Service
Business growth
Design associate
Neil Gridley
Design agency
Kin
Location
Brandhouse

A strategic rebrand heightened this British LED-maker’s credibility in the market and provided the platform for growth they were seeking. 

Challenge

Orluna is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of LED lighting. Following a management buyout in 2010, it streamlined its product range to focus on a range of small aperture LED downlights. Based in Watford, Orluna designs, manufactures and supplies LED downlights mainly for lifestyle uses such as in hotels, restaurants and high-end domestic interiors.

In the period following the buyout, Orluna became well known and respected by its discerning target market of lighting designers, an audience with a strong design ethic. However, the management team was eager to ensure the look of its products reflected their quality and technical design.

“We are a business run by engineers with little experience in branding and design. But we knew the look of our LED downlights could be improved, so asked Design Council for help with what we expected to be a product design project,” explained Orluna's Managing Director, Andrew Kilborn.

“We weren’t sure what to expect. But what we soon learned was how intrinsic to product, service, customer journey and profitability a strong brand can be.”

What we did

Design Council assigned one of its network of Design Associates, Neil Gridley, to work closely with Kilborn and his team to interrogate the business’s vision and ambition and to uncover the business value that could be gained from a design-led approach.

An important issue quickly became apparent, said Gridley: “Orluna was growing its market share because it was positioning its products as a higher-quality, lower-cost alternative. But in a marketplace where competition is growing, especially from lower-cost manufacturers in the far east, this was not a sustainable long-term proposition,” he explained. “Moving forward, they needed to position themselves as part of the premium league.”

Opportunities were identified to make Orluna’s product range stronger and more coherent, and to strengthen its branding.

“We knew the three top things making us competitive were - and still are - branding, customer acquisition and products; though brand, of course, cuts across all three,” Kilborn observed. “What we didn’t know was how best to strengthen our branding and brand positioning, and that’s where Neil came into his own.”

Branding extends beyond a brand identity or logo. What Gridley helped embed within Orluna was an understanding and appreciation of the impact a brand has on every aspect of a business.

“Brand is more than a logo, visual style and a website – it encompasses the whole customer experience and as such is a strategic business decision because communication makes you different and shows what you do better than everyone else,” Gridley noted.

Gridley introduced Kilborn and his team to external branding design specialists, following which the strategic brand consultancy Kin was appointed. Kin explored Orluna’s market, researched its customers, defined what made them different then developed a new brand message and brand identity.

What the business has ended up with is an easier story to tell.

Neil Gridley, Design Associate, Design Council

“The solution was to position Orluna as ‘expertly focused’ on LED downlights – a line that became part of the new brand identity,” Kin founder and brand strategist Fiona Myles explained. “The new identity’s use of the ‘O’ of Orluna in 3D shows the effects of light in 3D, with tonal colour giving a luminous effect that stands out from competitors’ heavy dependence on black and white.”

Orluna launched its new branding in summer 2013. Since the Design Council project ended, Orluna has continued to work with Kin, which has run workshops to engage new staff in the brand and what it stands for, evaluated the rebrand’s impact, and will soon be involved in creating new marketing materials for a forthcoming product launch.

While the business’s old branding was more consumer-facing and its design not sophisticated enough for the designers it targeted, its new branding looked more professional, with architectural imagery more prominent online. Gridley said: “What the business has ended up with is an easier story to tell.”

Results

Since work on the strategic rebranding got underway in 2012, Orluna has exceeded both sales and gross margin performance targets to move from major player in its segment to market leader.

“Branding is an area in which we had a complete lack of skill, but it was also one which we knew was essential to build margin and company value over the medium term. The new branding improved our credibility and helped us double sales over the first year following its launch,” Kilborn explained.

Looking back, the greatest value came from how our Design Associate and Kin lit the fire and sparked our collective imagination.

Andrew Kilborn, Managing Director, Orluna

“It’s like a wind behind us now, and it has made us look both bigger and more professional.”

Above all, however, Kilborn says he was most impressed by the culture change within his business brought about by support from Design Council. “Looking back, the greatest value came from how our Design Associate and Kin lit the fire and sparked our collective imagination,” he said.

“The experience made us see that across all aspects of our business – including sales margin, customer loyalty and financial success – brand is of paramount importance.” 

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