Seeing an opportunity to dramatically impact the stroller market, design student Max Barenbrug set a goal for himself. Taking this on as his graduate design project at the Eindhoven in 1994, Max designed a stroller he believed would appeal to both men and women and be very versatile. After graduation, Barenbrug decided to try to sell his design to stroller manufacturers. However he was met by failure. Manufacturers turned down his design stating it was too radical and thus did not have mass market potential. Barenbrug, however, was not about to give up. With the help of his brother-in-law, Eduard Zanen, the Dutch designer decided to manufacture the stroller on his own. Barenbrug redesigned the product, and in 1999, Bugaboo was born.
Bugaboo’s first stroller design, the Frog, gained immediate popularity in Holland. However, after an appearance on an episode of Sex and the City in 2002, Bugaboo strollers gained international appeal. The unusually designed buggies came in high demand and started being sold all over the globe. In less than ten years, Bugaboo became one of the leading stroller manufacturers with only four models to its name.
Communicating the Brand Image Through Design
Bugaboo stands out from traditional strollers by communicating an image of modern sophistication. Coming in cute, kid-inspired names like Gecko, Frog, Chameleon, and Bee, Bugaboo’s bright colors and odd sized wheels set it apart from its bulky competition. The canvas material (reminiscent of Sunbrella), conveys to customers that it is outdoor friendly, protects the child from the weather (sun, wind, rain), is easy to clean, and is low maintenance. The shape of the stroller (clean lines, no-frills) and material composition (canvas, stainless steel, black grip handle) comes across as asexual and urban, potentially making it more appealing to male customers than its “cutsie” counterparts. Further appealing to the male set, Bugaboos sport “bump free” suspensions, and light-weight, aluminum chassis, making it sound more like an expensive automobile than a stroller.
Another unique feature of Bugaboo strollers is they can be customized and are easily adaptable. For example, customers can select from a variety of solid colors for both the exterior and the interior, designing a stroller that fits their personality. Also, all Bugaboos can be modified to suit the child’s needs (seated, laying down, facing forward or backwards). Finally, the stroller maker relies on the fact many parents own a Graco or Peg Perego car seat, and enables customers to attach the car seat to their stroller.
Bugaboo is not targeting the average parent. It desires a discerning customer, interested in keeping up with the trends and being different/standing out. Strollers are not sold at mass retailers, and go for prices from $700 to $900. This fact is somewhat portrayed by the Bugaboo bonnet/hood design, reminiscent of the iconic perambulators (prams) from the Victorian era (baby buggies manufactured by carriage makers), products initially owned by only the wealthy.
Alternative Design Recommendations
Bugaboo has done a good job designing a stroller that stands out in the marketplace. However, they now have direct competition in the high-end stroller market - Stokke. The Stokke stroller relies on not only having a similar design to the trendy Bugaboo, but functionality that allows it to grow with the child – even becoming a high chair. So how can Bugaboo further differentiate itself using product industrial design? Since Bugaboo is known for being a versatile stroller design, I would recommend for them to add to their product features. First, like Stokke, I would enable the stroller to become a high chair. This provides a convenience factor for parents visiting restaurants with their children. Also, instead of being able to adapt Graco and Peg Perego car seats, the Bugaboo seat should be able to be turned into a car seat, eliminating the need for parents to purchase an additional component. Finally, if Bugaboos were able to be converted to pull-behind bike trailers or a three-wheel running/jogging stroller, they would further set themselves apart from the competition and eliminate the need for parents to own multiple child-toting products.