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Under the direction of Dr. Annette Becker, the Bosch Power Tools brand got its home and garden division ready for the challenges of the digital age. For her work, she was awarded “Brand Manager of the Year” at the German Brand Awards 2019.

We talked to Dr. Annette Becker, Senior Vice President Business Unit Home & Garden at Robert Bosch Power Tools GmbH, about the challenges of brand work. In a somewhat homogeneous and price-driven competitive environment, the brand stands out today not only with its consistently user-centric innovations, but also with its stringent brand management practices in relation to changing consumer habits.

Portrait von Annette Becker, Brand Managerin of the Year 2019
Dr. Annette Becker, Senior Vice President Business Unit Home & Garden at Robert Bosch Power Tools. Source: German Design Council

Bosch Home & Garden is a customer-centric and successful DIY brand. Can you explain to us the guiding principle behind it? What does Bosch Home & Garden stand for? What makes the brand desirable? What differentiates the brand from its competitors?

Our guiding principle for the brand is »Home made by you«: we help do-it-yourself enthusiastsand gardening lovers to design their own home using their hands, regardless of whether they have prior knowledge and/or personal experience. Our products and services always focus on users and their needs. Innovations such as our Rotak lawn mowers (a lawn mower with ProSilence technology, which is much quieter than conventional lawn mowers) or our EasyPrune garden shears (a pair of pruning shears that uses a motor to help with pruning branches, rather like an e-bike) make gardening easy, effortless and fun. Sustainability is also important for us: we are the first manufacturer in the industry to offer tool cases made from 90% recycled material. This has reduced our plastic waste by around 1,000 tons annually and has already cut our carbon dioxide emissions by 1,500 tons this year. This is around the same amount of CO2 emitted over 13 million kilometres travelled by car. This is our contribution to reducing climate-damaging gases and plastic waste on earth.

Today, customers,especially young DIY enthusiasts, make intensive use of online channels to get inspired for a planned project and to gather information. How do you ensure that Bosch Home & Garden can be experienced at all contact points? How did you approach this?

Yes, online isbecoming increasingly important in all sectors, including DIY and gardening. In recent years, we identified all online touchpoints and are now everywhere where our target group is on the internet, both externally and internally. Externally, we inform, inspire and advise our users on all important channels, from social media to online trade. Internally, for example, our »1-2-do« community is very active in exchanging ideas with DIY enthusiasts, and we provide users with inspiration and suggestions for projects of all levels of difficulty via the online magazine »allaboutdiy«. In the future, our new Bosch DIY & Garden app will bundle these offers on a single platform and add exclusive app functions such as the ability to easily share ideas and projects with family, friends or like-minded people via social networks or messenger programs. Whether it be renovating, decorating or designing the garden, we want to offer users more than just pure products.

What role do innovations such as IXO or the»NanoBlade«, with which you have miniaturised the chainsaw principle, play in Bosch Home & Garden’s brand development?

Knowing the needs of our users is the DNA of our success. Inthe end, it is the users alone who decide whether an innovation is successful or not. We are still very proud of our IXO; it represents the Bosch brand like no other device. It’s the most popular power tool in the world: since its market launch in 2003, we have sold around 18 million units of the IXO. The IXO has become an icon with cult status. The version of the IXO we are launching in 2019 will be the sixth on the market – and we’re reinventing it once again. It’s certainly something to look forward to. We launched our NanoBlade on the market approximately two years ago; it’s a saw with a rotating micro chain that operates with almost no vibration and is therefore particularly suitable for precision work. Of course it is our goal to continue the success of the IXO with the NanoBlade saws. Our YOUseries, which we are currently putting on the market, is reinterpreting DIY: these products are very compact, with a simple and unique design and at the same time are incredibly user-friendly and powerful. We would like to introduce new target groups to DIY with this new product line.

What’s next? How important are topics such as the digitisation of products/services or the much-touted IoT (Internet of Things) for Bosch Home & Garden?

Digitisation is a great opportunity to offer services with added value that go beyond the tool itself. The most prominent example of a networked product from our company is our Indego robot mower. The Indego is not just a networked product; it is also the first device in which we use artificial intelligence. This enables it to cope better with certain situations over time, such as detecting obstacles on a lawn. Our vision is that each Indego learns and makes individual decisions in its own environment. Then every user can say: I have the best Indego for my garden! We will continue to make consistent use of networking possibilities in the future; this is a very exciting topic, especially in gardens.

What purpose does the agile organisation that you introduced at Bosch Home & Garden a few years ago fulfil? What goals are you pursuing with agile organisation? And above all: What measurable successes can be seen today?

Markets and user behaviour are changing rapidly due to factors such as the aforementioned increasing digitisation, demographic change and increased globalisation. It requires flexibility and speed to be successful in this constantly changing environment. We have therefore broken with the traditional corporate structure and now work in interdisciplinary teams. Each team consists of different roles such as marketing, sales, development, logistics, controlling etc. and acts like a small company – and this includes the economic responsibility for the entire value chain. This creates new ways of thinking and a completely new culture of cooperation. You can feel it every day. The teams work in a user-centric way, i.e. they generate ideas via user observation, create prototypes, test them with users and then improve them accordingly. This happens continuously, or to put it differently, we work in systematic iterations. During the development process, we constantly check whether we are (still) on the right track from the user’s point of view. It used to be different: in the past, market research was carried out, a product was developed and introduced and user reactions were only observed afterwards.

In technology companies, women are in a minority in management positions. Are there specific factors that have helped smooth your professional path?

In my opinion, there is no patent for being successful – this applies to women too. For me personally, it has always been important to be authentic and to remain true to my personal principles such as combining honesty and openness with motivation and determination. I’ve always enjoyed what I do – for me that’s the best prerequisite for success. In addition, good and enthusiastic employees are essential for joint success. In today’s world, lone wolves are having an increasingly difficult time – success requires team players.

First published in the German Brand Awards 2019 catalogue. Article picture: Dr. Annette Becker, Robert Bosch Power Tools. Source: German Design Council.

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