Warby Parker Brand Story Audit

Warby Parker Brand Story Audit

Successfully Turning Your Meaning, Purpose, and Product into Your Brand Story

More of a reader? Here’s what is covered in the video, but transcribed into text.

What is a brand story? This question I get asked quite often, both online and in person. I wanted to start out by defining Brand Story and why it should matter to every business.

Your brand story is much more than a narrative. It goes beyond the copy on your website or the content in your investor pitches. Brand Story extends past collateral and is way more than any verbiage you write in customer-focused email.

Your story is what the world believes about you based on the signals you send through all of your brand assets.

In other words, it’s the complete picture made up of the things that are true about you and your business in the hearts and minds of your customers.

Every story has (at least) two sides and the truth, as they say, lies somewhere in the middle. By “the truth” we mean facts, but also feelings and interpretations. Meaning that your Story isn’t articulated by words and expression that come from you, but rather how you are perceived in the marketplace. This includes the look and feel of your website, brand identity, packaging, the people you hire, and the values that they stand for, and more. Every element of it needs to authentically reflect who you are & who your brand is back to your audience.

If you want to build a big, successful, sustainable business that will garner wild fans and crazy loyalty you need to start with your brand story.

Recently, I’ve realized that I need to wear eyeglasses (please spare the aging jokes). The only problem is I despise shopping for eyeglasses. I’ll tell you why: I only have a couple of choices when it comes to shopping. For example, I can go to Costco – a huge warehouse that makes me feel like I’m part of the masses and I’m getting cookie-cutter eyeglasses. Even if the label on the eyeglasses is actually a brand name, the environment in Costco makes it feel cheap and boring to me. Heck, I don’t even like to purchase my socks at Costco, much less something as conspicuous as a pair of eyeglasses. Another option I have is to go to a fancy optometrist and look at the designer frames, which to me feels really intimidating. Not only is there a limited selection, I tend to feel that I’m getting ripped off from a price perspective. These two options I want to avoid for as long as I possibly can.

As part of my process for determining how I am going to make this purchase, I hear about this company called Warby Parker. I learn that you can select eyeglasses from their website (up to five frames) that they will send directly to you to try on, or you can also visit a retail location if there is one nearby. Fortunately, we have one here in Boulder so I go check it out and I must say, I was blown away by what I experienced at Warby Parker.

The first thing I notice is that the people greeting me weren’t opticians – they were really friendly folks and they even gave me a quick orientation. The store employees help make the process really easy and accessible for anyone and after the orientation, I knew exactly where to go to start looking at and trying on the frames. I also notice that almost a third of the shelf space is dedicated to something I love – books! If you have checked out my website or online presence at all you know I am all about Story. The fact that classic literature makes up part of the design and ambiance of the store made me feel connected to the brand and the employees. I find out the reason for the books after I research the brand, which I share with you down the page.

As I am trying on frames, I am realizing that Warby Parker is starting to fulfill one of the primary WILDSTORY principals:

By telling me who they are, they were telling me who I am.

Warby Parker has this vision of who they want me to become – smart, stylish, maybe savvy, and that was manifesting itself through my retail experience. I was already identifying myself as part of their tribe even though I was only in there for roughly 30 minutes. I’ll even venture to say I even felt a little smarter because of this exchange – finding stylish glasses for a great price. I’m a big believer that the underlying foundation – things that we don’t even see – are significant influencers in drawing us to embrace and become fans of specific brands.

After my experience and prior to receiving the spectacles in the mail, I wanted to learn more about the backstory of the brand. So, of course, I navigate to their website and here’s where it got really interesting. It turns out that Warby Parker has a great origin story and I will share some of what I learned with you here.

As college friends they started the company when one of them lost their glasses and was frustrated by how expensive glasses were. As I dug a little deeper, it turns out that when the four founders started Warby Parker, they had two main and specific goals: one was to offer alternatives to the overpriced and underwhelming eyewear that was available to them and the second was to build a business that could solve problems instead of creating them.

Many are trying to buy what I call “Social Karma” with customers these days ever since Toms did the “buy one, give one” campaign. Sometimes this feels contrived as if they have created a giving campaign to enhance their public image, but there is no heart rationale behind their efforts. Warby Parker has a give-back element to their brand, but it doesn’t feel contrived the way many charitable efforts do. I find out why as I continue to explore.

One of the founders, Neil Blumenthal, was already working for the non-profit Vision Spring before Warby Parker was even a thought in his mind. Based on his insider knowledge, he brought to light that the eyewear industry at the time was dominated by one manufacturing company – regardless of the brand – and they were able to keep prices artificially high. Neil had this ‘behind the kimono” information and wanted to make sure that if he came to work for Warby Parker, giving back would be part of the ethos of the brand. Knowing this part of the origin story, it makes total sense why the giving back attribute of the brand feels very natural and not like it was invented by the marketing department.

The hallmark of a good brand story is your meaning or purpose + your product = your story.

The name Warby Parker, where does it come from? It was inspired by some of Jack Kerouac’s literary manuscripts. One of the founders, Dave, noticed two characters with interesting names, Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker. They combined the two and came up with Warby Parker. They wanted a cool name that communicated who they were and who they thought they were. This love of literature and books and the origin of the name also explains all the books in the store. As I did more research I found that on the first day of employment with Warby Parker, every employee is given a copy of Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. It’s these little cues and signals starting on day one with their employees, letting them know what they value and what the employee should value in who they are. This is all super important to setting up what they do and why they do it as a core foundation of their brand story.

But what about the glasses? A week later they arrived at my house, and via email and the entire time they’re communicating to me and building anticipation about when the glasses were produced, when they’re shipped, and when they’re expected to arrive. They were building this excitement that I was really pumped for.

When the box arrived, it was in a colorful package covered with artists paintings, a little different than any other glasses I bought, which were always a utilitarian product packaging experience. If the brand packaging was the icing on the cake, this next part was the cherry on top – when I opened up the glasses case, inside was a cleaning cloth that almost made me cry – from a microfiber cleaning cloth no less – because on this cloth was Warby Parker’s story in 100 words.

An artifact tied back to the brand and their story is simply brilliant because, especially in this case, it is a continual reminder of who Warby Parker is, what their mission is, and that is really special and quite clever in execution.

Every Brand Story needs to live up to its stated promise. At Warby Parker it was stylish glasses for a great price and an easy buying process – done. A+ for Warby Parker because they lived up to this promise. They’ve built one raving fan in me and I am confident they’re doing it with most of their customers as well.

If you like these videos, let me know. I’d love for you to comment below. If you have any ideas for future brands to review go ahead and email me at marc@wildstory.com

Looking to Transform Your Business?

 

The Power of Your Business Story Can Add More Profit to Your Bottom Line Than Any Other Asset...

Download Our
Free Snapstory Guide

Use the same framework Hollywood uses to create BILLIONS in revenue (BE CAUTIONED - You'll never watch movies the same again)

Clark’s Brand Audit – Great Brand Story or Franken-brand?

Clark’s Brand Audit – Great Brand Story or Franken-brand?

This is the first in a series of Brand Exploration articles focused on unpacking a brand’s essence and how customers experience their brand in various formats.

Have you ever experienced a love for a brand and you didn’t know why?  The phenomenon of brand love can be observed in the public’s penchant for loyalty to brands like Starbucks, Nike, and Apple.  We are willing to sacrifice standing in long lines and paying our hard-earned money to have the latest, add to our collection, or get our morning fix.  We have an emotional connection or desire to purchase that goes well beyond a utilitarian need and demonstrates a demand that is more psychological in nature.  As a brand, this is the ideal state – where a customer loves your brand to the point of loyalty, it is part of his or her identity and or aspiration well before the purchase is even made.

Simply put, by telling our customers WHO WE ARE, it tells them WHO THEY ARE.

But when we are not clear on WHO we are, then our customers are confused, our brand does not have that instant recognition, emotional connection, and will most likely struggle with achieving desired profits.

To illustrate these points let’s look at Clark’s shoes.  Clark’s is an iconic shoe manufacturer that was founded in 1825. That’s a long time ago!   Headquartered in Britain, it is probably one of the most iconic and famous boot designs in all of America and the world.

For the longest time, I wanted a pair of the desert boots.  With a simple aesthetic, what some would describe as quite plain or beige, I could not understand why I had this strong liking for the khaki colored boot.  After giving it some thought, I realized the desire goes back to a memory and time in my life about 10 years ago and my trip to Africa.  At the time, all the Safari guides were wearing the suede version of the style. The Clark’s desert boot was something that I coveted and always wanted because they symbolize the ultimate in living an adventurous lifestyle.  In my mind at the time, it didn’t get much riskier or authentically cool than being a Safari Guide in Africa (think Robert Redford in out of Africa).

So, I decided I was going to go ahead and purchase a pair of Clark’s. I ventured into the store at my local mall in Colorado and what follows is my experience:

First of all, as soon as I walk in I am not even sure I am even in a Clark’s store because it doesn’t look or feel like an adventure company inside the store at all.  There are images of Clark’s shoes displayed, but beyond that it could have been any store – The Walking Company, for example, or any other comfort shoe store.  I was completely flabbergasted by the experience (or lack thereof).  After my visit, the image of who Clark’s is as a brand completely changed and really burst my bubble of Clark’s being this cool, iconic, adventurous brand.  After the store visit, I wasn’t sure if they were for me after all.

What we always like to say here at WILDSTORY is that as a brand we like to tell the world who we are, so our customers know who they are and as I experienced this brand at the retail destination, I questioned my purchase decision and devalued the brand in my heart and mind.   

Later I returned to the store, purchased a pair of boots, and snapped some photos of the store entrance with the window advertisements containing the Clark’s branding and the tagline “The World is Ours to Explore”, which I found interesting.  So, there is a sense that this is an explorer brand, and that maybe they are attempting to portray a sense of transporting them to an idealized location. But the problem with this is that the imagery in the store – and even the online store – does not line up with this same theme.

For instance, on the homepage of the website the models are wearing silk and Burberry and performing acrobatic art with silk cloths.  There is also a tie in with the Black Panther movie which seems to be way off brand.   So, I’m like thinking “what?”, I just don’t know who Clark’s is.

We also like to say, “a confused customer never buys.”  So, I’m not sure who this brand is & what they are all about.   I’m getting really confused which is not a positive experience as a customer.

I arrive home and I’m excited to wear my Clark’s because they’re still a simple cool, classic boot which I am excited about.  As I unwrap the box, I find there is this little folded piece of paper that says “The Story Unfolds” at the very bottom of the box.  As I open it up I am thinking “Wow, what a cool artifact”- this old yellowed paper feels like an old treasure map or something you would find while excavating an archaeological site.

On one side, there is some cool artwork and on the back there is the original letter from the founder of Clark’s where he describes the origin of the desert boot concept.   He says, “While I was still in Burma on the staff of a West African Brigade I was asked to think of any useful shoes which might have origins in the area.”  So instantly I’m able to insert myself into this story and for the first time this brand feels authentic.  I’m able to connect and put myself in this story and begin to think of this explorer who was in Burma in the West African Brigade and the exciting adventures that go along with it.  By hearing the backstory and origin of the brand, I am finding my desire for the brand is getting renewed.

If you have followed me at all on social media or been to any of my speaking events, you know that at WILDSTORY we talk a lot about how you do something as being a critical part of your story.

The WILDSTORY process starts with the backstory – the origin of your business.  The backstory has different relevance weights in terms of how much it’s going to play into your brand story.  Brands really need to harness what made them great to compete in today’s marketplace.  For Clark’s, the brand’s essence is about innovation and originality but first and foremost the backstory and core value is about being an adventure brand.  

Based on this, here is my recommendation to Clark’s to tell a more cohesive brand story

  1. The brand would benefit greatly from aligning with an explorer/adventure lifestyle –  not just in the marketing materials and content –  but also sponsoring events and collaborating with companies that stand for adventure.
  2. Clark’s should further instill their beliefs about adventure by becoming a patron of adventure, publishing adventure type articles and being a publishing house of sorts through aligning with adventure TV shows as well as online & offline content.
  3. They could really harness this idea of innovation originality by aligning their beliefs about adventure about protecting the global environment with their brand.  Patagonia does an excellent job of this, really wearing their values on their sleeve so to speak and making a strong statement about their beliefs and values.

In this case of Clark’s you can see how they inserted their process into their story and thus into the brand experience itself with the artifact found inside the shoe box.  They get soul to soul in this letter and start breaking down the original concept –  from the materials to the inventor himself –  Nathan Clark.  So, we are finding that this brand is all about being an original – yet when you go to their retail experience, they’re all about following.  This is causing a disconnect in the brand identity because the brand essence is lost in their store and on their website.  However, when I purchased the shoe I really enjoyed experiencing the purity of the brand and opening the box for the first time – smelling the leather, unfolding the old artifact and experiencing the story of the inventor and his explorations in the Africa Brigade.

I found that Clark’s is an explorer type brand after all, it is just that they have lost their essence on the website and at the retail destination.

From a Brand Story perspective, what I would say to this incongruence is that everything we experience about this brand should take us to a faraway place.

Instead, right now Clark’s is a bit of a what I call a “Franken Brand”. Clark’s has a great backstory, product, and process but they don’t have a consistent expression of the story and instead try to appeal to too many audiences.  Clark’s has a real opportunity to keep this brand going and revive it. But unfortunately, right now they are missing the mark.  I would urge them that the secret is all right here in this artifact and they are a prime candidate of a brand that needs to be taken through the WILDSTORY process.

Another brand that I will talk about later that does this well is Warby Parker.   Stay tuned for my exploration and brand analysis of this famous eyewear brand.  If there are any brands that you would like me to discuss or if you have or any questions around brand storytelling please leave your comments below.

Looking to Transform Your Business?

 

The Power of Your Business Story Can Add More Profit to Your Bottom Line Than Any Other Asset...

Download Our
Free Snapstory Guide

Use the same framework Hollywood uses to create BILLIONS in revenue (BE CAUTIONED - You'll never watch movies the same again)