Most designers know Braun products and the company’s most famous designer, Dieter Rams. Many designers know of, and popularize Rams’ set of ‘rules’ governing what he decreed to be a successful product design strategy. I’ve printed these out, put them on my wall, told other designers about them.
I wanted a simple, analog alarm clock. One with actual hands, easy to see in the night, easy to set, easy to turn on and off. So I bought this BNC019 off eBay - it came from Germany. The Braun appeal stops at the appearance-level. Build quality is flimsy. The hands barely glow. Setting the time of day and alarm time is difficult; resetting the alarm time seems to make the clock stop ticking.
I took a trip to China, and used the alarm clock in my industrial China Holiday Inn hotel room. When the alarm sounded to wake me up I was dismayed to find it had the same alarm ring tone as my 30 euro Braun clock.
I do like how the draft on the rear case makes the clock sit at a slightly inclined 88-degrees or so.
Are Braun’s best days behind them? Or were they never known for actual product quality?
All respect to the designers in that story. I’ve never used one of their core hair-removal products so can’t really comment on their utility, though they do seem a bit more flashy than something you’d expect Mr Rams to put out.
The other products that license their name seem to fail (in my limited experience) to live up to the promise of the otherwise good ID, so perhaps its a matter of them not being super vigilant about who is building products with their name on it. This is a concern for any company that licenses their brand to other OEMs.
I’ve had a mixed relation with Braun. I have a shaver that is 15+ years old and works incredibly well. Build quality is exceptional. On the other hand, I had a toaster that I tossed after 6 months. It started with the selection knob breaking off after 6 weeks. Stopped working after 6 months. Next, I bought the cheapest one at a big box store for 1/6 the price. It’s worked for ten years.
So there are a lot of different things going on here, some of which I can give insight into having consulted for P&G, Braun, and Gillette and which you could find out if you did some digging.
Braun is 2 things to P&G, a manufacturer and a brand to license. Once I explain Ray’s experience will make sense. So Braun has a manufacturing facility in Germany where they still make razors and electric toothbrushes (under the P&G owned brand, Oral B) which is why those products are high quality. I believe everything else is licensed out. The toasters and blenders are made by DeLonghi (I’ve had 2 blenders, neither lasted last 6 months). I’m not certain but I believe the clocks and watches are made by someone else. So that would explain the build quality there. I say you can find this out if you did some digging because of you go to the website for Braun kitchen appliances you will notice it is not the same as the regular Braun website. Deep in that website I think on the customer service page you will find that it is all made by DeLonghi and supported by their distribution and customer service. I have no knowledge on the audio stuff, but I went to that microsite and it does not feel like part of P&G. If Braun made those they would likely be on the Braun website. My guess is that some company saw the LE1 in an Apple book and licensed from P&G and set up Braun Audio Global as a completely separate entity from Braun.
This is pretty typical at the scale of business of P&G. Somebody their once told me: we sell goup in a can, sometimes that goup is for cleaning your clothes, sometimes it’s for cleaning your teeth, and sometimes it’s actually tiny strips of metal for shaving your face. Everything else isn’t that interesting. That is the business.
Yeah I realize my OP wasn’t super crystal on intent or question…actually just wanted to complain about that clock in a design-related, consumer products way. The shaving products do sound like high quality equipment and I wish there was a way to try-before-you-buy.
Maybe the question at the heart of the OP was something like “was Braun ever truly known for product quality, or did they just do a spectacular job at communicating visual attributes of quality like formal reduction, rectilinear shapes, clean white surfaces, and uncluttered compositions?”
True, Braun has become a sub-brand under DeLonghi, and has to share its turf with some of its retarded Italian cousins.
While the DeLonghi products aren’t bad, I have always seen Braun as far superior, also in terms of build quality.
It’s just all very smart. But true, some products that made it to market are a bit flimsy and can feel clunky because of the all-plastic shell constructions. My mom still has her Braun hairdryer which is at least 50 years old.
The reason I brought up Gründig earlier is because just like Braun they were once a giant in consumer electronics throughout Europe. I know Braun has a long way to go but Gründig is a shadow of its old self.