First, you pull off a PR stunt at almost $0 and stole the show at New York Fashion week. Then you kick off your launch with a bang, with features in GQ and Vogue. Next you sell out of your first product line in just a few hours. What’s next? You vision is blurred and you never want to wake up from that wild dream. Now what if I say to you that it’s not a dream?
Let me tell you about a technology-based lifestyle brand that has inspired many to celebrate their inner nerd rebellion.
In a nutshell
Founded by Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa, and Jeffrey Raider in 2010, Warby Parker provides better vision for less. The company offers eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.
As a student, David left his glasses on the airplane. The cost of getting a new pair was so high that he refused to replace them. But eventually caved after a few months of squinting and complaining.
David did some digging around, only to learn that LensCrafters and Pearle Vision, Ray-Ban and Oakley, and the licenses for Chanel and Prada prescription frames and sunglasses all fell under one grand company by the name of the Luxottica Group. “All of a sudden, it made sense to me why glasses were so expensive,” he said.
Glasses are too expensive because the industry is dominated by a single company that has been able to ensure prices stayed artificially high. With barely any market competition and limited options, it’s no wonder complaints around price on unpleasant try-on experiences are not quite often.
The big idea
David brought together his friends to change that. Disrupting a monopolistic company with well over 70% of the market share. Crazy right?
“If you break it down, it’s about bypassing the middlemen who would mark up the prices. Even if we were to transfer the cost directly to consumers, we can still save them money,” Neil states.With this in mind, Warby Parker disrupted the traditional model by designing glasses in-house and selling direct-to-consumer. To top it all off, they also positioned their brand as being “tastefully rebellious”; offering customers a fun and easy try-on experience, along with high quality, great-looking prescription eyewear at a mighty competitive price.
But wait, there’s more! The founders felt strongly that everyone should have the right to see so they partner with non-profits like VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone who lacks access to glasses.
Corporate do-gooderism, check.
Disrupting an industry, check.
Great product design, check.
Affordable prices, check.
What do all these great components have in common? They all play a part in building the extraordinary brand that has successfully revolutionized the eyewear industry and that is here to stay.
What Warby Parker taught us about branding
One of the company’s first venture capitalist highlighted that “Dave and Neil are more disciplined about brand than any other entrepreneurs I’ve ever invested in.” It has definitely paid off in the long run.
It’s not fair
Business is an unfair game. The best product does not always win. The best marketing does. Entrepreneurs often underestimate the importance of brand. But keep in mind, in order distinguish yourself from the other brands in your industry and stay competitive, it is important to have a distinct definition of who you are and what you stand for.
Your brand is your voice in the marketplace and your proposition for value. It’s all of your touch points with customers, employees and stakeholders. It’s an opportunity to leave a lasting impact. Warby Parker has carefully crafted a persona. If fact, Neil has been called out for reading (and rereading) every written word that his company puts out into the world, even to this date. It comes to show how beneficial a strong brand is for the company.
Put your employees at the heart of what you do.
You’ve probably told to put customers at the heart of your business. But have you thought about how your brand is brought to life before the eyes of your customers? And when things go bad (which they do), who will be at the forefront tacking customer complaints head on? Who is ultimately the face of your brand? It’s your employees.
The team at Warby Parker puts their staff at the forefront; believing strongly that staff are their #1 brand ambassadors. “We spend a lot of time and effort making sure that we’re hiring super-friendly, curious, engaged people at Warby Parker,” said Neil. “Our interview process is designed to assess whether somebody shares our core values. If you select the right people up front, that’s half the battle.”
Growing your brand world-wide
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” – Peter Drucker. Warby Parker makes educated, data-driven brand decisions quickly. Mass campaign wins rarely happens overnight. They take lot of meticulous planning and fine tuning from past learnings. “Trial on a small scale. If it fails, it fails quietly. If it succeeds, it helps shape a path forward for brand growth.” Is Warby Parker’s take on growing their brand on a global scale.
Attitude of care
Warby Parker has built its brand to build relationships. It allows them to build meaningful relationships because it’s a brand that cares. It cares about the world, it cares about its people and it cares about its customers. To date, they’ve distributed over two million pairs of glasses to people in need, and they’re not planning to slow down any time soon!
Warby Parker has been successful in achieving brand loyalty by meaningfully connecting with their customers beyond the product level, and starting a movement they truly believed in.
In sum, smart branding is strategic. It involves a clear promise and a strong impression that is distinct and relevant. Have you had a brand experience that has impacted your loyal for better or for worse? I’d love to hear!