researched existing patents to make sure we had a clean runway for new product development. It seemed like we were onto something big and decided to invest in additional development.

Our early work informed the development of a detailed design brief for the product offering.

The core of the product platform is a flexible, intuitive power delivery box. “Bongo” provides the retailer with a safe, quick power solution that can be installed by almost anyone and reconfigured quickly. “Bongo” can be installed in a series of up to three units over a total of 300 feet (a football field). It offerstwo USB ports as well as 9v and 12v delivery options at the retail shelf, end cap or kiosk. “Bongo” is cost effective, safe and flexible. It also reduces energy use and pays for itself quickly.

We also developed a wide number of accessories to expand the product offering. The product offering includes lighting, motion mounts (rotary and linear) and tablets arms. Portfolio planning was leveraged to build the new product pipeline for the first three years.

Harbor+Fredricks filed our provisional patent application in May 2012 and the utility patent was filed in April 2013.

our process leverages business, design and engineering methodologies.

Product cost and pricing models were constructed and validated with key retailers to make sure we were developing competitive and profitable solutions. These models guided our design and engineering team to target costing and tooling investments.

Designers and engineers worked as one team to develop a smart, attractive and lean package to house the electronics and power delivery technology. We also engaged with electronics experts to prototype the electronics and assist our team in cost estimates.

we apply lean manufacturing fundamentals.

We apply lean manufacturing and smart use of materials from very early on in the process to make sure the product is optimized. “Bongo” uses an extrusion, two end caps, two magnets and four screws to securely house the electronics. It is an example of lean thinking applied to develop an elegantly simple and functional design.

we help our clients develop a “go to market” strategy.

We realized early on that we would require strong distribution partners and experts in channel development to build the business. We identified Byrne Electrical of Rockford, Michigan as a strong distribution partner in the furniture, education and healthcare markets.

Over the course of several meetings in late 2012, we framed a development and distribution agreement with Byrne for adaptation of our technologies and IP into their existing product offering. This is a significant component of our “go to market” strategy.

Harbor is working with their retail customer base to find applications for our technology. “Bongo” has been well received and we recently received an order for several hundred units for integration into existing and new retail displays. We are beginning to build market “pull” and it seems we are off to a solid launch.

new product development (NPD) is a high risk, high return business.

Looking back over the past few years, it’s been a long and rewarding journey and we’ve learned a lot about the retail world, our team and our NPD processes.

It’s very easy to work on the wrong problems with a driven design and engineering team. We have developed methods to make sure we are working on the right problems to help our clients grow revenue and improve profitability.

we are moving into product launch to grow the business.

Although we are early on in our product launch for “Bongo”, the voice of the market has confirmed the intelligence of our solutions and validated our initial price points. The key will be to maintain and grow momentum in building market awareness and acceptance for our technologies. We are off to a strong start and we look forward to a healthy ROI for our end customers, partners, our team, our suppliers and our company.


A world of thanks to Harbor for their early and ongoing confidence in Fredricks and our shared commitment to long term relationships!

Thanks to all of our retail customers, distribution partners, suppliers, legal advisors and design and engineering team for the huge contribution to our work!

Go “Bongo”! Go Harbor+Fredricks!



Share with your friends and colleagues