Covestro takes ownership of its new name with a new culture

 

When Covestro LLC was announced as the new name for Bayer MaterialScience — after being spun off from the Bayer Group — it wasn’t met with enthusiasm.

Saying the reception was lukewarm would be being positive, says Jerry MacCleary, president of Covestro in North America.

“We had employees who said, ‘Can we do a do-over again and come up with a new name?’” he says.

While people appreciated the colorful logo’s visual impact, MacCleary says their customers and his colleagues, CEOs in the Pittsburgh community, made fun of it. They asked him how to pronounce it and what it had to do with a chemical company.

Covestro manufactures high-tech polymers for plastics, polyurethane foams, codeines, adhesives and specialty applications. Its materials are found in mattresses, laptops, running shoes, building and refrigeration insulation, automotive headlamps, car seats and more.

Globally based in Germany, the company’s North American headquarters in Pittsburgh oversees about 3,000 employees in 10 locations in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Own it; evolve it

MacCleary, who has been with the company for 37 years, was celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary in California when he got the call that Bayer AG had decided to spin off its material science division. It was Sept. 17, 2014.

Bayer had successfully spun off pieces of its business in the past, including LANXESS.

“The next day, I had to stand in front of all the people here on Pittsburgh campus,” he says. “We informed them about the spinoff and the opportunities that we see facing us, and maybe some of the challenges (of what) we thought was a great decision. We didn’t want to lose our history, but we had to look forward and at what was best for us.”

Restructuring the organization into a standalone business made many apprehensive. While the division had gone through various names, it had always been a part of Bayer.

Even after the legal split in January 2015, no one knew what the new name would be. The name Covestro was announced in June and the global carve-out was complete by September.

There was a lot of hype around the reveal of the new name and when people first heard it, it felt anti-climactic, says Alice Sox, manager of external communications. Plus, while Covestro built up its organization and hired 50 or 60 people, she says they had to introduce the new culture, the new identity, and get employees to buy in.

“A lot of anxiety set in and then, of course, the question is how can we be successful on our own without Bayer and a big name and the large company behind it?” MacCleary says.

While some got on board early, many people watched and waited. But MacCleary told all the employees: “It is our name and it’s up to us to make that name what we want it to be, what it means to us.”

He also spent time explaining where the name Covestro came from. A large global branding company pulled pieces of the identity already in place: collaboration (CO), invested (VEST) and strong (STRO). Covestro also included a new set of values: curious, courageous and colorful.

“There was a story,” MacCleary says. “So when I start telling the story to a lot of my customers and others they said, ‘OK. OK. I’m getting it now. I just need to get used to this name.’”

Sox was surprised how in just a few weeks after the Covestro announcement, the employees started to embrace the changes.

“There was almost an underdog sort of enthusiasm for the new company,” she says. “It was like, ‘Hey, that’s our name, that’s who we are and we’re going to own it.’ And they did.”