A Shift In Perspective

Interview by Anton D. Javier
Photos by Chino Sardea
02 Feb 2018

Anders Buchmann, Bang & Olufsen's Chief Intrapreneur, tells us how his advertising background helped shape the success of the revolutionary BeoSound Shape speaker

Anders Buchmann, the cool and bright-eyed Chief Intrapreneur at Bang & Olufsen, left a successful career in advertising and fearlessly dove into the world of technology and design. The result: The birth of a successful product that changes one’s notion of sound and space.

After several years at advertising agencies to an interesting role at Bang & Olufsen as Chief Intrapreneur, can you tell us how this career evolution came to be?
You could say destiny is one part of it. Bang & Olufsen (B&O) has always been part of my upbringing — it was present in my own home and even grandparents' home. I suppose that's the case for most Danish people, and perhaps Nordic people in general. I had B&O in my professional bucket list, and at this point in my career, just short of a decade on the ad agency side, I wanted to try something different.

During my time in advertising, I had been in the experiential side of it, moved into something more strategic, and then I needed a new challenge so I started my own agency, which was the time I felt like I needed something on the entrepreneurial side. That went quite well and we got some pretty big clients like Carlsberg. It was quite fast considering there were just two of us at that time. We then allowed ourselves to be acquired by a bigger agency where I became agency director. After everything was settled, I then felt it was time for a new challenge. And then came the destiny part — a position opened up at B&O that was pretty much spot on and they were looking for a person with an entrepreneurial mindset to come in and basically co-found a start-up within B&O called Create.

I was lucky enough to join back in August 2016 and I held that position until May 2017, where I managed to work across a whole range of verticals: Sales, marketing, strategy, creating a whole narrative of what are we doing, and why. I was later moved into the main company, but brought that same entrepreneurial mindset.

How was the career shift like? What were some lessons from advertising that you brought over to B&O?
Working long hours? (Laughs) As humans, we are visual beings. Communication becomes visual, and we love stories, and how we retell things and interpret things based upon narratives. So from the big things to the small things, it's about being able to create narratives and visualize that for myself and the people around me. So that's something I'm really happy to bring over from my experience working in the agency side.

Can you give us a peek of what a day in the life of a Chief Intrapreneur is like?
It's a terrible cliché to say that no two days are alike, but I would say that a big part of what I do is traveling. For me to do what I'm supposed to do well, I first need to know what's going on in different markets. There is also the task of empowering all the great people we have in the company to go and do their absolute best. So that means providing them with motivation and knowledge, and that's basically what I preach. Then there's the part of trying to keep disrupting the flow in myself, making sure that I keep having a lot of meetings with people, spending time outside the office at cool working environments like co-working spaces to keep getting new input and not being too caught up in being at a big organization.

I understand that you were strategically and commercially responsible for the BeoSound Shape. Can you share a little bit about your relationship with the revolutionary product?
Actually, someone else gave painful birth to it, but maybe calling it my baby isn't too far off? I have a tight relationship with it because it's the only product I’ve worked with. The challenging thing about this was being able to take something that needed a different approach than what we normally do because it's quite a new product. It establishes a category that isn't really there.

We've come out with a product that's quite progressive and there's nothing like it out there. This paves the way for how we will listen to sound in the future. Where technology will blend more with our lives and empower us whenever we need it to. And it really does that with this product. But then coming out with a progressive product is always about timing, right? If we released this early, it probably won't be as successful. It's also too soon to say that we did it at the right time, but the awards we've gotten so far is testament to the fact that we're not too far off. Aside from the awards, we've also been getting amazing customer feedback and the numbers are looking really good. We're really hitting a traction that I think we could only dream of before and that only confirms that we've done something right.

How do you see the BeoSound Shape evolving over the years? And as early as now, are you already thinking of the next step?
I think that whole sphere of how we want to live with technology, and more so sound, in our case, will change. Everybody talks about technology and talks about its evolution as the next big thing, but few talk about technology you want to have in your life visually and technology that empowers you both when it's turned on and off. That's what we've opened up here and that's a direction we want to pursue further. Of course we're looking into what's to follow in this category. Not to replace the Shape, but to fall into that same category of "sound as interior".

As for clues, we do like a bit of secrecy. It's definitely a great wait and see moment. If you look at where our business is at, BeoSound Shape is somewhere in between Bang & Olufsen and Beoplay, and it's going to be that in-between space that we'll look into developing more. We might not be the biggest player out there, but people are certainly looking at what we're doing.

And what's next for you? Can you let us in on what you're working on next?
We just launched the BeoSound Shape in September 2017, so all sails are set on that one. We have a really interesting journey ahead with key battles I'm looking towards spearheading, including some key cities globally and some really interesting digital opportunities that we need to go in. But sometimes, I just like to close my eyes and not think too far ahead, be in the moment, and then I'm sure someday, I'll be asked to do something challenging again.