Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Chemours Co. has revamped a licensee programme designed to strengthen its Viton brand in the marketplace and get its rubber product maker customers to make the material their primary fluoroelastomer.
The “Made With Viton” licensee programme is replacing the former “Genuine Viton Program,” which Chemours officials said had been neglected under its former owner DuPont. Chemours was split off from DuPont into a separate publicly traded company 1 July, 2015.
“We're trying to build on the brand being the original fluoroelastomer,” said Eric von Brockdorff, a regional Viton product manager for the Wilmington, Del.-based Chemours. “We want to make sure we keep that strong in the industry.”
Jen-Marc Imbert, global product manager for Viton, said the past program “kind of faded away,” and that Chemours was revamping it. “Those kinds of things you need to spend a little bit of time on to make sure everyone still understands it and works properly with the brands,” he said.
Imbert and von Brockdorff talked about the licensee program during the ACS Rubber Division Rubber Expo in Pittsburgh, the week before holding a webinar Oct. 18 to reveal details to existing customers that participated in the Genuine Viton Program.
“(Licensees) will get guidance on how to use the brand and make sure it's properly represented in everything they do,” Imbert said. “The other part of the equation is whenever we get requests for parts or compounds, then we would preferably send those requests to someone who is a licensee of this programme.”
Von Brockdorff said on the webinar the programme is a way for Chemours' customers to differentiate themselves through committing to use of the Viton brand. “It is a very powerful brand in the industry,” he said, “and we're more determined than ever to protect the integrity of the brand,”
He said the program includes an official seal that incorporates the new Viton logo, which is aligned to match up with the Chemours' logo. “We want to protect the brand from misuse/misrepresentation in the marketplace, and we believe the structure of the new programme will allow us to do that more effectively,” von Brockdorff said. “The official seal is a sign of pedigree and reliability for both Chemours and our partners in the supply chain.”
Viton has been identified as one of the seven critical brands within Chemours, he said, because of the “significant brand equity and name recognition that the brand has in the marketplace.”
Being associated with Viton will provide confidence among the licensees and their customers that a part is being made with Viton, and not another FKM or blend, according to von Brockdorff.
The licensee programme will be offered only to direct customers of Chemours or its authorised distributors, or tier 2 customers to Chemours. “If it went any further down the supply chain, we could not feasibly confirm the material flow, and therefore properly protect the brand and the program,” he said.
For direct customers, the criteria states that at least half of their FKM purchases must be of Chemours fluoroelastomers, von Brockdorff said. If a firm buys less than 50%, Chemours is open to working with the customer to boost its purchases to that level within a year.
Tier 2 customers must provide a certified letter from the direct customer of Chemours that they are purchasing the Viton product specified.
Once approved, Chemours will provide the seal in electronic and sticker form for the licensees to use in marketing the brand and program on its site, as well as on the finished goods.
Parts marked as “Made with Viton” must be made of 100% virgin Viton.
“It's a way to make sure the brand is properly used on everything they do on the Internet and other documentations and publications,” Imbert said. “It's true that a lot of people call Viton what is actually another FKM. There is a little bit of brand policing that needs to happen.”
Von Brockdorff said the referrals that will be passed onto licensees generally come from the Chemours website. He added that interest has been strong since the rollout, with 27 customers already signed up with more in the process.
The Chemours official wouldn't reveal a goal on how many customers it wants to get on board as licensees, but that it was important to make sure that all different industries and product types are represented. Viton, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2017, is specified for fuel systems seals and hoses, O-rings and gaskets. Top end-use markets include automotive, aerospace, chemical process industry, oil and gas, and heavy vehicles.
The Genuine Viton Program expires 30 Nov. Licensee agreements in the new program are valid for two years, after which participants need to re-apply.
Chemours trending up
Imbert said sales for Viton are trending up after more than a full year with Chemours as a stand-alone entity, adding that the company is performing solidly overall.
Through nine months of 2016, Chemours posted net income of $237 million, compared with a $4 million loss in the comparable period last year. Sales dropped 6.8 percent to $4.08 billion.
While the company doesn't break out Viton sales, it is part of the fluoroproducts unit, which saw revenues dip 1.2 percent overall to just shy of $1.7 billion for the nine-month period.
The company's stock hit a low of $3.06 a share in January but had rebounded to $23.24 as of 21 Nov.
“I think we've made a lot of progress from a transformation standpoint and all the work that is going on in reorganising the company,” Imbert said.
Von Brockdorff said face-to-face interaction with customers has helped explain these efforts to them as Chemours moves forward.
Benjamin Messmore, technology manager for industrial resins, said the Viton team has been listening closely to customers to try to re-engage with them in various areas of business.
“One area we hear a lot about is the low-temperature requirements that FKMs are looking to meet over the next couple of years,” he said. “So we've had a very active programme in that area.”
Imbert said that trends driving development under the hood that will benefit Viton are those looking for hotter operating environments and the use of more aggressive chemicals.
Another big application for FKMs is the internal layer of the turbocharger hose, so Chemours is looking on developing more products for that area. “The turbocharger hose is something that really is driving consumption of FKM in the automotive industry,” he said.
Imbert also said the firm's Chemours Chenguang Fluoromaterials (Shanghai) Co. Ltd joint venture in China is going well. The partnership with Zhonghao Chenguang Chemical Research Institute Ltd. introduced three gums and three compounds a year ago, and he said the overall quality and consistency of those lines have been improved.
While the auto industry in China hasn't been as strong as expected, the sector is still showing a 6% increase, which Imbert called healthy growth.