We caught up with Larry Ovalle, the Director of Product Marketing, Spa for Jacuzzi. He gave us the rundown of how spa use has changed (and not changed) over the years, and how Jacuzzi has led the spa industry.
Innovation & Tech Today: How has the overall use of hot tubs grown over the years? Are you finding that people use them now for the same purposes as always, or is increased fitness recovery, therapy, and hydrotherapy more the case than in past years?
Larry Ovalle: More people are recognizing that hot tubs offer so many more benefits than just how they are portrayed in movies. Aside from being fun, today’s portable hot tubs offer the proven health benefits of hydromassage. In general, the top three reasons people purchase hot tubs are for mental and physical relaxation, distraction-free, quality social connection with family and friends, and physical therapy for ailments.
I&T TODAY: What are the challenges of being a name synonymous with spas for more than 50 years, and fulfilling a constant expectation of excellence?
LO: It’s a challenge. The reason everyone knows our name is because we pioneered hydromassage more than 50 years ago and did it with, as you say, a tradition of design and product quality excellence. Unfortunately, the hot tub category is full of badly designed spas that offer a poor hydromassage experience and can leak or crack. Our challenge is making sure people can distinguish between the quality of our brand and the (other) hot tubs. If you buy another hot tub brand, you are not getting the same product experience.
I&T TODAY: Let’s zip forward to today. The tech features of your spas are quite sophisticated. Could you talk about your features, and the value of customer input?
LO: Extensive research and design goes into each of our spas. We start with our exclusive Jacuzzi® Jets, designed to target specific muscle groups in particular ways. These are combined with engineered ergonomic seating and jet placement that mimic the contours of the body. What differentiates our individual collections is the level of that experience: our J-400™ Collection (and new J-500™ Collection) offers the finest hydromassage experience in the world.
Customer input is where we start. Our product developmentis driven by what will encourage use of a hot tub, not what looks good on the dealer floor. What will make the consumers still use and love their hot tubs for years to come? So, while a lot of companies add extra lights, extra jets — bling, really — we focus on benefits that are meaningful to the user like quality, durability, the hydromassage experience, comfortable seating, and energy efficiency.
I&T TODAY: We’d like to bring up one truly innovative product series from your extensive catalog: the new J-500™ Hot Tubs. Can you give us a quick rundown?
LO: Our new J-500™ Hot Tubs push the limits of what a hot tub can be, bringing all the experience and design quality from the inside of the tub to the outside. We know for some, design and backyard appeal are as important as the product experience. So the J-500™ Collection is the first to introduce the Curvalux™ Skirt, revolutionary architectural exterior white lighting, interior edge lighting that changes color, and a smooth deck.
I&T TODAY: You’ve also just brought out an app that fires up the hot tub, right?
LO: That’s right. The ProTouch™ Glass Control touchscreen syncs to an app on your phone. By paring your J-500™ Hot Tub with your device, it will allow you to heat up your hot tub on your way home, activate maintenance reminders, and alert you and your local dealership of any service needs through remote monitoring.
I&T TODAY: The upscale lifestyle brand is notoriously difficult to keep both fresh and traditional. How do you determine the refinements or new models that enable Jacuzzi to regularly project advancements to a discerning customer base that likes both variety and consistency?
LO: We engineer for the user in mind. We’re not trying to be fresh or trendy; we’re trying to get more people into a hot tub.
The J-500™ Collection was designed for people who may not have considered a portable hot tub before, especially if they may be looking at a much more expensive in-ground spa. Our R&D team has spent years understanding muscles, body types, jet placement, massage types, and benefits. We continue to focus research into ailments and how people are aging to understand how our products can better suit health and wellness. We also work with medical experts to understand circulation, best placement of jets, and jet-directionality. We were born from a health need (the original J-300 pump was designed to ease a child’s rheumatism) and have continued to evolve with that in mind.
I&T TODAY: Where do you see opportunities for future innovation?
LO: We want to promote hot tub usage, to extend the benefits to more people, and make an easy ownership experience. We’re not interested in tech for its own sake, but only how it improves the user experience and helps get more people into hot tubs.
There are always opportunities to improve and expand. We are always striving to make our products easy to use, enjoyable, more energy efficient, and durable. As people’s needs change, we will continue to evolve to meet those needs without compromising our brand values.
I&T TODAY: Our readers love good stories. Could you share a couple with us?
LO: We love hearing stories about how long hot tubs have been in the family, and how years later, people are still enjoying them. Or what a huge difference they’ve made in the lives of owners: how people can sleep better, how it relieves arthritis symptoms, and fibromyalgia. The unexpected stories tend to speak of the family bonding time. A lot of owners have teens, and because you can’t really bring devices into the hot tub, it’s been wonderful for family bonding. We hear how uninterrupted time in their hot tub has saved relationships! We love technology, but hot tubs offer a welcome break.