By Katrina Olson
You’ve heard, “The more things change, the more they are the same.” This expression by French Critic and Journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr certainly applies to OSRAM SYLVANIA.
About three years ago, Munich-based OSRAM began to phase out the SYLVANIA company name in North America for its general illumination products—by first renaming the US division “OSRAM SYLVANIA.” They continued to sell SYLVANIA branded products (only in North America), but the OSRAM name took center stage.
At that point, OSRAM (North America) Business Development Manager Sarah Eastman and her small, four-person marketing team was charged with rebranding all of the company’s general lighting lamps products, literature, marketing collateral, product brochures, print and digital advertising and website with the “OSRAM” name.
Fast forward to June 2015 when Munich-based OSRAM’s supervisory board approves a move to carve out its general lighting lamps business and spin it off as a new company. Banking on its 100-year history, the SYLVANIA name is resurrected. That meant, beginning in January 2016, all of the general lighting products sold in the US and Canada would return to the SYLVANIA name to capitalize on the brand’s strong and enduring brand history.
Eastman and her team were then charged with rebranding all of the company’s products, literature, brochures, print and digital advertising, and website with the SYLVANIA name.
Around the same time. Eastman learned that OSRAM’s general lighting lamps division was being carved out of the global parent company and would form a new company.
Changing with the Times
OSRAM North America’s Vice President of Trade, Mark Corcoran, explained it like this: “About a year ago we started thinking about changing the company. We needed to morph into something different than our roots. Some traditional markets were declining while other categories like LED lamps and fixtures were experiencing huge growth,” explained Corcoran. “We asked ourselves, ‘What will it take to compete in this new world where speed to market, being nimble and entepreneurish are the top bullets.'”
Corcoran continued, “Osram is a $5 billion company globally with different divisions that all complemented each other and worked well together. But moving forward it’s a different dynamic. So one year ago, we decided to carve out the general lighting piece which is driven by volume, speed to market, and innovation, and present it in a different way to our target markets.”
A New Company… a New Name
“We have opted for a combination of the terms ‘LED’ and ‘advance’ and will call the newly established company LEDVANCE,” announced OSRAM Licht AG CEO Olaf Berlien in a press release dated January 15, 2016. “The name reflects the trend toward LED in the lighting market as well as the opportunities arising from this development – opportunities LEDVANCE will actively exploit.”
OSRAM introduced the new name, LEDVANCE, at the March Light + Building 2016 show in Frankfurt, Germany—the largest trade fair for lighting and building services technology.
Shortly thereafter, at Lightfair 2016 in April, LEDVANCE officially introduced themselves in the US with a 10’x30′ full wall display that also incorporated a futuristic video, “A New Era of Light Begins.”
Soon, LEDVANCE ads appeared in electrical and lighting industry trade publications and online.” In addition to the Lightfair introduction and industry advertising, OSRAM kept in constant contact with their customers through monthly letters and attending regional NAED meetings, among other initiatives. OSRAM also encouraged salespeople to personally visit their customers.
When they talked with customers, the message was always the same:
“We’re excited to become LEDVANCE. And although our company name is changing, everything else will stay the same. You can still get the same quality SYLVANIA products, you’ll deal with the same people you’ve come to know and trust, and all the processes will not change. The only real change is the company name on our business cards.”
Eastman called it “99% SYLVANIA with a touch of LEDVANCE.” But the crowning touch on LEDVANCE introduction was a “birthday box” created by Eastman and her team. It included a video screen with USB (watch the video here), portable speakers that plugged into the screen, a postcard, pens and notebook. All of this was branded with the new LEDVANCE logo in a bright orange box and shipped to more than 3,000 distributor branch managers to arrive on July 1, 2016—the birthday of the new company.
The color orange has been associated SYLVANIA for decades. The bright orange birthday box was a bold statement that orange is not just the new black…but orange is back. And so is SYLVANIA.
Stresses Eastman, “Our relationships with our distributor partners mean a lot to us, and the SYLVANIA brand means a lot to them because it helps them grow their businesses,” said Eastman. “It was important from a marketing perspective that we communicated that, while we are excited about how the new LEDVANCE can help our trade partners by being more nimble, they could still count on the SYLVANIA brand for years to come.”
Another Change (Sort of) For LEDVANCE
July 26, 2016 brought yet another change for LEDVANCE when OSRAM’s supervisory board approved the sale of the company to a Chinese consortium of IDG Capital Partners, MLS Co., Ltd., and Yiwu State-Owned Assets Operation Center. The purchase price was more than €400 million (about $443.5 million).
“Our new affiliation with our global partners will make us bigger in some ways, but faster and more maneuverable in others. We’ll be a leaner organization with the ability to respond more quickly to market changes and customers’ needs. This new organization creates a company that is now the only global lighting company in the world that has all ‘in-house’ production capabilities by combining LEDVANCE’s traditional lighting with MLS’s LED lighting competencies.”
The Future of LEDVANCE and SYLVANIA
LEDVANCE is just over a month old. For Eastman and her marketing team, the future looks a lot like the past, “Our responsibilities haven’t changed—just our company name. Munich still handles OSRAM’s global marketing, but we will still work with our U.S. and Canada distributor partners,” explains Eastman, “As LEDVANCE, we’ll continue to promote the SYLVANIA brand and build the synergy between OSRAM and LEDVANCE.”
Tagged with brand, LEDVANCE, Osram, Osram Sylvania, SYLVANIA