Bang & Olufsen. Denmark, 1925
Before there was Apple, there was Bang & Olufsen.The Danish electronics brand has long been a reference name for pure design in electronics, appealing to discerning, individualist consumers in a category where function traditionally dominated form.
For decades, the brand’s talent for combining technical excellence with high emotional appeal put it in a class of its own. But in the post-iPod era, the specialness of B&O’s positioning has been diluted by a raft of newcomers.
Whereas emotional design was previously the privilege of a connoisseur class, it is now a factor driving demand for a much larger, less formalised base of entertainment electronics consumers. New-generation audio brands like Beats, Ultimate Ears, and even Sonos, are not direct competitors per se, but their accessibility and agility means that B&O is confronted with a large base of modern consumers with vastly different habits and expectations than traditional audiophiles.
Led by a young CEO, the company’s response has been to diversify its brand, without compromising its core promise to design and build “products which possess magical qualities and exceed customer expectations.”
The 2012 launch of the sub-brand B&O Play (a.k.a. Beoplay) has played an integral part in this transition. As well as allowing the Danish company to branch out – from an insular franchise retail model, to eCommerce and complementary retailers (e.g. Apple stores) – the emergence of B&O Play has changed the tone and style of the company’s product management and brand partnerships.
Previously the company’s alliances followed a “B&O-inside” template: mostly R&D-intensive partnerships with car and consumer tech brands. In more recent times, a focus on B&O Play has been at the forefront of the company’s drive to be present wherever technology and trends are nurturing new connoisseur tastes for audio.
Many of its outbound partners have little in common besides a shared passion for excellence: a collaboration with Rapha brings B&O into contact with the chic end of cycling; speaker products created with Kvadrat fabrics underline the beautiful precision and high value of Danish design.
So far, the company’s attempts to balance leverage of its know-how and reputation with activities that promote brand outreach have been proving successful. In 2015, the company offloaded its automotive audio division as part of a licensing agreement with Harman. Meanwhile, it states that 75% of B&O Play’s customers are newcomers to the world of Bang & Olufsen.
“Brand Partnerships Help Bang & Olufsen Diversify and Adapt” is a post from Collaboration Generation: a series profiling companies who use brand innovation platforms to double down on specialness, and extend their reach and influence.