Samyang Optics' Unusual Three-Brand Market Testing

Samyang Optics' Unusual Three-Brand Market Testing

Market testing happens all the time. It's not uncommon for brands to test identical products under different names in different markets or cultures. It is rare, however, to see one company brand three competing products against each other in the same industry in the same country/culture. That is what Samyang Optics appears to be doing in the United States with their Bower, Samyang and Rokinon brands.

Companies test brands and marketing in different markets to try and maximize sales in those regions. For example, Swiffer tried to sell their floor sweeping products in Italy the same way they did in the United States, with horrible results. Americans like the idea of a quick and easy cleaning tool, but Italians refused to believe that quick and easy could possibly be cleaning well. In their culture, part of knowing something was cleaned thoroughly meant that it was done through toil and labor. Swiffer saw a considerable sales slump until they rebranded the exact same product as a "finishing" tool to add polish and shine to an already clean floor. With that strategy, Swiffer products sold quite well.

Samyang Optics is currently testing their lenses in the United States for user acceptance, slightly different than my Swiffer example but with the same goal in mind: maximize sales.

Last week, I asked you all to vote on which brand among Bower, Rokinon or Samyang you would be more likely to purchase.

As expected, there are many of you who already knew that these brands were no different from one another (or you researched it before voting). The lenses are completely identical only with different branding. If any tests were done that showed one lens performed any better than the others, we can chalk that up to there just being inconsistencies in the lenses, as this does tend to happen even among the higher end brands.

Samyang wants to sell lenses, and to do that they are testing which of their brands has better staying power. Let's be honest: a good chunk of us had no idea these brands were different. There is no shame in that, so those of you who happened to know, there is no need to act like a smarty pants. Samyang doesn't hide that their brands are one in the same, but they don't broadcast it either. All three brands have starkly different websites.


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So let's look at the results from our poll:

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The results generally follow sales numbers for the three brands, with Rokinon and Samyang pulling a majority of the public purchases. Bower is suffering when compared to Samyang and Rokinon, with sales numbers significantly lower. I won't give exact numbers, but after speaking with dealers it's clear Bower isn't a strong seller in the United States. The name just isn't catching on.

This is notable to me, as it appears Bower was the original target for the United States market. Of the three, Bower's website is the one that has the most North American-centric branding. Rokinon's is not bad, but the effort that went into Bower is clear.

Now it's all an assumption that Bower was to be their United States brand, but based on the layout and design of their three sites as well as the URLs, I find it hard to come to any other conclusion. If I am incorrect, the choice in web design is baffling. If I am correct, Samyang must be at a loss, trying to figure out why the time and effort they took to rebrand their lenses for the US market went unheeded.

My guess? History and perception. Bower's is just vague and very short while Rokinon and especially Samyang actually go into some detail with regards to their past. History gives the perception of strength and staying power. This is the best description of Bower's past I could find:



The main reason many of you selected Rokinon as the lens you would buy of the three was likely price, and rightly so. The Rokinon was $20 less than the other two, and as an educated buyer you probably knew that the quality was the same. So why pay more? But even outside of price, Bower is failing in the branding effort. What American consumers are saying is that Samyang should just have stuck with their original name. They would be just as successful and would have saved a heap of money that was spent on the Bower marketing effort.

So what is the point of this discussion? Nothing more other than the subject is interesting, and information to those of you who didn't know these three lenses are one in the same. It is not unusual for one brand to try different strategies and brands in different markets, but it's very rare to see one company try three different brands simultaneously in one market selling the same product. It's rare because it's expensive to run three different brands against each other. They have three times the inventory to try and maintain amongst their dealers and three times the cost for web development. I would be surprised if Samyang continued their tri-marketing strategy for much more than a year. My guess would be that unless Bower starts to perform better and pull its own weight, they will retire the brand and focus on those that sell, or at least try different "flavors" among the three brands. If they continue on their current path, they are competing against themselves and there are few brands (Starbucks is among those few) who can headhunt their own customers successfully.

One last note in regards to pricing which played a large roll in many of your votes: the more people who know that these three brands are the same, the more likely customers will buy based only on price. No companies in our industry wants to be selected based on price alone, as it makes them a forgettable commodity; that is not a sustainable position for companies in this industry. Based on the polling results here, Samyang should be careful about where they are falling in the perception of their target market.

Jaron Schneider's picture

Jaron Schneider is an Fstoppers Contributor and an internationally published writer and cinematographer from San Francisco, California. His clients include Maurice Lacroix, HD Supply, SmugMug, the USAF Thunderbirds and a host of industry professionals.

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Feels like you got owned by your last post, and need to defend yourself haha. 

From what I know, they are marketed/sold in different regions. I think Vivitar is one of their brands as well, not sure. All I know is that here in Sweden, they only sell as Samyang. In America, it's mostly Rokinon (hence the poll result). And in Asia, I'm guessing Bower is more usual. Some American stores might import lenses, or sell through 3rd party stores - so they offer all the different brands.


Was always my intent to write this piece as a follow up to my original. I wanted to get a sense as to how people felt about the brands before discussing Bower's poor acceptance by consumers. 

And yes, Vivitar is also owned by Samyang. 

But think whatever you like about this article. I just personally find the situation interesting.

 Vivitar is owned by Sakar, not Samyang.

They use a few glass manufacturers to make their lenses. Samyang has made at least one of their lenses. But you're right, my word "owned" is incorrect. 

But at the same time, very correct within my sentence ;)

One of the reasons I would go with Rokinon is that they offer lenses with the focus confirm chip for Nikon. You get the manual focus with the assurance of the camera sensor.

I think all of the brands uses the AF chip. I can't see why they would add it to some and not others. It depends on the lens (focal length). I know the 85mm does, and I think the 35mm as well.

Oh, and it's controlled by the AF system, not the sensor. Only works with higher end cameras.

The Vivitar version is also available  at B&H, although it appears they're phasing them out. My hunch is that Samyang was simply trying to establish themselves in the American market, where they can be discriminated upon for being Korean. So they came in through third-party discount brands that are more commonly known. There is enough knowledge of their products in the US now that they may feel confident enough to sell under their own name and be respected for what they make. I think from here on in you may be seeing only the Samyang brand name. We'll see.

They also have the brand Walimex which apparently they use within Europe since it's based in Germany - . In fact, Amazon UK and DE have these lenses in stock.

I've also found them under 'Bell & Howell' Ian old Cine name IIRC

My intuitive explanation is this: Rokinon sounds a lot like a premium photography brand with a long tradition, similar to "Nokton" or "Voigtlander" (the characteristic "i" and "o" sounds and a consonant like "k" or "t" in the middle) and thus emphasizes quality, which means it should be able to fetch the highest price of the three. Samyang sounds Asian, but not Japanese, and thus triggers expectations of an affordably priced Hong Kong product or even a knockoff with an excellent value for the money. This means it should sell in high quantities based on that expectation, but at a lower price than a Rokinon. Depending on where the mathematical sweet spot is, splitting into two brands may actually make sense to cover both markets with a single product. The same thing is done with food all the time. Same product, different packaging and brand, one more than twice the price. People fall for it all the time.

Bower, despite its similarities to "Bowens", does not sound like a photography brand, or if so, maybe the type of custom brand a photo retailer might put on a cheap studio flash or something like that. At the very least, it doesn't scream quality, but it also doesn't scream low-cost or value-for-money. It also sounds like it is an American brand. Everybody "knows" that good lenses are either made in Germany or Japan, or at least somewhere in Asia. Made in USA photo equipment doesn't have the best image, mostly because there isn't really a well-known tradition of US-based products.

Also note the focus on the home pages. The Rokinon brand emphasizes the lens itself, suggesting that the company is very proud of it and that the craftsmanship and precision deserves showcasing. Bower focuses on an image implied to be taken using their products instead (even though it is clearly a stock photo of course). However, it looks like it focuses on lighting and/or fun, not on a specific optical attribute like sharpness or even artistic value (i.e. they are not suggesting that the best photographers in the world use their products, like Leica does with their spotlights of Magnum photographers and so on). It looks like any old photo company that produces all sorts of photo producs, not a company with a long tradition or a passion for optics.

The Samyang page's imagery and color palette is more focused on an economic aspects with a photo of a building which presumably houses their offices and a picture of business people in suits as well as a generic chemistry lab picture that could really be related to anything. Samyang presents itself as a company that is about money and business relationships, not photography. I don't think it does a good job at selling to end users, maybe more to distributors.

You might want to really research the true ownership of the  three brands. Just because they look like the same len and actually are the same lens, that does not mean they are the same company selling the lens under three brands. It appears thet Samyang is selling the lens to several different companies as OEM and letting them label them as they see fit. You can see the same thing in many other products like flash brackets and triggers ..  With the production capabilities in asia most of the factories have the capability to prodcue more product than one company could sell, so they produce at super high volumes and drive the price down but then have to sell the finished goods to who ever will buy them. The factory only is concerned with production. The branding and marketing and selling is up to who ever buys them. Vivitar doesn't actulaly have any factories. Bower is a name thats been around for a whle and mostly sells rebranded asian sourced products mostly to the mail order photo dealers.  Bell and Howell is the same. their name is "licensed" to an awful lot of import goods now days, even heaters.   Most of the lenses can be found under several brands. So far I've found them sold in the following brands. Rokinon, Vivitar, Samyang, Bower, Bell and Howell, Pro Optic, Polar, Walimex, Falcon,Opteka. Im sure there are a few I havent found yet. In the old days this kind of business practice was no big deal. you went down to the local shop and bought what brands they carried. They usually had the name brands and a few budget brands. One shop sold one lens with a certain brand name and a shop in a differnet  town sold the exact same lens in a different brand. Today with the internet its easy to cross shop and compare and spot this practice ..... but in super reality how many people really do the research. Not as many as you would think. so they can still do this. FWIW Rokinon does stand out a little more than the rest, since they are now selling cinema versions of many of the same lenses with focusing gears and clickless aperture rings.