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Brand momentWhy Braun is back in the audio business
Oliver Grabes, Braun's head of design, had had the idea of resurrecting the legendary Braun Audio speakers from the economic boom for a long time. Some other product categories, which the traditional brand had abandoned over time, had been reissued after the turn of the millennium - now manufactured by license partners: first thermometers and blood pressure monitors, then alarm clocks and clocks. The Italian company De’Longhi has been selling Braun household appliances since 2013.
For the audio division, the search for a partner took longer, says Grabes. Years ago, he asked the licensing department of the US group P&G, to which Braun is now part, to look for a partner for loudspeakers and other hi-fi products. But the prospective customers would not have suited the brand, says the chief designer. In 2017, P&G and Grabes found what they were looking for: at the English company Pure, a small manufacturer of digital radios and speakers. “We didn't want to be the third or fourth customer of a large producer,” says Grabes.
For Braun, consumer electronics is not just any branch. Under the then designer Dieter Rams, speakers, turntables and hi-fi systems with their revolutionary, functional design became a household name for music lovers and industrial designers from 1959 onwards. For the company, the division developed into the second most important mainstay in the 1960s, directly after household appliances. But after new low-cost competitors from Japan rolled up the audio market and the margins shrank sharply, the business was given up in 1991.
This summer Braun started the revival and presented several loudspeakers - as digital versions and smaller than the original types from 1959, but also in the high-priced segment. The largest speaker costs 1200 euros, the smallest 380 euros. Sales in Europe will start at the end of January, initially in relatively small numbers. Braun keeps the exact numbers for itself.
In any case, the speakers are only the “starting point”, says Head of Design Grabes. His team is currently looking at other products, such as the original Braun radio, headphones and soundbars.
While music itself has become cheaper due to the streaming boom, many fans are investing in increasingly complex technology for perfect sound at home and on the go. This is the target group they have in mind at Braun - even if younger age groups at the brand primarily think of razors, not music. "After a 28-year break, we first have to anchor Braun in this area again," says Grabes. But the chief designer not only wants to make music and design fans happy with the re-edition, but also wants to earn money in the medium term: "In the long run, the business model has to pay off."
The Braun company was founded by Max Braun in Frankfurt in 1921. From 1933 Braun sold its own radios. After the Second World War, the company developed razors and kitchen appliances, and later other electronic items such as flash units and hi-fi systems. In 1967 the family sold the company to Gillette. Today the brand belongs to P&G.
The article was published in Capital 12/2019. The series Brand moment appears every month in Capital. Are you interested in capital? Click here to go to the subscription shop, where you can order the print edition. Our digital edition is available from iTunes and GooglePlay
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