North America Business Head Jens Boy Hones Lens Maker’s Brand Identity

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Jens Boy, president of Carl Zeiss Vision, North America, at the Zeiss exhibit at Vision Expo East this past spring.
SAN DIEGO—In the two years since Jens Boy took over as president of Carl Zeiss Vision, North America, he has pursued a clear strategy to differentiate the company from its competitors in the spectacle lens market. That strategy, as communicated by Zeiss’ trade ads and marketing materials, presents the company as a partner for its eyecare professional and optical retail customers rather than a competitor to them.

Technology has always been the German company’s strong suit, and Zeiss continues to tout its advanced spectacle lens designs, coatings and diagnostic instruments. But under Boy’s guidance, Zeiss is also concentrating on strengthening its marketing capabilities.

That focus is most evident in the company’s efforts to promote its widely recognized and respected brand to its customers, and more recently, to consumers. Boy points to two recent lens launches, EnergizeMe and DriveSafe, as examples of how Zeiss combines technical innovation with clever branding and product positioning to create practical products with wide consumer appeal.

Zeiss EnergizeMe is designed specifically for vision needs of contact lens wearers, many of whom keep their lenses in for extended periods which causes them to experience eye strain and fatigue. EnergizeMe lenses combine a new Zeiss lens design with its DuraVision BlueProtect coating to provide comfort and protection from digital eye strain and blue light.

Zeiss DriveSafe lenses are the product of extensive research into the visual challenges of driving. The lens maker worked with a leading headlight manufacturer to determine the best coating to reduce glare from modern headlights, resulting in DuraVision DriveSafe AR coating. The lenses also feature Zeiss Luminance Design technology, a new lens calculation technology based on pupil size in low-light conditions that results in clearer, more natural vision at twilight and on cloudy days.

“Every winter, more than 1.3 million people search the internet for topics like night driving and driving in the rain,” said Boy. “This suggests that many people are experiencing problems in these situations and are actively seeking a solution. Zeiss DriveSafe makes it easy for ECPs to address this significant patient need.”

Along with providing independent ECPs with Zeiss lenses and instruments, the company offers them the Zeiss Practice Advantage, which provides exclusive education programs, access to established industry consultants, special pricing in marketing and business solutions, lens demonstration tools and special pricing for optical and ophthalmic equipment.

For ECPs who want to create an entire Zeiss-branded practice, the company offers the “Zeiss Experience,” a program that provides practices with displays and furniture featuring the company’s logo and trademark blue and white colors.

To help independent ECPs project their own identity, Zeiss created a series of special events called “Crafting Success.” The events, which were co-produced with Professional Eye Care Associates of America (PECAA) and featured content produced by Review of Optometric Business, consisted of microbrewery tours in a dozen different markets. ECPs who attended learned about the parallels between a craft brewery and an independent eyecare practice, which both represent an exclusive brand and provide individualized products and services.

“This is a unique way to bring our passion and innovation to our partners in the field,” Boy remarked.

Boy’s management approach is informed by his deep experience in sales, customer service and business development in the U.S., where the German-born executive has spent most of his professional life. After earning an MBA from Duke University, Boy started his career in 1994 at Drager Medical, where he held various domestic and international roles in marketing, product management and business development.

From 2004 on, he served at Teleflex Medical as vice president of global marketing and was appointed vice president and general manager of its surgical division in 2006. He led Teleflex’s cardiac care division from 2007 to 2008 and joined Zimmer Dental as vice president of global sales in the same year. In August, 2015, Boy joined Zeiss in his present role.

This interview is drawn from my two conversations with Boy, one during Vision Expo East in April and another by phone in June. It has been edited for length.

—Andrew Karp

Jens Boy, second from left, celebrated the premiere of the documentary “Sight: The Story of Vision,” at Vision Expo West last fall, along with (l to r) Luxottica’s Fabrizio Uguzzoni; Sight fi lmmaker and producer Kris Koenig; Zeiss’ Veneeta Eason, Steve Mitrakos and Claude Labeeuw. Zeiss and Luxottica were leading sponsors of the fi lm.
Vision Monday: When your customers think of the Zeiss brand, what characteristics do you want them to think about?

Jens Boy: We want them to focus on the passion and the innovation, and being a good partner. I strongly believe these things come through in our interactions with our customers, and in their interactions with the patient/consumer.

VM: What’s the awareness level of the Zeiss brand in the U.S.? Is it as high as it is in Europe or other international markets?

Boy: We’ve done some studies recently, and it depends on geography. A lot of people have had experience with Zeiss products, camera lenses, binoculars, rifle scopes, even the movie theaters. We are making a significant difference with our social media activities. The brand is becoming much more powerful than it was in the past. I believe in the lens area we are the only true brand out there. There are other product names, but they are not true brands. The history and innovation of the Zeiss brand is unsurpassed in this industry.

VM: Zeiss has a reputation for technical excellence. But what about the human element? Where does that come in, and how do you communicate it?

Boy: That comes through in the innovation we bring to the market. Look at DriveSafe, and now EnergizeMe. We are the only company that has created two different market segments. They’re very technical, but to communicate to patients it doesn’t have to be overly technical. That’s why we call it DriveSafe. We’re getting away from the old product names, which were more technical sounding. It’s a big shift in how we position our product portfolio.

VM: What role does the Zeiss lab network play in the delivery of products like DriveSafe? How do you leverage the power of the lab to bring these products to market?

Boy: I want to make sure the clear focus that we have as an organization is communicated to our customer. The brand, the passion, the values of those products and the overall emotion we’re bringing to those practices. So the lab is a supporting element, but it’s not as much in the forefront as others in the industry may believe.

We are already performing at the same level as our competitors in terms of service. But I don’t believe that’s the differentiating factor for us. We focus on what’s unique about our brand.

VM: Is Zeiss still branding eyecare practices?

Jens Boy is positioning Zeiss to be a better partner for its customers. “We don’t want to compete with them,” he said.
Boy: Yes, we call that the Zeiss Experience. Organizationally, we’re trying to make this more of a portfolio and a selection. Depending on the practice, you can buy into the whole concept where you can brand the whole practice as a Zeiss Experience store. Or if you only have three feet or six feet of space, we’re using smaller modules that tell a unique story either about our lens technology—it could be about specific segments of the portfolio, such as DriveSafe or EnergizeMe, so that a practice can benefit from the Zeiss experience but doesn’t have to rebrand the whole store.

VM: How does Zeiss Vision work with Zeiss Meditec, the medical side of the company?

Boy: From a technology, development, research space, they are obviously very different from our core lens division, so it’s natural that the entities are separate because you have demands and requirements that are very different. Where it comes together is in the practice in front of our customers and partners. Our sales teams execute in the field, they talk a lot, they share leads, contacts, and as needed we structure packages and special offerings to make sure we deliver the best value to our customers, and that happens every day.

VM: What are three things on your to-do list for next few months?

Boy: To make sure we have the best people in the industry on our team. We’re continuing to expand our sales organization and our operational side, as well as on the marketing and product management side. We’re looking to bring in people with the same energy and passion as our leadership team.

In terms of the Zeiss brand, we’re focusing on carrying our brand message to the marketplace. On the operational side, the basics of the business, we will drive to further develop our speed, service and the quality of the product. We want to stretch ourselves to deliver a better experience for our customers. It’s all about being a better partner for our customers. We are unique and different. We don’t want to compete with them.

VM: You’ve recently put some veteran Zeiss executives in new roles and brought some new talent onboard. What’s the thinking behind these moves?

Boy: I wanted to have a stronger focus on our ECP customer base, so I asked Jon Goldberg, our vice president of business development, to put together a team of executives who would look at ways they could use their business experience and acumen to gain additional market share and help ECPs grow their businesses.

One member of that team is Claude Labeeuw, a 25-year Carl Zeiss Vision veteran, who we appointed vice president in charge of key ECP customers and strategic initiatives. (For the last eight years, Labeeuw headed the Zeiss marketing team, overseeing the North American launch of numerous lens products. He also led the expansion of the Zeiss lab network.)

Claude has a lot of optical experience and a lot of experience on the equity side. He’s been through many changes during his career at Zeiss, and that’s given him a valuable perspective.

I also saw a need to bring in someone from outside our industry who has had different experiences and who could challenge us to get to a different level. I wanted someone who is very seasoned on a national and global scale. So we hired Andrew Hyncik as vice president of marketing for North America.

What I really like about Andrew is that he has a very broad domestic and international experience in the broader health care industry. I believe our industry benefits from looking in other areas in the medical as well as the consumer space in order to improve the overall experience to our patients.

He has seen a lot of different things in the medical/surgical industry. He’s a true marketeer, and he has a very nice consumer background with online new technology, especially social media. That’s an area we are looking at more closely as we go forward.

I believe that our brand has a very significant, positive resonance in the marketplace that we haven’t explored yet. That’s one of the key areas that Andrew is focusing on with our team. One of his goals is to reach more consumers/patients with the Zeiss brand, and not just use the vision side of our business as we’re reaching out to patients/consumers.

We have the medical side, we have the microscopy area, we have consumer optics, we have an industrial metrology side and we’re in semi-conductors. There are so many powerful stories out there that we want to tell consumers about that really make the essence of the Zeiss brand.

VM: You’ve also had quite a bit of experience in the health care field prior to joining Zeiss, most recently in the dental industry. What have you learned from dental that can be applied to optical?

Boy: I spent almost seven years in the dental space. I think there are many parallels and some significant differences as well. One of the most striking differences in dental is you don’t have a wholesale segment in the same way that optical does. You’re dealing pretty much with, as we define it in optical, the ECP part of the market, independents, oral surgeons, general dentists. Some are hospital-based. That is very similar to optical.

However, the vision space is consolidating much faster. You see a lot more buying groups being acquired and more private equity money is coming in. It’s now starting in the dental space, but not to the degree as it’s been happening in vision.

One of the key elements and changes I saw at the time I was in dental was how the office changed to become more digitized and more patient-driven in terms of the service side of the business—improved data flow inside the office translated into convenience.

For example, if you had a crown you needed a restoration that was maybe a two- or three-day visit. Now with the technology that’s available, you go to your dentist’s office and have a digital impression and the crown is made right in the dental office. The whole process has huge advantages for the patient and for the provider. The patient gets his or her service immediately in one visit, and the provider is invoicing the patient right there so it improves your financial situation significantly and you don’t have the risk that the patient doesn’t come back.

So the use of technology and digitizing the dental office is something we can learn from on the vision side where there are certain inefficiencies in the way we dispense products and the way we interact with patients. That’s one of the key things we’re looking at as an organization, how we can improve the overall experience.

For example, we can use diagnostic equipment and tie it into a patient-specific solution. You can ultimately have more patient-specific data available for a particular patient and show him or her how their eyesight develops over time. I think we have a great opportunity with this.