The large, orange eVent booths at both Outdoor Retailer and OutDoor Friedrichshafen are no more. GE Energy is doing away with the brand name, eVent -- at least as a marketed brand for the company. As a result, it will not be at any summer trade shows this year.
Glenn Crowther, operating with a new title of GE Performance Fabrics global product line leader for consumer and professional, told SNEWS® that yes, the company is going to pull back on marketing, but it is going to amplify investment in developing innovation.
"It used to be all about marketing the eVent brand and trying to grow the eVent brand at the consumer level," Crowther told us. "As we have looked closely at the business over the last seven months, it has become very apparent that we are not going to win a marketing battle with our biggest competitor, and kudos to them.
"In talking to many of our customers and, just as importantly, many potential customers we are not currently doing business with, we heard repeatedly that in their product lines, they had Gore at the top and then their house brands filling in beneath that, and more often than not, they simply could not find room for eVent," Crowther told us.
The solution that the GE Performance Fabrics team arrived at was to become the best B2B supplier possible and abandon eVent as a brand that GE had to market. In addition, GE will put a laser focus on fabric technology innovation that goes way beyond, we were told, anything eVent, or any other fabric company, currently offers.
"This is not going to be about our brand, ever. It is going to be about our customers' brands," said Crowther. "We are going to provide fabric technologies that will excite product designers and developers with new and frankly very cool innovation."
As for the eVent name, Crowther says it is not going away at all. "If one of our customers believes they can sell more garments by putting an eVent name on the jacket, then they will be able to do that."
REI for one is not abandoning the eVent name at all. "We are very comfortable with the eVent technology and continuing down the path we have been on, and we are already introducing a much broader offering of eVent outerwear," Lee Fromson, REI vice president of gear and apparel, told SNEWS. "I am also very excited about GE's direction and promise to compete with innovation."
The relatively new 23,000-square-foot Shanghai, China, plant that GE opened to "support a growing demand for eVent fabrics" back in 2007 will continue to operate, we were told, now turning out ePTFE products for the GE Performance Fabrics customers to brand themselves, as well as some of the other fabric technologies in development right now.
SNEWS® View: eVent has been climbing a steep mountain to garner acceptance ever since its 2002 launch. While there was hope and expectation that GE Energy, when it acquired the eVent brand as part of its BHA acquisition in 2004 (click here to read), would inject sufficient marketing dollars to allow the brand to compete against the likes of Gore-Tex, that never panned out. Numerous brands, including the folks at eVent before and during the GE ownership, have long lamented to SNEWS, off the record of course, that Gore supplier contracts made it very difficult for anyone to compete. And most also admit, on the record, that trying to go head-to-head with Gore in a marketing battle is a no-win proposition -- Gore is just too well-oiled a marketing machine. So, we suppose it is inevitable that GE Energy would decide it would be far better to take a page from the playbooks of companies such as Toray, which produce raw materials its customers can brand themselves. That then allows the company formally known as eVent to sell head-to-head with Gore, but not have to compete with it on a marketing basis or, be told a company can't use eVent because a supplier contract with Gore prohibits it. And, perhaps most importantly, by not trying to be a marketing company too, GE can focus its energy and dollars on developing new technologies that take its fabric offerings well outside of the sphere of influence of Gore, and that is good for the company and good for the industry.