4.2.3 SOLA conquers the US market

In 1990 the PPL sales from SOLA , AO, Younger Optics, Univis ,Vision Ease/Orcolite, Signet Armorlite and others represented about 60% of the US market, where Sola had the biggest share [3].

Dick Kapash (middle) and Sir Antony Pilkington (right)

There are 3 primary reasons for SOLA’s outstanding success

         # The very good performance of the VIP lens (and later XL)

         # VIP was regarded as a reliable lens which could be trusted by ECP’s

         # Innovative Marketing Techniques developed by SOLA USA

For the wearer the VIP design was distinguished by large viewing zones for near, far and intermediate vision and a generally good adaptation. Together with the high manufacturing consistency from lens to lens VIP was very reliable creating a high level of confidence for the prescriber.

After its launch in 1985 the market share of VIP was increasing strongly. In 1987 SOLA introduced the XL progressive lens – softer than the Graduate/VIP lens, and it too enjoyed commercial success. The introduction of the mid index material Spectralite reinforced SOLA’s position as challenger. In 1991 and 1994 VIP Gold and XL Gold were introduced in the thinner and lighter Spectralite material.

The success of SOLA during this period is also due to the innovative marketing campaign set up by Bernie Freiwald and supported by Mark Mattison- Shupnick. In the USA where comparative advertising is permitted Freiwald’s marketing concept was going ‘head to head’ with competitors. In these advertisements Sola systematically used contour plots showing that the optical characteristics of VIP and XL lenses and their consistency were superior to Varilux 2 and Super No Line (distributed by Silor Inc., Essilor’s second US subsidiary). Contour plots are relatively easy to measure and to interpret, because they describe primarily the physical properties of the lens. So this way was a clever strategy to attack the Essilor lenses, which were developed according to physiological criteria, not so easy to demonstrate by a technical measurement device.

Sola advertising comparing VIP with Varilux and Super NoLine using contour plots

So in the middle of the nineties Sola by its innovative product range, well adapted to the US market, its growth of sales per year of nearly 15 % and its excellent profitability was a real threat to the leader Essilor on the US market.