Warby Parker has achieved explosive growth since its founding, and that’s not by accident. As co-founder David Gilboa told Inc. Magazine, “Today, all the rage seems to be lean start-up methodology, where you launch as quickly as possible and see what works and iterate. We took a very deliberate approach instead. We spent about a year and a half from when we came up with the idea to when we launched, and a huge part of that was building a brand we could believe in.”
The company explored roughly 2,000 names before settling on Warby Parker, which combined two names from Jack Kerouac’s journals. As Gilboa and fellow co-founder Neil Blumenthal told Fast Company Magazine, “We tested it with about 1,500 of our friends. We asked them, ‘Warby Parker: Do you have a negative, neutral, or positive reaction to it?’ It was overwhelmingly positive. And a good segment actually said, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of it, but I can’t remember how.’ The fact that it resonated with people sort of built in credibility.”
Warby Parker is proof positive that applying a maniacal focus to your branding can help you achieve amazing business results. In fact, with the right branding strategy, a company can launch successfully, grow rapidly and even disrupt an industry. Warby Parker is an example of a renegade that’s out to show the world that you can treat customers, employees and society differently, and come out a winner.
Here are key lessons that you can apply to your business from the highly effective branding of the trailblazing eyewear manufacturer.
Create Compelling Stories
You want to give people a reason to talk about your brand. Warby Parker’s founding was a David vs. Goliath story that many found highly compelling. One of the founders had lost a pair of $700 glasses, and thought it was ridiculous that a pair of glasses had to cost the same amount as an iPhone. He was a student at the time and couldn’t afford to purchase another pair, so he went around squinting his entire first semester of grad school.
The eyewear industry was controlled by a vertically-integrated powerhouse, Luxottica, and prices to the end-user were inflated. Many commonplace items like contact lenses and shoes were successfully sold online direct to the consumer, so the Warby Parker founders thought why couldn’t glasses, as well?
Whether the $95 price point, or the #warbyhometryon program or the school bus tour around the country, Warby Parker is continually giving you more reasons to tell your friends and family about them. Today, more than 50% of the company’s website traffic is driven by word-of-mouth. As Blumenthal explains, these are the best types of people to attract as customers, as those introduced to the brand by a referral have a higher lifetime value than other types of customers.
Define a Structured Brand Hierarchy
Tim Riley, responsible for user experience (UX) at Warby Parker, explains their brand hierarchy as:
- Lifestyle Brand
- Offering Value and Service
- With a Social Mission
Although the social mission is a fun and important aspect of the company that energizes staff, they realized that you need a strong base of sales in order to be more successful as a social enterprise. So they focused like crazy on creating a lifestyle brand that people would love and on offering as much value to customers as possible, before applying their attention more broadly.
Engage in Enjoyable Rebellion
Like other branding phenoms like Virgin and Salesforce, Warby Parker has been rebellious in a fun way. In 2011, Warby Parker couldn’t afford to participate in NY Fashion Week, so instead they created a “hush mob” the day prior to the start of the week. What they did was invite a number of fashion editors to a secret event at the public library. They had roughly 30 models getting ready at the hotel next door, and then they walked into one of the reading rooms and started reading from a number of bright blue books. The editors went nuts. (Library security went nuts, too, but couldn’t do anything, because it was just a bunch of people reading books.)
Every editor that was there wrote about the event. Warby Parker hijacked NY Fashion Week by using a free reading room at the public library and stealing the show. Brilliant!
Warby Parker is committed to continually piquing your curiosity. Blumenthal believes that this is critical for generating more press, more word-of-mouth and more growth.
For example, the company launched Warby Barker for dogs as an April Fool’s joke. The site attracted 2.5X the traffic of its regular site.
When prospective customers started asking questions to the brand via Twitter, the Warby Parker team started responding with one-to-one video answers. The company has now published more than 2,000 such videos.
The Warby Parker brand at its core looks at the eyewear industry with, well, no pun intended, but a fresh pair of eyes. Everything about the brand questions the “industry-standard” way of doing things.
For example, going direct to consumers online was a major disruption to the typical in-person purchase process. They introduced a try-at-home program, where prospective customers can receive five frames to try on at no cost, something simply unheard of in the industry at the time.
When Warby Parker opened physical stores, they did so by imagining the best possible store experience. They did not scope out the competition, as they felt the existing in-store eyewear experience was tired and outdated. This enabled them to create aesthetically beautiful spaces, and to reimagine the integration of technology underlying each store, so that the in-store experience could be as seamless and fulfilling as the online experience.
Doing good for society is a core value of Warby Parker. Blumenthal states that they felt compelled to focus on helping others just as much as helping shareholders. With this, they built the business model around the foundation of buy a pair, give a pair – donating a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold. The company reports that 703 million people around the world are without the means to purchase eyewear. This prevents them from reading, learning and achieving all that they could otherwise – a pair of eyeglasses can increase a person’s monthly income by 20%. By donating a pair for every pair sold, it would be a win for the consumer, a win for society and the world, and a win for the company. To date, the company has donated more than a million pairs of glasses to those in need.
Become Addicted to Customer AND Employee Satisfaction
From the start Warby Parker has obsessed about customer service and customer satisfaction. The company constantly monitors its Net Promoter Score. The consulting firm Bain & Company and Satmetrix created the Net Promoter System as a way of labeling customers based on the question: “How likely is it you would recommend us to a friend?” Warby Parker’s NPS has been consistently in the high eighties and low nineties, which is higher than even high-scoring companies such as Apple and Costco.
Creating an environment where employees can thrive is just as important as satisfying customers is to the brand. The culture is all about helping people to learn. It was with this in mind that the company knocked down all the internal walls, aiming for more cross-pollination of departments, projects and ideas. Instituting monthly informal reviews and coaching for the executive team also came out of the desire to create a learning environment. In addition, the company solicits anonymous questions that are then answered at full team meetings to further align all team members.
If you want a rockstar brand, then you need to spend the time, energy and resources creating a rockstar brand. There are no shortcuts. As Warby Parker demonstrates, the more that you can create compelling stories, pique people’s interest and treat people well – and doing all of this with a zealous enthusiasm – the more powerful your branding can be.
Photo Source: WarbyParker.com