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Jakarta Post

A Bang & Olufsen experience

Sita W. Dewi
Struer, Denmark   ●   Mon, August 4, 2014

'€œYou don'€™t know what great actually is until you experience it firsthand.'€

The words came from Shakeel Hussain, the head of marketing, expansion markets for Danish high-end audio visual company Bang & Olufsen (B&O), to journalists invited to a recent B&O International media tour at its home base in Struer, Denmark.

Hussain was talking about high-quality audio and visual products and his greeting sums up pretty much the entire trip to western Denmark on a summer 2014: a Bang & Olufsen experience.

A visit to a B&O flagship store in Herning the next morning started the real experience with the brand.

Nestled among beautiful old buildings in the main square in Herning, the golden facade of the concept store stands out with its modern minimalist design and window, through which passersby can get a glimpse of the B&O products on display.

Iza Mikkelsen, the B&O business consultant, greeted the participants entering the boutique-style store.

'€œTo give customers an experience on how they could see our products in their own home, we don'€™t have a wall of TVs and a wall of speakers. [Instead] we try to combine products in different set-ups to inspire people. People should be able to see, touch and feel and not just have a catalog and a nice picture. We also try to show our products in as many variations as possible,'€ she explained.

Kenneth Pedersen, the owner of the B&O Herning flagship store, later gave the entourage a tour of the two-story building, boasting a high tech remote-controlled system that he built from scratch, and cost him a fortune.

Pedersen took out his smartphone, saying proudly '€œI can control everything in this store with only one gadget.'€

As he speaks, Norah Jones'€™ soothing voice came from one of loudspeakers as if the songstress was singing live in the store. Pedersen touched the loudspeaker and moved his hand to one side and the volume of the audio gradually turned down.

At the heart of the retail concept is a dedicated speaker wall with revolving walls that showcase all of B&O'€™s best-selling loudspeakers.

'€œIf I want to demonstrate good sound from different speakers, or when you want to listen to a specific speaker, you can press here and then something is happening here,'€ Pedersen said while the walls revolved, displaying different types of speakers.

'€œThe idea is you can see the product, you can listen to it and you can compare the products. In a normal shop, all the speakers are hanging, but I don'€™t want to have that. I want it neat, so when you look at the wall, it'€™s gone,'€ he said. '€œCool, isn'€™t it?'€

Another part of the store was allocated to the B&O PLAY products, where visitors can interact and listen to music with the brand'€™s range of designs created for mobile lifestyles, comparing everything from the latest headphones to portable sound systems.

At the center of the store, there were some centrally placed moving podiums, with seating areas that allow visitors to move and try different combinations of TV and sound solutions.

Pedersen, who has been a B&O dealer for 15 years, acknowledged that visitors had been flowing to his store since he refurbished it and opened in February.

'€œSince February, 5,000 to 6,000 people have visited my store and the figure is growing,'€ he said, adding that each person spent an average of 45 minutes inside the store. '€œWhereas people usually only spend an average of 15 minutes at an electronic shop,'€ he said.

The next day, the journey took us to the Bang & Olufsen office in Struer, where journalists were given an exclusive sneak-peak of a new product that will be launched in the near future in Europe and later in Indonesia.

During the occasion, Lyle Clarke, a B&O concept developer, unveiled the key secret of the brand'€™s high-end designs, which differentiate B&O products from all other electronic products.

'€œTechnology companies seem to be targeting me [men], but inside Bang & Olufsen, we recognize '€˜the wife acceptance factor'€™. We create products with all the technological functionality that the men will be happy with but then we make it nice enough that the wives will accept it because what can [men] do if the wives won'€™t let the products enter the home?'€ Clarke said.

'€œThat'€™s why our products look more like a sculpture rather than technology [products],'€ he added.

B&O also supplies sound systems for high-end, premium vehicles such as the Aston Martin DBS, BMW 5 Series, BMW'€™s flagship 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz AMG models.

In Indonesia, B&O products are mostly favored by individuals, with individual consumers accounting for 95 percent of its market in the country, and the remaining 5 percent are private companies. Since entering the Indonesian market in 2001, B&O has operated two stores in Jakarta '€” one in Plaza Indonesia shopping mall, Central Jakarta, and the other in Pacific Place shopping mall, South Jakarta.

As B&O CEO Tue Mantoni said during an exclusive interview with The Jakarta Post, Bang & Olufsen was a niche brand because it was not for everyone.

Anywhere in the world, including in Indonesia, the company always targets '€œindividuals with high network, who travel and understand Western culture and favor high technology'€.

Mantoni acknowledged that Indonesia had become one of its important expansion markets.

'€œIndonesia is an important market because of its size and we have a good opportunity [in the country]. Bang & Olufsen is a niche brand because it is only for a certain share of the population. For most Indonesians, maybe this is the first time to see us, so it'€™s a good opportunity to show them what we have,'€ Mantoni said.