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The Bayer Cross
This huge sign is an unmistakable landmark in the Leverkusen night sky. But the Bayer Cross is much more than just a large advertising sign. As a symbol it is the most important element in the company's image and a seal of quality worldwide for Bayer's services and products.
A technological sensation: the largest illuminated sign in the world
1933 – the first Bayer Cross
Once the 2,200 light bulbs were illuminated, the technological sensation was complete: on February 20, 1933, the first Bayer Cross became operational. It had a diameter of 72 meters, making it the "world's largest illuminated advertisement," as the Bergische Post newspaper declared at the time.
Carl Duisberg, Bayer Management Board Chairman at the time, had this to say at the unveiling ceremony: "Just as the Southern Cross serves as a navigation aid to mariners, this Cross of the West shall illuminate the heart of German industry as a symbol of confidence." Yet the Bayer Cross was to shine for only six years. On the day before World War II broke out, it was shut off to comply with the blackout regulations. It was to be another 20 years before a second Bayer Cross would set new standards.
1958 – the second Bayer Cross
On September 2, 1958 the new Bayer Cross was inaugurated in a different place, as the old one had been dismantled after the war and production facilities constructed in its place. Thus a completely new structure was erected a few hundred meters away.
The new illuminated Bayer Cross is not quite as large as its predecessor. It has a diameter of only 51 meters, instead of 72. The giant framework is supported by two 120-meter-high steel masts. In 1958, its 1,710 bulbs shone with a total power output of 65,000 watts - making the individual letters visible from a distance of five kilometers.
2009 – The Bayer Cross is seen in a new energy-saving light
At the end of 2009 new lamps light up the Bayer Cross: The 1,710 conventional 40-watt light bulbs are taken out of service and replaced by innovative light-emitting diodes (LEDs). This generates energy savings of more than 80 percent to accompany numerous other initiatives under the Bayer Climate Program. The new light-emitting diodes are filled with white oil and are weather-resistant and pollutant-free. A bayonet mount ensures the lights are securely held in the continually swaying cables.
Today the Bayer Cross is still a distinctive landmark on the Leverkusen skyline at night – except for a period in Spring and Fall each year when the lights are switched off between 10 in the evening and 4 in the morning. The reason for this is simple: to allow migratory birds returning from their winter quarters to reach their breeding grounds without being disoriented and put off their course by the light.
The Bayer Cross - and by extension the company as well - is present not just in Germany, but everywhere in the world. For example, as long ago as 1934, Bayer installed a large illuminated cross over the entrance to the Suez Canal. The cross had a diameter of 20 meters. Although this advertising sign is no longer present in Port Said, the idea of anchoring the Bayer Cross in people's consciousness has survived the test of time. Today there are more than 47 large illuminated advertising sites featuring the Bayer logo, including stationary facilities such as sculptures, as well as revolving Bayer Crosses and large-dimension lettering on the outer facades of buildings.
The Treaty of Versailles, which was signed in 1919 by Germany and the Allied powers to end World War I, brought an abrupt end to the successful company's expansion plans. Bayer's foreign assets were seized, along with its patent and trademark rights, which included both the Bayer Cross and Aspirin™, an extremely important product. At the time, the Alien Property Custodian sold the patents of the German chemical industry for only US$ 250,000 - a heavy blow for the Farbenfabriken. This meant that in the United States, the Bayer name no longer belonged to Bayer, but to Sterling Drug. It wasn't until 1994 that Bayer regained the right to use its name and corporate logo in the United States by acquiring the North American non-prescription drug business of Sterling Winthrop. After more than 74 years, however, the price had risen dramatically: Bayer paid $1 billion for the right to use a uniform corporate logo throughout the world.
Our trademark: out with the lion – in with the Cross
The first Bayer trademark depicted a lion with the grid on which Saint Lawrence was martyred. The trademark was based on the coat-of-arms of Elberfeld, Germany, where Bayer was headquartered at the time. Yet the company was expanding, which had to be reflected in the new corporate logo. These relatively simple symbols were no longer sufficient by 1886.
The lion was given a helmet and further details were added. To illustrate the company's globally successful business operations, the next modification followed in 1895: a lion with wings and the symbolic staff of Mercury rose up over the globe. But foreign customers could make no sense of the image. Furthermore, the company's proper name - "Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co." - was unpronounceable for them.
This was partly the reason why a second corporate emblem was added in 1904: the Bayer Cross. This logo was not only legible in every language of the world, but was also recognizable to everyone due to its striking graphic design. In 1929, the Cross was modernized and adapted to the form we know today.
Bayer today – the modern Bayer Cross
An important factor for competitive success is the image that the public and the markets have of Bayer. Good recognition of the Bayer name and a positive image in people's consciousness can often make the difference when a customer makes a purchase decision. The Bayer Cross as a trademark is the most important element of the company's image and acts as a seal of quality for Bayer's products and services worldwide.
The colorful Bayer Cross has been the visual trademark of the Group since 2002. It was last revised in 2010 – fresh, modern colors symbolize the company's innovative strength.