"So popular in Italy"

Arexons has been active on the market for car care and multi-purpose lubricants since 1925. CEO Domenico Ciaglia explains how the expanding traditional brand is led

This is the extended version of the interview with Domenico Ciaglia published in DIY International 4/2017
In which countries are Arexons products (end consumer product range) sold?
Domenico Ciaglia: Arexons has a long and reputable history that goes back to its establishment in 1925. Over the years, Arexons had focused its attention on capturing the full value of the Italian market (the domestic market), and has grown to become Italy's leading car care and MPP (multi-purpose product/lubricant) company. Because of this effort, export sales never received the full attention deserved, to help position the company and its products adequately internationally. With this said, over the past year, with the support of our shareholder PETRONAS/PLI, Arexons has embarked on an international growth program aimed at bringing its value proposition and high-quality brands and products to customers in many countries across the world; such internationalization strategy in the DIY environment is also underpinned by our recent direct participation, also as main sponsor of the event, at the recent Global DIY Summit held in Berlin in May 2017. Internationally, Arexons products are currently available in over 40 countries in different continents such as: Italy, France, Spain, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, UK, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Malaysia, South Africa and more.
Which are the most important countries - besides Italy - for Arexons?
Europe comes first for Arexons; this is because of the proximity to the markets in this area (with our HQ and plant being near Milan, Italy), as well as the common cultural ties and consumer habits within the region. Also, the major DIY retailers and stores are, more and more, operating on a regional basis; as such, we have started to look at Europe as a single market, albeit with its own unique local peculiarities and specificities as all customers in the regional have similar basic requirements but also specific needs to their local environments. Besides Europe, we are dedicating great attention also to Turkey, the Middle East, South East Asia and North America.
How important are DIY stores as a distribution channel for the Arexons brand?
The DIY consumers and professionals have always been central to Arexons, since the beginning in 1925. Arexons was also a pioneer with its high quality - high performance Svitol multi-purpose lubricants launched in 1938 - years and decades before most of its peers worldwide. The DIY store as a distribution channel is critical for our products because it provides the service proximity and service (the last mile) which is important to the professional and consumer in every local market. We see the DIY distribution channel as our partner in not only extending to the final customer our full offering, but as an opportunity to provide with and through them our expert advice and support. We have registered that the DIY channel is growing and that this is because it has made efforts to go beyond just supplying products; concrete efforts have been made to provide additional services, support and advice to customers - professionals and consumers. All this makes this channel absolutely strategic and aligned with Arexons' proposition.
Why do you underline the aspect that Arexons is an Italian company?
We believe that technical and professional consumer products can also be cool and have design elements to make them more attractive. As such, we strive to have not only the best performing products, but also the appealing products - in terms of design which also have ergonomic or functional features. The elements of design on the packaging or labels, are distinctive of our Italian heritage and DNA. An example of this is our Svitol multi-purpose lubricant products with our exclusively patented Made in Italy Pininfarina smart cap, which incorporates design elements and functionality to offer a unique experience to the everyday user.
What about the consumers' brand awareness of the Arexons and the Svitol brand? And in Italy? In other countries?
Arexons brand awareness in Italy is extremely high and it is underscored by the leading market share position this company and its products have within this market. Here, independent research shows a spontaneous awareness level for Arexons brand at about 35 per cent (while the closest competitor barely exceeds ten per cent) and aided awareness well over 80 per. Always within Italy, Svitol is so well known that over the years, it has become synonymous of the product category itself. Generally in Italy, when someone is looking for a MPP (multi-purpose product/lubricant) they ask for Svitol. This is testimony to the quality products, service and people who have made these brands and products so popular in Italy. On the other hand, Arexons and Svitol are relatively new brands with low awareness outside Italy. This is because of the limited international distribution built up to today. But, things are changing as we are building distribution for Arexons and Svitol products internationally and this represents an opportunity for us and for our partner DIY retailers and stores who are introducing and listing our products; as they can offer their customers our top quality and design products that have been proven by decades of durable and reliable performance.
Are Arexons products exclusively produced in Italy?
Arexons and Svitol products are manufactured at our Cernusco sul Naviglio plant (near Milan, Italy), where we are proud to use 100 per cent energy from certified renewable energy sources; of this, 30 per cent is produced internally by our very own photovoltaic system which is placed over the rooftops of our plant, offices and parking area.
What do you know about the typical user of Arexons products?
The Arexons users are either passionate DIYers or casuals users who seek top quality products which are easy to understand and use to maintain or care for their valued asset. Such customers are looking for products of the highest quality, they appreciate the value that over 92 years of proven track record guarantee to a product they may buy off a shelf or via web. Ultimately, they are and will be our best brand builders and brand ambassadors as we grow the business also internationally. In terms of our offering, Arexons has a very extensive range of products for use by DIYers, hobbyists, consumers and professionals for various applications such as: automotive, DIY - home improvement as well as for industrial applications.
What do male customers associate with the Arexons brand/brands? And what about female customers?
At Arexons, we put great importance and attention to quality, performance, reliability as well as design and comfort. We believe that all these qualities are important to all customers alike, anywhere. We strongly believe that both Arexons and Svitol products incorporate elements which are attractive and distinctive to males and females alike. More importantly, the Arexons and Svitol communication, traditional and digital, addresses the needs, requirements and expectations of both males and females. In fact our messaging and offers have increased significantly towards the female customers and prospects, as we respect and appreciate the fact that this customer group is becoming more active in designing, visualizing and driving projects or just taking care of the day to day issues in the DIY / home improvements space.
Which marketing tools do you use to deepen the brand awareness? And which are the most successful marketing tools?
We try to be very active with digital marketing activities, whether they be tutorials on our sites or on the web in general, or with product information or practical product use demonstrations which may also create an interest in the activities connected with our products use, and may lead to other sales opportunities also within the DIY stores / channel. In Italy just last year, we launched a dedicated APP with the "The Experts" service, where we offer expert support not only to professionals and to our direct customers, but also to the final consumer. With a single "touch of the finger" anyone can receive pre-, in-use or post purchase advice on the best products (selection, application / use, maintenance afterwards) for car care or DIY applications, based on the project at hand or the problem to be solved; the App then also provides options for purchasing our products via physical stores with a store locator or via online purchase options. "The Experts" App and service is currently available in Italy and will be rolled out across Europe starting in 2018.
Are there POS solutions or other marketing activities exclusively designed for the DIY retail?
"The Experts" service is available via APP, but also via our websites and in store, via toll free number to support DIYers make the best selection while planning a project or at the time of purchase. This is an important tool and service to our partners who are not always able to provide technical advice/ support to customers with dedicated personnel in stores. In addition, we believe that it is important to give our products the right visibility in store. For this reason, we regularly develop POS materials specific for the DIY retailers and based on their specific needs. As an example, we have recently created a set of totems that explain the main features of some of our products, and adapted our displays, in order to have the best product exposure also in smaller DIY stores - in proximity of all customers.
Which are your best selling products?
Our best selling products and brand are: the Arexons Car Care offering in particular the interior and exterior cleaners, the Arexons Fuel Additives, and our MPPs (multi-purpose lubricants) Svitol, Svitol Easy, Svitol Professional and recent addition 6in1.
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