Ready to Roll â€“ Aernout Dijkstra-Hellinga and Max Barenbrug
Since 2002, Bugaboo's logo has consisted of three intertwined rings, but the brand's beginnings date back to the early 1990s with designs that Max Barenbrug created for his graduate project at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Already then the towering Dutchman had set his sights on designing an attractive and practical stroller for the modern parent. His work was highly commended, the idea patented and the cornerstone for the brand laid before Barenbrug was really aware of it. But despite the acclaim, established stroller manufacturers were not interested in the ambitious graduateâ€™s ideas. And so Barenbrug, together with his brother-in-law Eduard Zanen, decided to found their own company.
The logoâ€™s three rings symbolize the brand's core values: movement, energy and dynamism. It was reworked in 2002 when, after a cameo appearance in "Sex and the City," the brand experienced a regular boom. A bubbly employee explains to us how this came about. "A lady from the marketing department watched the series regularly, and when Miranda, one of the main characters, became pregnant, this lady decided to call HBO and ask whether a stroller had already been chosen for the fictional unborn child." Upon hearing that this was not yet the case, Bugaboo immediately sent some pictures of their top-of-the-line model. In no time at all, everything had been arranged and images of Miranda taking her baby for a walk in a Bugaboo stroller flickered across millions of TV screens. Seven seconds that sufficed to corroborate one of Max Barenbrug's favorite maxims:
You don't have to give people what they need. You need to show them what they want.
The consequence? Fashion-conscious parents everywhere wanted to take their babies for a stroll in the same chic and du jour vehicle that the heroine in their favorite series used.
Yet "stylish" is not an attribute family man Barenbrug aspires to at all. The mere word elicits a frown with every mention. "To me, stylish stands for a product that's pretty, but not functional. As a rule I don't approve of stylish products. Except for clothes. That doesn't count because I know I'll only be wearing something for about 3 months, and then it doesnâ€™t bother me."
Fashions don't interest me. Though stunning at times, they are hardly ever practical. And basically, I'm a practical man.
â€œFunctionality and form should always be in sync. A permanent, iterative quest," Barenbrug rocks his upper body from side-to-side in a non-verbal attempt to underscore his explanation â€“ with such vigor that we fear he might overbalance any moment. Barenbrugâ€™s philosophy â€“ along with Bugabooâ€™s advertising campaigns which focus on young fathers, technical features and strollers displayed in an urban setting, instead of cute babies and delighted mothers â€“ works extremely well. The enterprise has gone from strength to strength, and Barenbrugâ€™s intentions have been successfully established in public awareness. Indeed, Bugaboo has become synonymous with the stroller that offers greatest functionality: a vehicle that can be pushed or pulled according to requirement, even able to cope with sandy and snowy conditions. Easily collapsible, and sporting a reversible seat along with adjustable handlebars as well as excellent suspension, it is small wonder that Bugabooâ€™s appeal has spread to a far larger target group than just the viewers of "Sex in The City." Ask any man to name the brand of a stroller and, at a guess, nine times out of ten he will come up with the name Bugaboo. Certainly over the years a diehard fan base has developed around the brand, and word of mouth ensures its continuing popularity. Rumor even has it that Bugaboo pilots greet each other with a discreet wave the same way some bikers do. Yet to its creator, the outer trappings are not nearly as important as the productâ€™s interior makeup. There are several reasons for this:
An idea and a brand are similar in certain ways. Both have to develop from the inside out. Never the other way round.
Barenbrug goes on to explain: "If a company continues to grow, its administration grows with it, and more people get involved. Hiring experienced staff can, in a way, even be dangerous for a brand. New mindsets and processes are introduced and, before you know it, the once oh-so-authentic company starts working in a way that does not come from the gut, but that has come about unconsciously.â€ In a ploy to actively prevent this from happening, Barenbrug has handed his prior position as Design Director over to Aernout Dijkstra-Hellinga. "To have more time for other things," he says with a wink. By this he means maintaining stakeholder relations and overseeing the growth of the company. Barenbrug also plans to continue developing and designing, an intention which he voices several times, but refuses to elaborate on.
I hope we will be able to develop Bugaboo into a consumer brand, and that we will turn out to be as successful in this endeavor as we are now with our strollers.
And, somewhat coyly, he adds: "Two years from now we'll know more." To bridge the gap, Bugaboo's latest master stroke, the "Cameleon 3," has just been released. Though to the untrained eye it's hard to see what makes this stroller stand out significantly from its predecessor â€“ it doesn't really look all that different, we are informed that "nine out of ten parts are new." A further example of the Bugaboo corporate creed: it's the inner values that count.
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The Brander is a publication of the Branders Group