While remaining tied to its historical sector, that of temperature control, Fantini Cosmi has always had a broader vision, moving on the market towards complementary sectors and scenarios such as comfort, well-being, health, and environmental sustainability. And this always without forgetting the importance of technological development and innovation. Thus, Fantini Cosmi’s “first 90 years” became part of the history of Italian industry. Angelo Brambilla, the company’s President, retraces these years in this interview, starting from the company’s maturity during the economic boom of the 1980s.
Verticalisation and specialisation
The market at that time was very different, especially in terms of how the company was run, from production to direct response marketing. As Angelo Brambilla tells it:
“In the 1980s all companies were very verticalised, we did everything in-house. There were more than 300 of us at that time. At Fantini we used to print catalogues, price lists, advertising: we had two printing presses and a graphics department that designed content and graphics, but also printed and shipped all the necessary printed material.”
“We used to have a tool shop in the company where 12 people worked,” Angelo Brambilla continues. “Today, companies of our size use specialised external tool shops for the production of moulds and tools. Inside we could find tool-making machinery, and in these too we saw an evolution: from normal milling machines to numerically controlled machines to EDM machines, which cut metal by means of wire. For overseas shipments, wooden crates were compulsory, so we also had the carpentry shop to produce them in-house’.
The temperature control market in the early 1970s was very diverse. The programmable thermostat did not yet exist and Fantini Cosmi was very much present on the market of direct supplies to installers and industry, or B2B as we would say now, and less widely among distributors and retailers of electrical equipment.
Years of changes, even tumultuous ones
The early 1980s were prosperous years, then came the years with galloping inflation. So galloping was it that it was not possible to keep up with printing new price lists to keep up with the price increases that were going up every month.
Angelo Brambilla continues his story: “Those were, however, also the years of the birth of electronics that changed our lives. Our first electronic programmable thermostat, Intellitherm C21, dates back to 1985. This was thanks to the commercial division, which managed to convince the company that electronics was something to focus on. My father-in-law, the founder and head of the company, was rather sceptical about electronics, because he was unfamiliar with it and found it hard to relate to this novelty. At the time, he thought that the advancement of electronic products was just a passing fad or that the time was not ripe to commit to it.”
The birth of the first electronic programmable thermostat in Italy
At the same time, the company tried more traditional avenues, such as the production of an electromechanical programmable thermostat: a box containing two mechanical thermostats and a timer to shift regulation between the two. In this way, one set the temperature for the day and the other for the night. It was not a great success, sales were not exciting.
“One of our technicians, with a passion for electronics, suggested introducing it into the product. There was scepticism on the part of both production and management. Eventually, however, we convinced the technical-production side to make a limited series. We produced 2,000 units, but orders for 10,000 arrived immediately. It was the first programmable thermostat in Italy: everyone realised it could be successful! Fantini bet on something that was not yet there, with many fears and starting production in a cautious way, but it was a winning choice.”
Fantini Cosmi’s first electronic programmable thermostat, Intellitherm C21
The product was then re-industrialised for mass production with enormous success, causing a radical change in both the technical-production side of the business and the commercial side. It was in fact the first real product suitable for distribution. From that moment on, the distributor took on a fundamental importance, which grew over time.
The market’s response to innovation
Fantini Cosmi, which until then had spoken directly to industrial customers through technical offices, designers and purchasing departments, then began to address the general public, to tell them about the existence of a product that could simplify people’s lives.
“At that time,” Angelo explains, “we had a marketing consultant who had had experience in large multinationals and had worked in the mineral water sector, hence the general public. He convinced us to use “the means of mass promotion”’. Thus, advertisements in newspapers, in particular in the Gazzetta dello Sport, which covered the installers’ segment, and advertising on television channels such as Telemontecarlo, now La7. Thanks to this strategy, we opened ourselves up to the general public.”
What was then the evolution of Fantini Cosmi? How did you become a reference company in the ventilation market?
We will reveal it in the second part of this interview in the next article!