Interview with Cliff Levin, Pres. of Inada USA – 10/01/13 (Part 2)

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Transcript of Video Titled “Cliff Levin Inada USA Interview – October 1, 2013 (Part 2)”

Dr. Alan Weidner: OK, so we’ve talked about the Inada Sogno, and we’ve talked about another banner year for you guys, and I think that’s fantastic. You’re very deserving of those kinds of sales, I think. You’ve created a brand image which is fantastic, and I would like to think that we’ve contributed to that brand image in some way over the years. But I will mention that I had a national sales manager from one of the other companies, and I won’t mention the company, but they came to me, and they actually flew out to Salt Lake to my showroom, and they said to me ‘We would like you to do to the Sogno, to do to our product what you did to the Sogno,’ which was you know, increase the brand awareness, you know, do videos, write blog posts, and so I think the Sogno, I mean, the Sogno really is the cat’s meow. I mean, other companies say – and I’ve seen this, you and I have both talked about this – ‘This chair is like the Sogno, but for half the price,’ or you know, whatever, and so the Sogno really is the chair that everybody wants. I think every company wants to have a home run like the Sogno, but I think they also would like to have the brand recognition of the Sogno. And so I think, I mean, I know we’ve contributed to it, but you guys have done a masterful job of marketing this thing in a very, very professional, clean way that – I think it just, I mean, it’s an $8000 chair, but it’s marketed like an $8000 chair, it’s treated like a very, very valuable asset, a very valuable chair – and I think you guys have done a good job with that.

Cliff Levin: Thank you. I don’t think we could have done it, there are intrinsic qualities to the product that let us, sort of, leverage that marketing, right – if we’re out there making a promise that even though Sogno is a pricey option, it will blow away any other experience you’ve ever had in a massage chair, and that’s what we claim, right, in the advertising that we do basically – if we don’t keep that promise, people can try other massage chairs, we’re dead in the water.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: So, I think a good product begets this kind of advertising. You see it – I just bought a Dyson vacuum – and I’ll tell you, I am so impressed.

Alan: Yeah, I’ve heard.

Cliff: The advertising finally got to me, right, I finally decided to spring for a vacuum cleaner that costs a lot of money, and I’m as happy as can be. Had their ads about all their technology and their ability to clean better than other vacuum cleaners simply been an advertising approach, and hadn’t held true when I got to the product, I would have been thoroughly disappointed.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: But I’m thrilled, I’m thrilled that I invested in a vacuum cleaner. It’s OK that it was more money than the other stuff that’s out there, I feel like I couldn’t have done better.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: And I think the same is true with the Inada advertising. We’re making a lot of very, very bold claims, but if we don’t have product that can stand up to those claims, we wouldn’t be here today.

Alan: Yeah, I agree. And I might also mention, as a disclaimer, we are not receiving any money for talking, using the name ‘Dyson’ in this interview.

Cliff: Speak for yourself.

Alan: OK. You got some side deals going on.

Cliff: Right, that’s right.

Alan: OK, now a little bit about the Inada YuMe, now when the YuMe came out, they utilized a different roller system in the YuMe, and I like the YuMe. The YuMe is, of course, lesser priced, and you guys dropped the price earlier this year, which I was happy about. But the YuMe, it’s a smaller chair, it doesn’t take up as much space, it fits in to pretty much any environment of a home or office, you can fit it pretty much anywhere. But it’s got the rocking, it’s got the Thera-Eliptical-Kneading of the calves, which is cool, and people, when they experience that for the first time, think it’s pretty cool and then, of course, you’ve got a different roller system. Can you talk a little bit – do you know much about the mechanics of the rollers – as opposed to how the ones in the Sogno work?

Cliff: Yes, sort of, the reality is, with Inada, whenever they develop a new product line, they’re going to be some fundamental differences between the new line and the preceding line. YuMe and Sogno are very, very good examples of that. You’ll remember that there was a chair that was released in Japan called the ‘Zero Gravity’ massage chair by Inada, that was a very big departure from anything they’ve done. That’s sort of a long-winded way of saying, whenever Inada builds a new product line, they’re not just taking the same old mechs and re-skinning them in a different color or with a different-shape armrest or something, and then reintroducing that as a new product and new model. Rather, the effort is to kind of start with a blank piece of paper and say ‘Alright, we’ve done that, now let’s see what we can do, and take a very, very different approach.’ In general, the YuMe mechanism is – the fundamentals in the mechanism, the gearing, and all the stuff that makes the rollers move in this sort of articulated – in this way that’s articulated like human wrists, that’s essentially remained the same. The way the mechanism is driven up and down – I don’t know how technical you want to get, but the YuMe is on a worm gear going up and down – whereas the Sogno is on two separate tracks, gear driven, on tracks, in fact, we talked about that up-down motor just a little bit earlier, driving the Sogno. So, there’s a fundamental change in the way the mechanism is actually rolling up and down the back, the driving feature behind it. Is the user going to notice that, no – what they’re going to notice most – the most important difference between YuMe and Sogno, is out of the box, the YuMe back massage feels firmer.

Alan: Yeah, I agree with that.

Cliff: I think that’s the most critical piece. Of course, YuMe, just like Sogno comes with a buffer pad, so if it’s too intense for somebody, you add the buffer pad in, and you get a more gentle massage. But Sogno is capable of a much more gentle massage experience than YuMe is. YuMe’s going to be for that person that likes a little more intense back massage, or mid-back massage, YuMe’s going to offer a more intense option for them.

Alan: Yeah. Well, it’s a nice chair. It feels like a quality roll.

Cliff: Yeah. Right, but the biggest thing is, of course, the base of the YuMe is totally different than the Sogno, it allows it to rock, rather than – there are some minor changes to the back mechanism, but it’s still Inada at its core. The fundamental change to YuMe is, of course, that ability to move the entire seat pan and the seat back in that very soothing and methodical rocking motion.

Alan: Well, people ask me if the YuMe has zero gravity and by definition, by true definition, it does not have a zero-gravity feature, but when it rocks, and it rocks back, it does actually rock in to a zero-gravity position. It’s not a permanent position though, it’s very passive, but that rocking does – I mean, rocking is cool, and it sounds neat, and for some people it’s extremely therapeutic – it’s more of a psychological thing. I’ve had customers tell me that almost, it’s like a throwback to when they were rocked by their grandmother as a young child, I’ve heard that a couple times. But what it also does in the rocking position, in the extended position, it puts you in a zero-gravity position temporarily. So, I’m sure you’ve visited that, but you do have some zero gravity in that chair.

Cliff: Well actually, I’ll take it one step further. In the ‘Rocking’ mode, if when it’s in that full recline position, you tap the ‘Rocking’ button on the YuMe, you will stop it from rocking, in the zero-gravity position.

Alan: Oh really? I did not know that.

Cliff: Yes. So, and let’s, you know – for anybody that’s gotten this far in to this scintillating interview – let’s define for everybody what zero gravity is. A flexed back, right, a bend to the back, a flexed knee position, frequently those two positions combined, people describe as the ’90/90′ position, where the hips and the back meet at a 90-degree angle, approximately, slightly over maybe, but approximately 90 degrees, and then the knees are bent at approximately 90 degrees, or a little bit less. Those factors are critical for any chair to legitimately call itself zero gravity, at least as it’s defined in the furniture and back world – and another critical component is that the seat pan tilts backward, right – you can’t have a flat seat pan and call something zero gravity. So, YuMe when it’s rocked back meets all those criteria, hips flexed, knees flexed, seat pan tilted, in the case of the YuMe, at a rather aggressive backward angle.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: And there’s your zero gravity.

Alan: Yeah.

 

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