Connected Design spent a few minutes in conversation with JC Murphy, Savant president, on the heels of the deal that brought the GE Lighting brand along with its 130-year legacy under the Savant umbrella. Here’s what he told us.
Connected Design: How did this deal come about?
Murphy: GE Lighting, given their iconic legacy and position in lighting, started in earnest about three years ago with a big part of their business transitioning over to intelligent, or smart, lighting. They initially approached us in the spirit of, is there a partnership opportunity – is there a co-marketing opportunity. And those discussions started back in June. As we got to learn about them and what they wanted to do and as we were thinking about our bigger-picture needs – really starting in 2012 with the acquisition of LiteTouch – we got very interested in them from a company perspective. We knew that GE had been moving in a strategic direction to focus on industrial technologies – jet engines, power plants, medical equipment – and moving away from their consumer line. A couple of years ago they had sold off a portion of the commercial part of the lighting business. So we thought it interesting, and thought to do something really strategic, like bringing the whole thing over to become part of Savant. That unfolded, discussions back and forth…. And we were then able to announce it.
Can you talk about GE Lighting’s wellness initiatives, and how you’re going to accommodate them in the Savant family?
Murphy: It’s really exciting. Their patented technology is around UV and in line with a lot of things we’ve been doing from a control perspective with RGBW and tunable white light. That was one of the synergies we identified early on. One thing – we pick up the brand GE Lighting, which we will leave alone; it serves a purpose with the big portion of retail lighting that they already do. When you do a big deal like this, you don’t want to change anything; that’s been a core driver for [Savant Founder and CEO] Bob [Madonna] and me and the team over many years, going back in our history. But the interesting thing is, we both have this passion about the evolution of the smart home and wellness, and GE was early in on that, and then there’s been our work over the last couple of years with USAI.
If you look at what we’ve done with the Savant App and what we’ve done with giving the user the ability to tune white light over the course of the day to match circadian rhythm, there’s natural extensions we can do relative to the UV-specific technology that they have in health through lighting.
What we’re really excited about is we were also able to secure a brand that GE has called GE Smart Home. There’s no product out there underneath that brand in any corner of the globe. We’ll be able to use that GE Smart Home brand to package smart living/healthy living products for the CI channel and for the consumer.
Once GE understood our vision, they got more comfortable that this was going to be a great home for this iconic brand and for the future of what we wanted to do with the brand.
Are all their employees transitioning in to the Savant fold?
Murphy: They will run that standalone operation with those employees… As opposed to us adding additional resources, there’s things that GE Lighting does very well that we’ll take advantage of. Conversely, it’s about taking advantage of a company that has such an awesome track record of cost reduction and also high-volume manufacturing. We’ll have the only LED lighting facility and manufacturing facility in North America. This is going to help us a lot in securing our supply chain for components and product.
Over the years, that type of capability has moved outside the U.S., and that gives us, obviously, a unique advantage.
Can you talk a bit about the brand structure – will GE Lighting be used as a sub brand to leverage the legacy?
Murphy: The early thought we had is that we are going to maintain the GE Lighting brand for that current product offering and maintain the Savant brand for our custom integrated solutions that we deliver on today.
The next step in the process is to figure what technology categories make the most sense to cross-brand… the big work is going to be around the GE Smart Home as a brand and its associated technologies and channels that we’re going to use that for.
When we got to the final stages of the negotiation, GE had to present it to their board. What was great to see was that the board members have Savant systems in their homes! That’s because we’re known as a custom luxury high-end brand.
The everyday person may not know Savant, but they know GE. And that’s what we’re trying to capture: keep the integrity of the Savant brand where it belongs, in high-end luxury, and leverage the power of the GE brand and the GE Smart Home brand more broadly.