Top 10 Innovative Brands 2013: #10 Warby Parker

The online eyewear retailer is using quirky marketing to make waves in the retail industry.

By Anna Sekula June 12, 2013, 7:00 AM EDT

Warby Parker’s “Class Trip” campaign toured the country and included a video contest.

Photo: Courtesy of Warby Parker

Conventional launches and splashy promotions aren’t Warby Parker’s style, and indeed, when the brand, which sells prescription eyewear and sunglasses online, launched in 2010, events were not in the budget. But as the small, Web-based company expanded—the first year saw Warby Parker grow 500 percent—the founders wanted to spread the word of its customer-service-driven ethos, budget-friendly pricing, and partnerships with nonprofits to provide access to affordable eyewear to impoverished areas.

“We thought if we created awesome customer experiences that word would get around,” says co-founder Neil Blumenthal. “That said, as the company has grown, our approach to marketing has changed, while still remaining decidedly offbeat. For us, it’s more about collaborations, high-concept events, and creating reasons for our customers to tell their friends about us.”

Like its founders, the brand identifies itself as being quirky, youthful, and a little bit rebellious. So it’s no surprise Warby Parker’s events are not what you’d typically expect from an eyewear company.

Perhaps the brand’s biggest undertaking in 2012 was the “Class Trip”, a traveling marketing campaign that kicked off in October and involved an old yellow school bus retrofitted to look like a professor’s library.

“It’s important to us that Warby Parker has high national visibility, which can be a challenging goal for an online business,” Blumenthal says. “Traveling across the country on wheels seemed like a fun and out-of-the-box approach to retail.”

Blumenthal says experiential marketing will continue to be an important tool to Warby Parker’s growth, efforts that are closely aligned to those in other mediums. “Events are a great way to build relationships with customers, other companies, and nonprofits. Creative marketing and storytelling needs to take place both digitally and ­physically.”

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