In 2008, the concept of buying eyeglasses online was still just that – a concept. Neil Blumenthal, Dave Gilboa, Andy Hunt and Jeff Raider had the audacity to question (1) why eyeglasses were so expensive and (2) why they weren’t sold online.
They decided to create a digital business – Warby Parker – to challenge eyeglass industry giant Luxottica and to introduce a new strategy for buying glasses: the ability to have high-quality frames delivered to your door at a low price.
About Warby Parker
After learning that their GQ interview scheduled for the March issue was actually going to hit newsstands mid-February, the Warby Parker founders rushed to launch their website ahead of schedule. Within 48 hours of the website going live and the founders were in shock: they had a 20,000 customer long waitlist.
It just so happened that the four friends had addressed a problem that many consumers faced with brand values that consumers liked. Warby offered eyeglasses that cost $95, that you could try on, at home, free of shipping costs. Not only that, but the company would donate one pair of eyeglasses for each pair that sold. Warby Parker hit their annual sales goals in their first three weeks.
Today, Warby Parker is a massive success. In 2015, the company was valued at $1.2 billion. Even though the company is a digitally native brand that began with a web-only model, the brand now has many brick-and-mortar stores in New York City and other major cities around the U.S. and Canada.
What can brands old and new learn from Warby Parker’s explosive success?
Focus on Core Values
Warby Parker was founded on the belief that a company should be able to serve more than their customers and shareholders. Inspired by TOMs shoes, Warby Parker made a commitment to donate one pair of eyeglasses for every pair sold. They would donate their glasses to VisionSpring, a non-profit that trains low-income entrepreneurs to sell the glasses for affordable prices within their local communities. This has a greater impact than a simple donation – it helps boost the local economy and create jobs.
It’s no secret that millennials are extremely socially-conscious. They’re also looking to buy from brands that are authentic and that have distinct core values.
Build a Lifestyle, not Just a Product
Forming an effective digital branding strategy involves more than just designing an attractive product. It’s about creating a desirable lifestyle.
Warby Parker recognizes this each and every day, as evidenced by their content marketing strategy. Their blog is an engaging and colorful platform that shows what the people behind the brand “read, write, see, make and do.”
From book suggestions to restaurant recommendations to summaries of the best Warby Parker-themed user-generated content, they execute informed digital brand management by generating a comprehensive feel of the lifestyle of their average customer. Falling in love with Warby Parker’s frames comes second – falling in love with its culture, socially-conscious, well-traveled customer base comes first.
Innovation Pays Off
Warby Parker is tangible proof that innovation is a key ingredient to every successful digital brand strategy. The company didn’t just make it possible to buy eyeglasses online. They also created the home try-on phenomenon: customers pick five frames they like and Warby Parker ships it postage-free. This novel take on online shopping is Warby Parker’s defining characteristic. Originality and creativity are now a part of their brand image.
People Are at the Center
Warby Parker operates with a focus on the customer. They created the campaign #warbyparkerhometryon to encourage customers to share their five frame options on social media and get friendly feedback from family and friends. This encourages connection and makes others want to join in.
Warby Parker’s annual reports give the numbers on the company’s progress, but they also tell the stories of the people behind the company. By humanizing themselves and the brand name, they’re placing their employees (in addition to their customers) at the center of their brand marketing.
Partnerships Are Important
Who brands partner with matters – it shows customers what the brand considers relevant and important. Warby Parker teamed up with DonorsChoose.org, a platform that connects citizens and teachers who need funds for their classrooms. Warby Parker committed to matching every dollar raised for poverty-stricken middle schools in New York City, enabling eye care professionals to visit the classrooms and administer eye exams to the students.
These partnerships display brand intentions and purposeful partnerships are powerful statements that contribute to branding. In marketing to modern consumers, it’s important to sell customers on the “why” behind the brand.
Have Some Fun!
Warby Parker sounds studious and hipster. After all, their name comes from two characters out of a Jack Kerouac journal. But when you’re humanizing a brand, you have to show how you have fun too.
They created the #warbysnowman campaign, including a snowman-making kit with all of their gift card purchases. They planned a mobile showcase event in a repurposed school bus. In honor of one of the most popular misspellings of their name, they created “Warby Barker” where yes, you can buy glasses for your dog
What Does the Future Look Like for Your Brand?
Whether you’re a start-up or a traditional, established company trying to break out of the mold, it’s time to put a unique spin on your digital marketing. Branding begins with creativity but grows when you have the right tools to use as a guide. Let the Pixlee Platform help – from managing social contests to displaying user-generated content on your website, use Pixlee’s resources to boost your brand appeal.