Some companies are resistant to change, but not AB Electrolux. Instead, the Stockholm-based company has found success by evolving along with the business environment, according to Head of Electrolux Global Brand Licensing Matthew Young.
To the point, in the last few years, Electrolux started focusing on licensing its brands, for selected categories and with the right partners. The brands include Electrolux, Eureka, Frigidaire, Tappan, AEG, Zanussi and Kelvinator. Young says it is searching the United States and Canada for licensing opportunities.
To find partners, Electrolux’s Global Brand Licensing group will appear at several trade shows this year, including the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago in March. Other divisions of the company have hosted booths at the show, but this will be the licensing group’s first appearance there.
Young explains that Electrolux wants to make connections in the housewares segment. “We like to find partners in the adjacent product categories that will complement what we’re trying to do in those specific areas,” he notes.
This new emphasis is a significant departure from Electrolux’s more widely recognized global personality. For many years, Electrolux defined itself as a manufacturer. Although manufacturing is still important today, marketing has become its primary focus, Young says. “Marketing and connecting with consumers will drive the future growth of the company,” he predicts.
Electrolux, founded in 1919, specializes in appliance products and foodservice and laundry equipment. Young, as noted, is the head of global brand licensing for Electrolux’s Global Brand Licensing group, which has employees in Stockholm and Charlotte, N.C.
Currently, the group offers more than 50 corporate brands and has a presence in 75 countries. In addition, it has nearly 100 current brand partners and more than 110 contracts.
Despite its long history, Electrolux did not establish its global licensing program until 2007, Young says. “We had been doing some intermittently prior to that,” he says, “and much of it was commercially very successful. However, it had never been coordinated.”
That changed in 2007 when the company realized the value it had in its brands and made them more available for certain businesses and individuals. “Our brands have incredible built-in equity,” Young notes.
That is why, when Electrolux decided to look for global partners, it sought only those that understood branding and treated its brands as if they were their own. “We made sure we avoided traders – people that sold products by the pound,” Young recalls.
It also wanted firms that shared the same business philosophies as Electrolux, including honesty, integrity and product quality. “[They needed to be] adept to deliver high-performance products to the marketplace with service to back that up,” he says.
This new emphasis on licensing, therefore, is what brings Electrolux to the Housewares Show in Chicago in March with a “new” identity. The company, which previously exhibited as Eureka, is now listed as Electrolux Global Brand Licensing, since it is, in fact, an entirely different business unit.
“We are exhibiting solely as Global Brand Licensing,” Young is quick to point out. “And we are actually quite unique at the show. This is an exhibition devoted to products, but we add a new dimension. Our brands are our products, and they are designed to provide a critical level of trust and consumer acceptance. Sort of business accelerators.”
Therefore, booth L13050 will be manned entirely by Young’s team of licensing professionals. Unlike its parent company with more than 50,000 employees worldwide, Licensing has fewer than a dozen on its staff, but Young is extremely proud of what they have been able to accomplish.
The members of the Global Brand Licensing team must have the ability to multitask, Young notes. “We [need] flexibility,” he says, as well as an ability to do business in multiple cultures. He and his small staff have proven especially adept at creating a global network of licensees and Young points out that the business has grown every year since 2007, reaching its current retail value of licensee revenue of $3 billion.
Young now sees a strong future for Electrolux. In addition to the division’s current projects, an improving U.S. economy suggests more licensing opportunities lie ahead.
“Our brands provide an avenue for faster growth for select businesses and individuals who have the right mix of solid business integrity and high quality products,” he says. “We’re now bringing these brands to the U.S. with a more concentrated strategy. Hence, our appearance at Housewares.”
Also on Electrolux’s 2013 itinerary are the Las Vegas Licensing Expo and the Hannover Messe technology fair in Germany. Young notes that this will be the licensing group’s fourth year at the licensing show and its second at Hannover.