Posts Tagged ‘content’

Warby Parker: Oversharing as a Business Strategy

April 2, 2014

Neil Blumenthal and his business partners – David Gilboa, Andrew Hunt, and Jeffrey Raider – believed the eyewear industry wasn’t responding to customer needs and found an innovative solution to meet those needs. Blumenthal, who recently spoke at the BRITE ’14 conference, explained, “[We] didn’t like the process of buying glasses. . . [or] that glasses cost as much as an iPhone.” As a result, they founded Warby Parker, a company with “a lofty objective: to create boutique-quality, classically crafted eyewear at a revolutionary price point.”

Warby Parker effectively disrupted the eyewear industry in two ways: First, by using a direct, e-commerce model -cutting out the middle man- and by building a new brand –thus not having to pay licensing fees-, they significantly lowered the price of stylish eyewear; their frames, with premium lenses included, start at $95, that’s 25% of the market price. And second, by creating their “home try-on program,” sending customers, free of charge, a test package of frames they select to try on at home before they commit to buy. As a spin-off benefit, the home try-on experience is a shared customer experience, inherently accessible to family, friends, and even co-workers. The program, then, turned in to a marketing tool itself.

Blumenthal described Warby Parker as a lifestyle brand that offers value and service with a social mission at its core. With every pair of glasses purchased, Warby Parker gives a pair of glasses to someone in need. “Even at $95, there are still about a billion people in the planet that don’t have access to glasses and we think that that’s just crazy,” he said. At the end of each month, the Warby Parker team tally up the number of glasses sold and makes a financial contribution to Vision Spring; an organization that uses glasses to create jobs, making a more sustainable impact. In terms of their own business, Blumenthal believes that having a social mission helps increase customer loyalty and referrals, but does not drive the decision of making the first purchase.

According to Blumenthal, what has helped build strong relationships with customers and ultimately increase sales is a culture of transparency. “The more vulnerable we are, the more that we put ourselves out there, the deeper those relationships and the more valuable they become from an economic standpoint,” he added. In just four years, Warby Parker has sold over 500,000 frames and has grown from an apartment-based startup in Philadelphia, to a 350-employee business with a flagship store in SoHo.

“The public and your customers [are] participating more and near dictating what your brand is…you need to give people the tools to have it the way you want them to have it,” Blumenthal explained. Warby Parker focuses on creating experiences that are meant to spark conversations both online and offline. “It’s all about customer experience and constant innovation.”

When asked about a seemingly counter-intuitive expansion into the realm of brick-and-mortar stores – Warby Parker now has stores in New York, LA, and Boston, and has showrooms within boutiques in five additional states- Blumenthal explained, “[The] medium doesn’t matter. It’s the experience that matters and we need to design those experiences [holistically] from the moment they hear about the brand.”

Sharing is a fundamental element of the Warby Parker strategy – internally with staff and externally with consumers. As the majority of Warby Parker employees are millennials who want instant feedback on their performance, the leadership team has instituted monthly informal reviews and quarterly 360° reviews.

Moreover, as Ross Crooks explains in Forbes, “Business is becoming increasingly personal…; we crave more personal connection in a web-based world.” Customers want to relate to the people behind the brands they support, they want to know “that employees are people they might hang out with.” The Warby Parker team constantly keeps their fans abreast of “what [Warby Parker is] doing, how and why”, which, Blumenthal says “pays in spades.” According to a recent Mintel study, millennials are more likely to overshare than their Baby Boomer parents.

Warby Parker’s annual report is a perfect example of how the company creatively engages stakeholders. The uniWarby Parker 2013 Annual Reportque feeling of its annual report has proved to be a successful marketing tool, leading to the highest sales days and traffic after releasing it each year and gaining free publicity for the brand; with fans sharing the report in social media, and getting mentions in press outlets such as Forbes, AdAge, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Business Insider. This year’s infographic annual report is laid out as an illustrated calendar with an update for each day of the year, is described by Business Insider as “a shareable page of organized chaos inspired by internet culture.” One tidbit of transparency it shares in this year’s report is the fact that half the inventory of their new collection was delivered to the wrong address.

In today’s world, Blumenthal said, “brands are able to rise faster than ever before, but they’re also able to collapse faster than ever before.” Warby Parker has found that the best way to maintain momentum is by strengthening its connections with its customers through the sharing of relevant, personal, and entertaining content and the creation of experiences, regardless of the platform.

Watch Neil Blumenthal’s BRITE ’14 talk to learn more about how Warby Parker incorporates innovation into customer experience.


What You Don’t Know About One-Night Stands

May 10, 2013

Content MarketingIf you’re reading this, clearly I’ve caught your attention. I’m sorry to say this isn’t an article about one-night stands.

At some point in recent years, many of us have likely clicked on what we thought would be an interesting article only to discover that it was a paid advertisement in editorial guise. Content marketing is not a new concept, but it’s becoming an increasingly popular strategy for media companies and brands to team up on new ways to drive revenue. According to Pew Research Center, sponsored content increased by 56% in 2011 and is still on the rise.

Edelman’s Chief Content Officer Steve Rubel stresses that sponsored “content is no longer optional. It’s imperative.” At BRITE ’13 Rubel explains, “It’s hard now to amass large audiences the way you used to. And that means money problems for everyone.” He notes, however, that “out of economic disruption come great opportunities.” Rubel says that display advertising has become less lucrative in recent years, and can even drive down CPM. Content marketing, on the other hand, is a fraction of the cost with the potential for greater results.


Consider Wine Enthusiast magazine. Sure it’s a media company, but it’s also a brand. By incorporating custom content, Wine Enthusiast successfully increased site traffic by 154% and boosted monthly email opt-ins by 50%. Director of Internet Marketing Erika Strum tells MarketingSherpa:

We put time into creating… content that helps people either make a buying decision or entertains them. Even if they aren’t making that purchase in the moment, we feel that they will come back to us as a… source of information.

Rubel has identified three ways that brands are partnering with media companies—syndication, integration, and co-creation. These partnerships borrow from traditional marketing models like paid media and product placement, but they now overlap with owned and earned media as an additional driver of revenue.

  • Syndication: Rubel describes this method as “advertorial reinvented.” Sometimes the sponsor scripts the content, sometimes the publisher assumes this role, and sometimes they work together to design content.
  • Integration: Similar to syndication, integration stems from product placement. But rather than placing a product within eyeline (think Wayne’s World) the brand becomes part of the narrative (think Mad Men).
  • Co-creation: The primary difference with co-creation is that the sponsor provides the funding, but the media company takes responsibility for the content. Rubel likens this to a sports stadium. Gillette bought the naming rights to the home stadium of the New England Patriots, but Kraft Sports Group, which owns and operates the venue, is responsible for the action on the field. Okay, okay, “action” may not be what non-New Englanders would call it. But you get the point.

Google Inbound Marketing Agency

While many media companies have embraced sponsored content, some are still resistant. Google for one refers to this as “commerce journalism” and explicitly states on its website:

Stick to the news–we mean it! Google News is not a marketing service…. [If] we find non-news content mixed with news content, we may exclude your entire publication from Google News.

As with anything, there are associated risks. It can offer control of content, data and measurement, and opportunities for innovation. But there is the potential for backlash. You may recall this past January The Atlantic issued an apology for posting a content piece from the Church of Scientology. Readers complained that it resembled a traditional editorial, not clearly identifying that it was a sponsored article. “We screwed up,” were the words of The Atlantic‘s media relations team.


Rubel emphasizes, though, that sponsored content isn’t going away, at least not any time soon. He advises businesses to adapt to this marketing model. “You have to put a content engine inside your company. If it’s not there already, you have to think about how to get it in there.”

What do you think?

Watch Rubel’s BRITE ’13 talk to learn more about the benefits, and the risks, of these new media-brand relationships.


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