“Consumerisation has raised the expectations of all users,” says Electrolux Design Director, Thomas Johansson. A short but thought-provoking observation from one of our world’s leading product design gurus as he gets straight to the heart of one of today’s most pressing issues for brands: personalisation and maximising personal engagement.

Thomas is very clear about just how Electrolux want to drive this as it moves into the future, “We want to let our customers be involved in the spec of their final product. No two customers are exactly alike so we need to let our customers get the Electrolux product that they want. Mass customisation can also generate valuable data that may be used in the development of standard products.”

We recently caught up with Thomas to tap his expertise and discuss key issues of the day such the roles of innovation, technology and creativity in business. As a designer of twenty years standing, 12 of which have been spent working for Electrolux – one of the world’s leading global innovators – we asked Thomas for his thoughts about our belief that design has become crucial to creating change and bettering people’s lives. Thomas agreed that, “Design and design thinking is key in that process and starts with in-depth consumer insight and follows with the design and development of products that make the daily lives of our consumers easier and more enjoyable.”

Thomas went on to explain that Electrolux is not fundamentally trying to change the way people cook but rather find new ways to enhance their cooking – and brand – experience. For example, the new AEG ProCombi Plus Smart oven has an integrated camera that can provide a live feed from your oven to your mobile device. Thomas said, “Through the mobile application and Wi-Fi access, the camera gives you an overview of the food in the oven even if you’re in another room in your home. With the ‘My AEG’ app you can start cooking through your mobile device and also respond instantly, changing temperature and humidity level or switching function with a simple touch or swipe on your smart phone or tablet. This means that you can now control and stay close to the food in the oven – without having to leave the table and your dinner guests and share the results and kitchen experiences on social media.”

How functional brands successfully connect and create new ways of interacting with consumers is a common challenge and one that, like many brands, Electrolux is using social media to overcome. “Social media has fundamentally changed the balance of power between customers and brands because it enables peer recommendations to play a much greater role in purchasing decisions. New platforms have also led to the rise of a new generation of influencers.”

These individual influencers have become hugely important but collectively, as a society, we are also exerting new influence as we demand a new transparency from brands and expect more in terms of moral, ethical and sustainable credentials. When it comes to sustainability, Electrolux is embedding it into the heart of their design process, not just as an additional add-on, “Our goal is to sustainably provide resource-efficient solutions that are accessible to more people around the world. In 2014 sales of our Green Range of most efficient products showed an increase in consumer interest. The all new 800W UltraOne Quattro is the first AAAA-graded vacuum on the market that delivers great performance while consuming significantly less energy (and) confirms us as an innovative sustainability leader.”

And this thinking underpins the whole of the Electrolux brand ethos and mission as it strives to be “a premium innovative brand” with Thomas believing that “the speed of meaningful and relevant innovation is key to our business success.”

The continued success in product innovation speaks for itself but since 2003 Electrolux has also run its annual Design Lab global innovation competition for students and young designers – a competition that awards its winners with a 6-month paid internship at one of its Electrolux Global Design Centres. Thomas explained the true value of the competition to the innovation process and new product development, “Electrolux Design Lab is a part of the innovation strategy of Electrolux in creating new value and propositions to our consumers. Lab concepts show possible or probable futures – socio-cultural, behavioural and technological. The concepts point towards likely future developments, create discussions and are important as inspiration for our internal innovation culture. The Design Lab competition is also an opportunity for Electrolux to reach the best emerging design talent.”

Electrolux continues to challenge the status quo to progress the brand and create a new and better future for us – a sign of truly iconic thinking and behaviour – and the brand should be seen as an example to many in its commitment to fostering and rewarding new design talent and the next generation of entrepreneurs.

And what of the future for Electrolux? Thomas concluded that they will continue to put consumer need and innovation at the heart of the business: “We expand by using a deep understanding of consumer needs and by being innovative within our focus areas. And the room for that kind of expansion is really big.”

With that in mind – and with registration opening for Design Lab 2016 early this year – we will be avidly watching for yet more exciting and innovative expansion from Electrolux.