Brands We Like: Warby Parker
Not many fashion styles have caught on as quickly as glasses have in the last few years.
It’s become urban chic — a sign of both style and sophistication — to don a pair of eyeglasses, with bigger is better often being the rule of thumb. Some fashionistas have even gone so far as to wear fake glasses — with either no lenses or plain-glass lenses — for the look. (I’m looking at you, hipsters).
Either, way, glasses are in favor and online retailer Warby Parker has played a big role in re-positioning eyewear from a necessary evil to a full-blown fashion statement.
A big part of their success has been the brand that they’ve cultivated among the young and hip urban crowd. Their initial draw was clear: They sold nice glasses for cheap ($99, in many cases) and let you order up to 5 test pairs online that would be shipped to you for free, and then you could return the ones you didn’t want. It took away much of the trepidation about ordering prescription glasses online.
They disrupted the market with their model. But, their brand transformed what was a novel service into an organization with a cult following of loyal devotees.
As with all great brands, Warby Parker homed in on their precise audience. They cultivated a unique identity that their customers could absorb. It became not only respected and fiscally smart to wear WP’s specs, but also an identifier. Those who were hip enough to know about the service wore the glasses as a signal of their digital-savvy.
Young professionals, creatives, and digital natives of all types rallied around a smart, affordable service that firmly disrupted the brick-and-mortar outfits that millennials had been previously forced to endure for their vision needs. This added a slightly defiant and innovative tone to the brand persona — why didn’t anyone think of this before? seemed to be the thought running through everyone’s minds.
Extending the brand, Warby Parker built layers of story into everything they do. From quirky odes to monocles to inside looks at the culture and design process of their products, the brand has come something that feels fully transparent and almost crowd-sourced. In reality, it’s just a smart company meeting a pent-up market demand for easier access to stylish eyewear.
What does music have to do with glasses? On the surface, nothing. But, it has everything to do with glasses when your core audience is defined by the music they choose. That’s why, in a smart brand extension, Warby Parker has worked with notable artists and outfits to produce curated music selections (strategically produced on vinyl) that not only appeal to their target market, but affirm their own identity as the eyewear choice of young, hip, and savvy urbanites.
In this single action, you can see how WP has moved well beyond a company selling a product and into the realm of super brands — the kind of brands that have burrowed their way deep into our sense of self. Warby Parker has created a brand that is as valuable as Starbucks or Apple in the prescription eyewear market.