Sarah Gewert (1/VMV) and Paul F. Sumalowitsch (1/MCM) being interviewed at the Brand World

“We want to make a home for STIHL that is open to everyone”

For Sarah Gewert (1/VMV), Executive Board Member for Marketing and Sales, and Paul F. Sumalowitsch (1/MCM), Head of Brand, Retail, and Communications, what has been created at STIHL Plant 1 in Waiblingen is more than just building work. It’s taken many years of planning, project work and construction, but now it’s ready: The STIHL Brand World. It is a real passion project for both of them. They explain why in an interview with “Blick ins Werk.”

Ms. Gewert, how does it feel to be back in Plant 1 and see this new, very modern office building? You still remember the old building.

SARAH GEWERT: It’s absolutely fantastic. Planning and constructing the Brand World was an enormous undertaking. The architecture and, of course, the content of the Brand World are impressive. Having the opportunity to work in this type of environment – close to nature and with such unbelievable amounts of greenery – is really brilliant. The renovated high-rise creates an atmosphere that is far from ordinary. Sitting in my office, I feel like I’m in a tree house.

The renovation of the office building and the construction of the Brand World are twovery special projects, both architecturally and from the company’s perspective. What do you think the Brand World means for STIHL?

SARAH GEWERT: Plant 1 has had a special significance for both STIHL and the Stihl family for decades. Many groups of dealers paid us a visit at our previous small museum. But our vision here was to make it possible for guests and visitors to experience the brand in its entirety.

PAUL F. SUMALOWITSCH: In the middle of a protected conservation landscape area, we have created the STIHL Brand World; a home for our brand and somewhere it can be experienced in all its facets and with all the senses. This is a place where we want to show our employees, authorized dealers, and the general public that STIHL is much more than chainsaws. The Brand World lets us do just that.

The striking facade design continues inside the STIHL Brand World.
The striking facade design continues inside the STIHL Brand World. The color play of the panels changes depending on the time of day, weather and light.

Why is it important for STIHL to invest in the brand?

SARAH GEWERT: These days customers don’t buy just a product, they also want to know what’s behind it. Along with quality and innovative power, our strong points are also our point of view, the feelings people associate with us, and the purchasing experience. Especially in fiercely competitive market environments, a brand builds trust. In doing so, it guides consumers when they need to make complex purchase decisions. STIHL has become a really loved brand.

Sarah Gewert, Executive Board Member for Marketing and Sales

Focus on employees: What does the STIHL Brand World mean internally?

SARAH GEWERT: STIHL staff have a very long average length of service. This shows how much our people identify with the brand and the company, and how comfortable they feel here. However, each and every one of them has their own specific tasks and often only works on one individual area. That means we sometimes lose sight of the big picture – in other words, the purpose behind what we do. The Brand World lets you see and experience exactly that. It’s a great place where we can bring our families, children, parents, siblings, or friends. It’s a place associated with a lot of pride and emotion. Every single member of the company makes an important contribution to the brand’s success story every day.

PAUL F. SUMALOWITSCH: As employees, we are brand ambassadors both inside and outside STIHL. I believe that the Brand World plays a big role in creating a sense of identity. This building brings together everything we stand for and what makes us so unique as a brand. The opportunity to experience STIHL in a much wider context than your own job or product portfolio will definitely increase people’s pride in working for the company and further strengthen their emotional bond. The Brand World can also offer a forum for events aimed at attracting new talent to STIHL.

We are the global market leader and want this self-confidence, this pride, to be expressed through the Brand World.
Sarah Gewert, Executive Board Member for Marketing and Sales
Sarah Gewert, Executive Board Member for Marketing and Sales
Paul F. Sumalowitsch, Head of Brand, Retail and Communications

What does the Brand World mean for the collaboration with our authorized servicing dealers?

SARAH GEWERT: Authorized dealers are our face to the public. The teams at those dealers contribute to the company’s success and are very close to our products and our customers. The Brand World is a source of motivation and inspiration for them too.

PAUL F. SUMALOWITSCH: We also want to create a sense of identification among our authorized dealers and maintain an emotional bond between them and STIHL. For us, our authorized dealers are not just business partners. They are among the most important brand ambassadors in the eyes of end customers. In many cases, they have built up a bond with STIHL over generations. Visiting the Brand World will strengthen this partnership.

But the exhibition will also be open to the public, won’t it?

SARAH GEWERT: Yes, that’s something we’re delighted about. We want the Brand World to be a magnet for existing fans and to make new ones by opening its doors to everyone. I am certain that the Brand World will be a big asset to the entire region. The cycle path along the Rems river is already a popular destination and the Brand World will make it even more attractive. STIHL will have achieved its intended goal if the Brand World becomes a destination in the region; somewhere people enjoy spending time and want to come back to again and again. Ultimately, we have designed the brand experience in such a way that all age groups and people with any kind of interest can take something from it. When people leave the Brand World, they will ideally have learned something and been inspired. We believe we have something great here to offer schools in particular.

The rotating forest cinema
The rotating forest cinema gives visitors the opportunity to get to know the forest’s different seasons and habitats at the rotating forest cinema.

The Brand World and the new building complex are architecturally impressive. Can you tell us what the design of the new buildings is based on?

SARAH GEWERT: Plant 1 is in such a special location: Right on the Rems and surrounded by lots of forest. We wanted to create something which is unique, but which fits into the natural surroundings. This prompted us to choose a distinctive design language that is straightforward but impressive. The color scheme and the materials selected, as well as the changing, very vibrant surfaces, allow the new building to integrate well into its environment. The play of colors on the facade changes depending on the light and the weather. Together with the surroundings, this produces a fascinating overall effect.

On the outside, the glass facade is captivating. On the inside, you are struck by the impression that the structure is somehow floating. Everything is very open and spacious. The small number of columns means that the building consistently provides great vistas of nature. No matter where you stand in the building, you can always see the greenery outside. Everyone involved wanted to avoid building something majestic; instead the idea was to make something very self-assured and powerful, which also has a down-to-earth and authentic character that reflects who we are.

The electronic museum guide

Mr. Sumalowitsch, you and your team are responsible for content development and the visitor experience at the Brand World. What can visitors expect?

PAUL F. SUMALOWITSCH: We want it to be a place where people get together, and are informed, inspired, and entertained.” We want the STIHL Brand World to offer a unique experience. Visitors can immerse themselves in the world of STIHL and interact with content across three floors. But our ambitions go beyond this. Our goal is to address topics that are important to the general public. The exhibition area entitled “The Power of Forests”, which is prominently positioned on the ground floor, achieves this by extending the relevance of the topic to everyone from gardening and landscaping professionals to schoolchildren.

How is the Brand World divided up?

PAUL F. SUMALOWITSCH: The Brand World extends over three levels. The tour starts at the Vision level, where we take visitors on a journey that mainly charts the history and growth of the company. The Innovation section on level 1 looks at our products and areas of application, with exhibits on subjects such as technical innovations, aspects relating to our high-quality production, and a selection of tools from our current portfolio. And then there’s the Emotion level, as we call it, on the ground floor, which I’m particularly proud of [he laughs].

We want the exhibition concept to make people enthusiastic about the brand and create an emotional bond with them. We want it to be a place where people get together, and are informed, inspired, and entertained.”
Paul F. Sumalowitsch, Head of Brand, Retail and Communications
Paul F. Sumalowitsch, Head of Brand, Retail and Communications

What are the exhibition areas on the ground floor about?

PAUL F. SUMALOWITSCH: There’s a range of exciting topics to discover here. In “The Power of Forests” the company deliberately steps back and lets experts explain the various functions and benefits of woodland and forests. Along with scientifically verified facts, the focus here is primarily on people and their stories. The Brand World also means that, for the first time, we have a brand shop with great physical presence and the full range available, as well as the interactive TIMBERSPORTS® experience – two facets that give our brand a special emotional appeal and really set us apart, not only from the competition. Of course, we also offer visitors the chance to relax in our small but beautiful café serving regional food and drinks. 

SARAH GEWERT: The Emotion level represents a real differentiating feature for us. Woodland and forest themes are central elements of the Brand World and of our brand. These topics are relevant to everyone and can’t be ignored. They also tie in with current developments such as climate change, sustainable forestry, the planting of new forests, and the protection of the rainforests. We have implemented a multimedia concept here, with lots of different exhibits and communication methods. In doing so we are providing a special forum for nature – the foundation on which life and work is built for all of us.

Virtual reality stations
In the TIMBERSPORTS® area visitors can experience extreme sports at virtual reality stations and take a look behind the scenes of the competitions.
“Evolution of the chainsaw” exhibition area

When you walk through the building or stand in front of it now, are you satisfied, are you proud of what has been achieved? Or are you just happy that it’s finished at last?

SARAH GEWERT: Of course we are proud! However, we are creative people – so the next ideas are already developing in the back of our minds, as well as the desire to make them happen. After all, the Brand World doesn’t stand still. STIHL is constantly advancing and adapting to meet customer preferences and contemporary concerns – and that should also be reflected there. We want the Brand World to retain a permanent appeal. Our goal is to always offer something new, and that’s why we are already looking to the future.

PAUL F. SUMALOWITSCH: I am very proud of our team! But our work is not done. We will keep exploring new ways to fascinate visitors and offer them something that is worth coming to see more than once. With this in mind, we will enhance the Brand World by adding new topics that affect both STIHL and society as a whole. We have created a stage in the form of a modular and flexible communication platform, and we want to continuously fill it with new content. The list of ideas in our team is inexhaustible — as is the commitment of its members. Everyone involved in the project is very passionate and works with a huge attention to detail for and on the Brand World. That will not change in the future.

Which things are you most excited to show visitors? What are you particularly pleased with?

PAUL F. SUMALOWITSCH: I find it very difficult to pick a single spot. If I had to choose one, it would be the Emotion level. 

SARAH GEWERT: I don’t have a favorite place right now either. The Emotion level and the “Power of Forests” exhibition are very important to me. I recently had a chat with my nephew, who said that our saws are only created for cutting down trees. Now I can bring him here and show him that trees sometimes need to be felled, in order to create space and light for new ones to grow. The exhibition lets me explain to him that our products help protect and preserve nature. It’s good to give our products a context. Beyond that, we can offer people the opportunity to experience everything else that we stand for, what the background to our brand is, and what a privilege it is to work in and with nature.