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What Warby Parker Teaches Us about Brand Loyalty

By: Guest | January 7, 2013 | 
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Today’s guest post is by Erica Moss.

My name is Erica, and I’m a Warby-holic.

As in, Warby Parker.

And it’s all their fault.

They started by offering a trendy product that I wanted: Hipster chic glasses for just $95.

Then they made me swoon with a clean, user-friendly site design.

Then they upped the ante with a winning combination of social media savvy and in-person events.

And for every pair of glasses they sell, they donate a pair to someone in need. But that’s not all.

What’s Not to Love?

As PR and social media marketing professionals, some of our biggest challenges include humanizing our brands, getting consumers excited about our products, and finding new ways to connect with them in a really genuine way. We often hear about the horror stories, but not always about those who are doing it right.

Now, you might be thinking, “Okay, great – you’re one person who happens to be a fan girl. Big deal.” But my constant blathering about Warby Parker in conversations both online and off has induced at least five of my friends to buy pairs of their own. Talk about ROI.

So what can we learn about the power of word-of-mouth and fostering brand loyalty from this little-eyeglasses-retailer-that-could? The answer: A lot.

Events that Make People Take Notice

Warby Parker is selling much more than a pair of frames: They’re selling a lifestyle. So when they decide to meet their fans and potential converts face-to-face, they do so in a grand way.

Most recently, the team embarked on a cross-country road trip with a plan to visit nine cities during the course of six months, “To bring our showroom experience to life.” Their ride? A traditional yellow school bus, complete with leather sofas, wood paneling, vintage books, a photo booth and, of course, their eyeglasses. I visited them during their kick-off in NYC’s Meatpacking District, and was thoroughly impressed with my experience, including the friendly staff members, who did everything with a smile.

When they opened a holiday Annex, again in the Meatpacking District, they invited those in the neighborhood to stop by for its debut, complete with free mimosas and other beverages, delicious snacks, and their full collection. And because I wasn’t already geeking out enough, I was fortunate enough to meet one of the co-founders, Neil Blumenthal, who graciously thanked me for attending and spreading the good word about the company.

These multiple touch-points are not only relatively uncommon, but they also make me feel like I’m part of something bigger than a product. It keeps Warby Parker top of mind, reinforces why I bought a pair of their glasses and also is a great way for new customers to check out their offerings in a laid-back sort of way.

Responses from Humans

Social media is the ultimate equalizer in that it allows users to have real, one-on-one interactions with the world’s biggest influencers, celebrities, and brands. For those who live and breathe this world, you know exactly how cool it is when someone you respect tweets back at you or acknowledges your enthusiasm in any way.

Since well before I made my purchase decision, Warby Parker has been quick to engage in a dialogue with me (and others, for that matter), offering their two cents about what particular pair of glasses looks best, answering questions about the Home Try-On process and more.

When I had a question about their aforementioned Class Trip, I was pretty certain they’d get back to me in a timely manner with an answer. To my surprise and delight, they responded to me, not with a tweet, but a personalized YouTube clip. So simple, yet so brilliant. And you know what I did after I received it? I shared it with both my Facebook and Twitter networks.

It’s All in the Details

We all love someone who’s detail-oriented, don’t we? Not in the way your mom reminds you (lovingly) during each phone call that you’re still single, but more like the best friend who stops by with a bouquet of flowers when you’re having a bad day. Warby Parker’s like that friend, who always seems to know what you want and expect from them.

This past holiday season, they offered gift cards — pretty standard, right? Not so fast. For each gift card ordered, they delivered a hand-iced, Warby-wearing Santa cookie from Eleni’s for the “ultimate gift-giving impact.” A small, spirited gesture that went a long way.

A few other examples of greatness include branded cupcakes and SOLO cups at their events, which feature throwback games like Foursquare, Connect Four, and ping pong. Let’s also not forget the celebrities who pop-up to throw their support behind the brand such as Gayle King and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and their now-famous Warby Barker campaign for April Fool’s Day.

Follow the Leader

So what are the key takeaways here? (Besides my directive to run — not walk — to support this eyewear company with a purpose.) Never underestimate the power of brand loyalty, and make it your business to identify those in your customer base who will be your biggest cheerleaders. Create multiple touch-points for them, consistent with your brand, and they’ll do the work for you.

Erica Moss is the community manager for the Georgetown University online nursing masters programs. She enjoys blogging, TV, pop culture, and tweeting @ericajmoss

  • *Note to self: When you want people to come and check out your product, offer mimosas*
     
    Okay. Got it.
     
    We need to talk more about the positive ways brands are interacting with their fans, and less about the screw-ups. This post is a step in the right direction.
     
    I’ve watched you tout the awesomeness that is Warby Parker glasses and have been left pretty impressed with how they go about cultivating a culture of super fandom. You seem genuinely excited about how they interact with you, and I know this is no accident.
     
    Even if we don’t have a “product”, per se, to sell, we can all stand to learn a thing or two about customer service.
     
    This is a great post. Congrats on getting your name in lights.

    • @bradmarley BAM. You always know exactly what to say, Brad, and I appreciate the kind words! And, yes, mimosas. Always mimosas.

    • @bradmarley I cannot believe you commented twice on Spin Sucks and there was no disclosure! You’re slipping, Marley!

  • @ericajmoss Great post. Love that WP has built this totally consistent and fun brand environment. The YouTube video response is brilliant. 12 seconds worth a thousand dollars in brand value. But I hate tell you someone else got a WB video response from this special guy 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcXCg0WdyEE&list=UUhAPoXp6dREvou4xZPS6ulg 
     
    Thanks for sharing.

    • @JohnMillen I see your YouTube clip, and raise you one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aw2o-Oc3Gss&list=UUhAPoXp6dREvou4xZPS6ulg 😉 Thank you so much for your comment, and I totally agree: a few short video clips = invaluable.

      • @ericajmoss Ouch. OK, you smacked me down.  My only response is similar to when my son is speaking the quotes on commercials live and I tell him it’s a sign he’s watching too much TV.
         
        Is it possible to love a brand too much, Erica?  Watch for the auditions for the new reality show: Brand Rehab 😉

        • @JohnMillen Ha! I have started getting a few eye rolls when I bring them up. And I may or may not have been accused of loving them more than my current company (which is, of course, not true). But I say there’s no such thing as drinking too much Kool-Aid. 😉

    • @JohnMillen  @ericajmoss LOL!!!

      • @ginidietrich@JohnMillen@ericajmoss
        “Brand Rehab” made me completely LOL!  Great post, Erica! I suffer from a similar obsession with Virgin America.
         
        Also, you might like the book “Marketing 3.0”  by Philip Kotler, which describes the trend this company appears to be embracing — values as integral component of brand.  An excellent read if you haven’t already read it!

        • @dalicie Many thanks for the book reco, and for checking out my post!

        • @dalicie  @ginidietrich  @JohnMillen  @ericajmoss I LOVE Branson – my old mentor thought he was an ejeet for building a brand around his own personality… but that’s another story.  I have to say, I drew the line at the Branson Head Ice Cubes!!!!  They were like little werewolves staring up from your drink 🙂

  • Love Love Love this post – I was just thinking about Brand Loyalty and how you create it (I actually posted about my favorite Brand-Love, Starbucks, today).   Brand loyalty doesn’t just happen with a cool product – it’s an amalgamation of all of the things you mentioned that begin the stirrings of passion within a consumer, and then it’s a continual retooling – creating unique experiences for the customer…. to keep their heart pumping.

    • @AmyMccTobin Thank you so much, Amy! You are so right — the proper formula for breeding brand loyalty includes many moving parts. And almost on cue, shortly after this post was published, WP announced a New Year’s Resolution party they’re hosting here in NYC. Loving it!

      • @ericajmoss What if your resolution was no BOOZE. That would NOT be good. 🙂

  • NancyCawleyJean

    @ericajmoss , thanks for a GREAT post with real lessons and a new brand that I obviously must check out!

    • @NancyCawleyJean Thank you, Nancy! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is exactly that excites me about this brand, and finally, I was able to put together some cohesive thoughts. 🙂 Please keep me posted if you decide to make a purchase!

  • You are the perfect example of how companies who do an excellent job using social media to build relationships with current/potential customers can create brand ambassadors…and produce sales! I can attest that I started paying more attention to WP because you always talked about the company online. And, my husband ordered his five pairs to try out from WP because I started talking about the company to him! He will likely order a new pair soon. 
     
    Great story/case study. Thanks for sharing!

    • @Nikki Little I wonder how many people in my inner circle want to slap me silly for the number of times I’ve shared something WP related. 😉 But like you said, it’s a total testament to them empowering me & the rest of their community over and over again. Can’t wait to see Mr. Little in his new pair very soon!

  • I don’t wear glasses, but now I want a pair because of this blog post! Also, as I was reading this, I was thinking, “How much money do they have to spend on these things?” Yes, I totally agree it’s it the details, but not every organization has the resources to send branded cupcakes or do unique videos. I want to grow up to be like them!

    • @ginidietrich That’s a great question! And one I do not have a good answer for. If nothing else, they certainly encourage us to elevate our own efforts, and be creative when it comes to reaching our audiences!

      • @ericajmoss  @ginidietrich Perhaps this is the deal: these kind of high dollar things are done at the beginning to make a bang, but they can be done in a targeted way if necessary.  I read an article in Fast Company about how Yelp had parties in the early days for specific, prolific users.  They then built them into incredibly desirable invites….   Starbucks doesn’t do anything like that – they SELL the stuff that makes you feel good about them.

    • coffeewithjulie

      @ginidietrich I don’t wear glasses either, but I *still* couldn’t resist a pair of WPs! (http://www.julieharrison.ca/living/impractical-purchasing-nyc-edition-part-1/) Now I want another pair!

      • @coffeewithjulie  @ginidietrich I hear you, Julie. After you purchase your first pair, it’s a slippery slope!

    • MikeEttlemyer

      @ginidietrich They offer sunglasses as well. Give ‘me a try.

      • MikeEttlemyer

        Darn autocorrect. I meant ’em not me.

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  • Wow, that’s passion for a brand. And it convinces me to look into them more. As someone who wears eyeglasses, I can say that I have delayed getting a new pair because of the expense. And after seeing how huge of a racket the eyeglasses industry is on a 60 Minutes episode (they literally control all facets of the industry) it seems criminal that companies are holding people’s vision hostage unless they shell out $300 or more for a pair of decent eyeglasses. 
     
    It’s refreshing to see a company that is going to give you a quality, and good-looking product for a reasonable price. And to boot, they donate a pair to someone less fortunate when you buy a pair of your own. Really cool.
     
    Scream it from the mountaintops @ericajmoss !

    • @Anthony_Rodriguez Thanks for the comment, Anthony! That’s actually part of the reason WP was founded — to tear down the walls that the eyeglasses companies had built, charging helpless consumers exorbitant prices.
       
      Please keep me posted if you decide to make a purchase (I can make some recos!) and thanks again for the kind words!

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  • chloelist

    I ordered my first pair of WPs about a year ago, and was quite skeptical throughout the entire ordering process. It honestly just seemed too good to be true. After educating myself and reading this article though, I understand that this is simply how prescription lenses should be! I shamelessly plug WP as well, but they deserve the good press and word of mouth.

    • @chloelist You are so right — it does seem too good to be true! But they certainly demonstrate over and over again that they’re committed to their product and their customers, which is so refreshing. Thank you for the comment!

  • MikeEttlemyer

    I love Warby Parker. Quality glasses, great price, excellent customer service. Who knew that glasses could be sold and loved this way? WP has figured out how to build affinity for their brand by doing all the right things. The donation aspect is a great piece of their brand promise as well. I discovered them just six months ago. I will ONLY buy my glasses from WP from now on.

    • @MikeEttlemyer Well said, Mike! What pair do you own?

      • MikeEttlemyer

        @ericajmoss @MikeEttlemyer Sibley in tortoise matte

        • @MikeEttlemyer Nice! I have the Preston in whiskey tortoise.

        • MikeEttlemyer

          @ericajmoss Cool, great frames. I’m not buying so-called “designer” frames anymore — total price tag $400 and up for lenses and frames. That’s just crazy when Warby Parker is out there!

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  • scribblinghappy

    Sounds like it’s time for me to go get my eyes checked! I’ve heard good things about Coastal as well – their selection is a bit larger than WP’s but they don’t have the social good aspect. The price is still realistic though. But then again…WP’s ARE amazing…

  • scribblinghappy Honestly, you’re going to be so happy with WP, you won’t ever buy from anywhere else. Thanks for the comment!

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