Archive for the 'Niche Audiences' Category

Warby Parker: A Purposeful Vision

August 27, 2013

Warby Parker InterviewMuch like a brand repositioning itself, eyeglasses have a new image—from a functional apparatus that 1980s youth cringed over (à la braces) to a fashionable tool that many are proud to don.

This bodes well for Warby Parker. The burgeoning e-commerce eyewear company takes pride in likewise transforming those of us who vividly remember wandering blindly through school hallways into trendsetters for the “in-crowd” without breaking bank. But Warby Parker offers more than a pretty face. The student-founded start-up acted on a deeper vision and managed to hit its first-year sales goals in just three weeks… on a $120k budget.

For a mere $95 you can purchase “fully loaded,” custom fit glasses with anti-reflective, prescription lenses—which, by the way, are manufactured in the same facility as luxury brands that charge hundreds of dollars for frames alone. But the three-year-old retailer embraces an even greater purpose at its core—donating stylish specs for every pair sold to those who have forgone proper vision because they can’t afford to buy even low-priced eyeglasses.

Similar to what TOMS did for the shoe industry, Warby Parker is shaking up the optics market. Co-founder Neil Blumenthal explains, “[Glasses] stand for something…. So it wasn’t just about getting a bunch of cheap glasses and selling them online.”

When Blumenthal and three of his Wharton classmates heard that one billion people worldwide were without glasses, they risked trips to the Dean’s office to embark on this venture. Blumenthal tells Mike O’Toole, host of PJA Radio’s The Unconventionals, “[We wanted] to build… a business that is scalable, profitable, but does good in the world and doesn’t charge a premium for it…. The problems that we face are more complex and larger than ever before. And volunteering on the weekend is not going to solve it.”

Blumenthal explains that Warby Parker exists in three distinct worlds—fashion, technology and social enterprise. “We spent a lot of time thinking, ‘What are we?’ and ‘What are we not?’ ‘What do we stand for?’”

Warby Parker, the David in a Goliath world, competes with industry brands like Luxottica (Ray Ban, Oakley, Oliver Peoples) and LensCrafters that monopolize the market. But Blumenthal and his cohorts aim to make  their business model an example for small enterprises and Fortune 500 companies alike. “Ultimately businesses can be and should be a catalyst for good,” says Blumenthal.

For many, eyewear is more than utilitarian. It is indeed an extension of the fashion world, a form of personal style and expression. So the founders were challenged with persuading consumers to buy prescription glasses online rather than in-person at a retail establishment where they can immediately try them on.

Warby Parker implemented the “Home Try-On” program. Customers can select up to five different, non-prescriptive frames which are shipped at no cost to their doorsteps. They then have five days to try the frames, solicit feedback from family, friends, and style gurus. After making a selection, customers simply return the frames using a pre-paid shipping label and order their chosen pair through Warby Parker’s website.

Warby Parker Class Trip

The team behind Warby Parker succeeded in building awareness through a well-targeted campaign convincing aspirational media outlets like GQ and Vogue to feature them. After selling out of their top 15 styles in four weeks, Warby Parker accumulated a waitlist of 20,000 people.

Warby Parker has since expanded from operating out of Blumenthal’s apartment to selling frames at their own brick-and-mortar stores. More recently they launched the “Warby Parker Class Trip,” transforming a school bus into a mobile showroom for a cross-country road trip to bring the Warby Parker experience to the masses.

To hear more about how this start-up became one of the most talked about entrepreneurial ventures, listen to Neil Blumenthal’s full interview on PJA’s The Unconventionals.

By ALLIE ABODEELY

Hittin’ the Tracks, Converse-Style

February 12, 2013

Converse Rubber Tracks LogoWhat comes to mind when you hear the brand name “Converse?” You’re likely to think “sneakers,” “Chuck Taylors,” “basketball,” and even “Nike.” But for many, the word “music” isn’t necessarily top-of-mind. The company doesn’t incorporate music into its marketing, so it’s not surprising that it wouldn’t be associated with the brand.

Why, then, would the sneaker company invest in a 5,200 square foot state-of-the-art recording studio, with award-winning engineers, offering recording time to aspiring musicians… free of charge?

In PJA Radio’s recent episode of The Unconventionals, Converse CMO Geoff Cottrill explains, “Most brands borrow equity from a musician… to make their brand look a certain way to a certain demographic… to look cool.” Instead, Converse found greater value in celebrating its consumer rather than celebrating itself.

Converse built Rubber Tracks, the Brooklyn, NY-based studio, to give emerging musicians the opportunity to record their music, no strings attached. “For what it costs to run three to four weeks of heavy TV [advertising] in the U.S., a good heavy campaign one time for a month, we could… run a studio for a number of years.”

If you think the intent is to make bands famous and tying the Converse name to them, it’s not. Cottrill emphasizes that they’re not making empty promises. “We’ve been really focused on making sure we keep our feet on the ground and that we don’t get into the music business because that’s not our business.”

Converse Rubber Tracks Studio

Rubber Tracks Studio
Brooklyn, NY

The team at Converse wanted to become useful to its biggest proponents by helping those who might not otherwise have been able to afford studio time elsewhere. They channeled their focus from creating a marketing message to turning the experience itself into the message. Doing so enabled them to build more meaningful relationships, and life-long memories for its core consumers—creative individuals. Cottrill notes, “The interactions that they have with you are what they carry.”

The return? Brand advocates.

According to Cottrill, Converse’s Facebook page has grown tremendously over the past few years because they haven’t tried to hook and bait people. “Virtually everyone that’s come [into the studio]… is posting on Instagram, on Facebook, talking to their social media network, their fan base, about this great experience that they’ve had,” explains Cottrill. Now at over 34 million fans, Converse never asks anyone to “Like” a page. It simply adds content and value to the conversations. And Fans consistently respond favorably towards the brand. “We couldn’t be any more pleased with the results. Again I go back to the relationships that we’re creating there.”

Interested in hearing more? Listen to George Cottrill’s approach to strengthening relationships with consumers by checking out PJA’s The Unconventionals.

Subscribe on iTunes for more “unconventional” podcasts such as: Relay Rides, Big Ass Fans, IdeaPaint, & Dollar Shave Club.

BY ALLIE ABODEELY

Relevance Over Reach, says GE Digital Chief

February 27, 2012

Many marketers are singularly focused on collecting impressions. Not so for Linda Boff, Executive Director of Global Digital Marketing at GE. In an interview with Fast Company’s 30 Second MBA she explained that brand building is not about getting the most number of eyeballs, but about talking “to people in the most relevant way possible.”

Boff, named BtoB magazine’s “Top Digital Marketer of the Year” for 2011, looks beyond pageviews to measure campaign success. In a co-authored blog post on Harvard Business Review, Boff writes that a more useful metric “would be actively engaging” with a specific subset of relevant potential customers. She explains, “[digital tools] have enabled focusing on smaller, more meaningful segments,” a practice GE calls “micro-relevancy”—content that is delivered to the right audience, not just the biggest.

Boff acknowledges that GE “think[s] really hard about who [they] want to talk to.” This careful consideration of the target, in combination with digital technology, has allowed GE to reach “the right audience with the right offer at exactly the right time.” Something that has far more impact on business results than solely accumulating impressions.

See Linda Boff speak about building relationships with customers at our BRITE ’12 Conference (March 5-6, NYC).

REGISTER NOW!

BY KIM SHIFRIN

Encounters in the Global Experience Economy: Matsuhisa Athens

September 24, 2010

The two blonde hostesses are Greek and well practiced in “Irasshaimase!” I am having a seat at the sushi counter. The sushi chef is Japanese by way of California.

I order an espresso martini. The chef recommends the local sea bass and also the local sea urchin—from Crete, from a special supplier which he personally selected, all natural, without any preservatives, and thus better than the one from Japan. I am asking for both the bass and the urchin as sushi, and also order an eel-and-cucumber roll.

The sushi chef tells me that his daughter just graduated from UC Berkeley. She now lives in LA. He came to Greece two years ago. Not a great time for working at a trendy Japanese restaurant right now. But he says most of the customers are locals, and business is better this year than last.

I am reading excerpts from a new book in German, “Deutschboden.” The section I am reading is about a “Super Kleinstadt,” Oberhavel in Brandenburg, where life still seems local. Where people at the Stammtisch talk about third league soccer and eat Schnitzel and Currywurst.

My main dish tonight is one of those signature “Nobu” dishes: Chilean sea bass with jalapeno sauce. We all know, from the web, that Mr. Matsuhisa grew up in South America where he learned to mix cuisines … I am wondering if this is the endangered species fish for which he got bad press online.

The waitress forgot my water order and when it finally arrives, it is the sushi-chef who comes around the counter to pour me the water. A Japanese way of apologizing, I recognize. He introduces his sous-chef. “Where is he from?”, I ask. “From a special place,” he answers, “Blue Island, Quingdao.” Thus, we converse on Quingdao beer, and Löwenbräu, and Super Dryyyyyyyy.

I am wondering how to finish the meal tonight. Earlier we had talked about how the Japanese drink a lot of coffee. I decide that blueberry and chocolate mochi ice cream may turn out to be a great complement to the espresso martini.

When I exit the restaurant and walk past the bungalows of the resort back to my room, looking up to the trees and the starry night, I feel as if I am in Bali.

BY SCHMITT

This post originally posted by SCHMITT on the MeetSCHMITT blog at: http://meetschmitt.typepad.com

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