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