Volume 39, Issue 1, January 2004


Coming Clean

What’s in a name? Communications experts say that your name is everything. That’s why the current trend to name companies with artificially-developed words that mean nothing is so interesting to me. Advanstar, Allegis and Amgen are all examples of synthetic names developed in a lab that are in use today and I’m just in the A’s. This phenomenon fascinates me for some reason. I marveled when our friends in the auto glass industry merged two well-named companies, Globe Glass & Mirror and Windshields America and called the new company Vistar. It’s a nice-sounding name and it sure had a pretty logo, but Vistar could just as soon have been a travel agency or a record label as a glass company. Maybe that’s all right on the New York Stock Exchange, but it’s pretty dangerous when you’re selling products directly to consumers.

Anyway, it’s been approximately two and a half years since the first “self-cleaning” glass was introduced. “Self-cleaning” is the moniker that developer Pilkington gave to the glass. Since then PPG and Guardian have introduced their own versions and AFG has dabbled with one of its own. Following the old “he who is first gets naming rights” adage, the term “self-cleaning” stuck and has been used to identify the product category since.

The problem inherent with this is that none of the glasses are truly “self-cleaning.” Each of the manufacturers will tell you this. The glasses require minimal effort to clean, but you have to do something (apply water, etc.) to get it clean. It doesn’t just magically shed dirt and remain clean without some type of human intervention. Guardian even goes so far as to resist the “self-cleaning” label, calling its glass “low-maintenance.” 

I’ve been to many presentations about “self-cleaning” glass, and each has started out the same way: with the presenter explaining what the glass doesn’t do. “It’s not really self-cleaning in a conventional sense,” said the last speaker I heard. Now I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t like to sell a consumer a product when the first thing I had to do was explain how the product doesn’t do exactly what its name says it does. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think the product is a good, value-added one; I just think we need to change two things about the way it’s being sold to consumers:

1. The term “self-cleaning” has to go. Whether “low-maintenance,” “minimal- maintenance” or even “wash-and-go,” a new term that more accurately reflects the properties of this glass must be developed. Effective with the next issue, USGlass will change how we refer to this product category. Suggestions on the term to use are most welcome. Please feel free to e-mail your thoughts to me at deb@glass.com.

2. Some standards for measuring “clean-ability” need to be set. Each different product comes clean, if you will, in its own way. Just as we have energy ratings we understand, the industry should come together to create a way of rating the cleaning properties of these glasses. Some common method of comparison should be developed. The manufacturers should come together now in a pro-active way to identify these parameters and develop meaningful ways for users to identify their characteristics.

I know we all want this category of glass to grow and prosper. But I don’t think any of us want the term “self-cleaning” to mean as much (or as little) to the consumer as Advanstar or Allegis.


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