Warby Parker

“Boys will make passes at girls who wear glasses.”
My mom, 1987

Tortise Shell Eye Glasses
Hugh Eyeglasses

I began wearing glasses at 18 years old, back in 1987.  More specifically, I went into bifocals as a freshman in college.  My options were limited and very, very expensive. Given the cost, I defaulted to the cheapest frame in the store. I struggled to reconcile the reality that my glasses were my most used accessory in my life — they were the first thing I put on in the morning and the last thing I took off at night — and yet they failed to match my style and personality.  I lived in fear of breaking them or losing them, both from the immediate loss of vision and the extraordinary cost of replacing them.

While I didn’t know the phrase then, I longed for the day when someone would disrupt the industry. And then someone did.

Artifacts from the early hipster period

Around 2011, I began hearing about this new company, Warby Parker.  A friend’s husband was one of those early adopters every company wants.  He posted on Facebook about his journey to Warby-Parker, we saw him order, we saw him try on the glasses, we saw them arrive.  He celebrated his new look with links to the Warby Parker website.  Very soon after, his family and friends were all doing the same.  I watched the viral social media marketing in real-time and recognized that this company was doing a few things differently.  They relied on users to amplify their brand and in turn took advantage of and shaped the birth of social media for business.   More specifically, had Warby Parker gone the traditional route, they would never have attracted my friend. He was the type of person who needed to be an early adopter/influencer for everything.  He was both new to social media and new to Warby Parker and he used both to establish his own presence online. Looking through the archive of Warby Parker’s influencers, you can see this attitude reflected in people like Molly Yeh, Franklin Leonard, and Mohamed Fayaz.

I’m not sure their product would have resonated with a traditional market, even with the social good component. My friend would never have taken the risk to promote a product anyone had access to, he wanted to let you know how awesome he was because he had found this amazing company no-one knew about yet via a platform that reflected that same exclusivity.

Know your audience

Warby Parker emerged out of a very specific moment in time, serving a growing Millennial audience.  They clearly understood their audience.  They tapped into a zeitgeist with retro-styled frames, all with very cute and specific frame names.   They were also really clear who they weren’t serving.  Most eyeglass wearers don’t need reading glasses or bifocals until they hit their forties.  Warby Parker waited a few years before including those (at a much higher price) into their collection, waiting for their hipster audience to grow up.   Linear or mass-marketing would not have worked for Warby Parker, they would have wasted their marketing dollars on a huge segment of the population they had no interest in serving.

And yet …

You’d think I would have rushed to order once bifocals were introduced. At the time I was heavy into social media and could have been an early influencer. And yet, I’m still going to my local optometrist, paying obscene amounts for lack-luster eyeglasses, because there remain a few of us who need custom fitting, who can’t take a risk on not being able to see while we send glasses back and forth to a mail-order house somewhere far away. Despite all Warby Parker’s attempts to find a very narrow lane for marketing and promotion, they actually work best for mass-market consumers.

You know you’ve made it when …

While I could go on and on about the benefits of social media marketing and how well Warby Parker used and leveraged that, I actually think it is best illustrated by the geniuses at McSweeney’s, when they lampoon you, you know you’ve made it.

Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses. Unless they’re these totally amazing @WarbyParker frames I’m wearing in my pic! Starting at just $145 and tons of cute style options. (My fave is the Laurel in tortoiseshell!) #ad #glasses #eyewear
Parody is the highest form of flattery.

One thought on “Warby Parker

  1. I liked that you had links to follow all your social media sites, something I’ve yet to figure out how to upload, and I’ve looked through every section of the main screen for my blog. The only thing I did find about connecting to social media was the function to share posts to places like Twitter.

    Overall, your design was nice and I loved how each section had its own header quote. It had a great appeal and easily divided sections in a simple and effective way.

    You provided an excellent anecdote from personal experience with being a Warby Parker influencer. I was a little put off by your friend though, given that your “friend would never have taken the risk to promote a product anyone had access to”. He only supported Warby Parker eyeglasses because “he wanted to let you know how awesome he was because he had found this amazing company no-one knew about”.

    It was nice to have links to actual Warby Parker Influencers, and it showed another level of expertise with a blog that I would like to learn. You also gave a link to a further article by Wendi Aarons.

    Your blog post points out some the key aspects that Warby Parker uses to maintain brand loyalty in that “They relied on users to amplify their brand and in turn took advantage of and shaped the birth of social media for business.” Which reflects the case study we read by Mahoney & Tang, which went over how Warby Parker encourages its consumers to post pictures of themselves with their purchase to encourage others to buy the Warby Parker brand as well. I specifically like how the case study further explains how they donate a pair, for every pair they sell, to someone in need. It shows philanthropy, which is discussed in chapter 18 of Strategic Social Media: From Marketing to Social Change by L. Meghan Mahoney and Tang Tang where if a company supports a cause or devotes effort to philanthropic endeavors “Consumers who identify with a cause are likely to exhibit increased loyalty, repeat purchasing behaviors, spread positive word of mouth, and show increased resilience to negative information (Lii, 2011).”

    I also found through Warby Parker’s YouTube channel that they now have contact lenses as well. And their Facebook page has this post about Film Comment.com and its support of films they think “deserve a little extra attention.” To me it goes a long way to doing more than selling glasses, or contacts now it seems, but in connecting with their audience on things they also deeply care about after eye wear – entertainment.

    Stevens, A. (2020, February 1). Warby Parker. Retrieved February 4, 2020, from https://www.amystevensonline.com/2020/02/01/warby-parker/

    Warby Parker. (n.d.). Retrieved February 4, 2020, from https://www.facebook.com/warbyparker/

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