Choosing a Brother small-business printer or HP inkjet printer could become like choosing a car

Recently, I had reviewed a few Brother printers and had observed a particular trend in how the products are being positioned. It is becoming more akin to how the typical vehicle builder is positioning a particular vehicle model or series of vehicles.

It is also becoming very similar with Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart and OfficeJet inkjet printer ranges where there are a few common mechanisms implemented in the products. But, in HP’s case, the different models have differing cosmetic designs so as to integrate different feature sets and make the more expensive machines look classier.

A lineup of models with varying feature sets and throughput speeds but with the same design

In the vehicle world, an example of this was Holden’s large family cars sold through the 1960s to the 1970s. These vehicles had different model names depending on their level of luxury and / or their powertrain, with the “Premier” representing the top-of-the-line standard-wheelbase vehicle. Low-end vehicles were referred to initially as “Standard” or “Belmont” vehicles until the early-70s “HQ” series while “step-up” or “mid-tier” vehicles had model names like “Special” or “Kingswood”. This was until the “HQ” series where vehicles in that and subsequent series had “package” suffixes to differentiate entry-level and mid-tier vehicles.

For example, I had noticed that the HL-2240D direct-connect duplex monochrome laser printer was part of a series of laser printers based around a new printer design and print engine. There was a low-end model known as the HL-2130 which couldn’t print both sides as well as the HL-2250DN which was equipped with Ethernet networking and the HL-2280DW being equipped with Wi-Fi networking. Similarly, the more expensive models in the lineups also benefit from higher page throughput due to more powerful components in the design.

A model range derived from another model range

But the practice becomes very similar to how the vehicle builders derive a model range design from another concurrently-running model range design. An example of this would be them designing a longer-wheelbase luxury “executive” car as a derivate of a standard large family car like what Ford have done when they derived the Fairlane and LTD designs from the Falcon designs.

Here, this is reflected in how the designs for this company’s laser-printer lineup are used. I had observed that the multifunction series including the MFC-7360N that I reviewed were derived from the previously-mentioned dedicated laser printer series that the HL-2240D was part of. Here, all the units in both printer lineups used the same print engine and the same replacement parts.

Benefits for product choice

This will allow for a granular range of products in a product class where a person can choose or specify the right kind of printer based on their needs and budget; without needing to create new designs in order to satisfy the different market segments. This also allows the manufacturer to keep product prices within affordable territory because there is the ability to reuse parts across the different models. It also can allow a salesman room to upsell customers to better products or make deals that offer better value.

In most cases, the mid-tier product will offer best value for most users. For example, in these two printer lineups, the mid-tier models (HL-2250DN dedicated printer and MFC-7460DN) will offer the two currently-desirable features – double-sided printing which saves paper; and network connectivity. In some other cases like the dedicated colour laser printers based on Brother’s latest high-throughput colour-laser print engine, the HL-4150CDN which just has Ethernet network connectivity and reduced-time-penalty colour duplex printing would suit most users.

Conclusion

The creation of a granular product range with incremental functionality but a few common design bases and /or descendent product classes can then allow manufacturers to keep consistent value for money when they want to build out a product range.

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