Category Archives: Branding

Two Key Marketing Lessons From Architecture School

I didn’t go to school for this.  At least, it wasn’t my degree. But as my professional studies and experience in marketing have expanded, I’ve realized my time at the Clemson School of Architecture was far from wasted.

Two particular strategic approaches instilled there carried over beautifully:

1) Flip it upside down.

In Architecture, that literally meant pick up the volumetric shape you’ve been crafting, invert it and set it back down – wrong side up. Then, try to learn something you hadn’t noticed before.

In Marketing, it means second-guess your assumptions. So your consumer definitely wants X and always needs Y? Periodically lay that certainty aside. First find, then look and think from, the polar opposite viewpoint. Buyer? Become a seller. Passionate? Role-play apathy. You may be surprised what insights you’re missing.

2) Every touchpoint is an opportunity.

In Architecture, on presentation days, professors would provocatively tear off portions of student work and sling them to the floor. “Irrelevant,” they’d mutter. This meant your overarching concept needed to more distinctly affect that element. Otherwise, it probably needed to be eliminated completely.

In Marketing, your brand is only as strong as you push it. Inventory your web of external communications (don’t worry, everyone else’s is just as tangled), and rethink elements that don’t jive with your organization’s driving attributes. Bear in mind, it’s rarely just your print ads and Christmas cards that need a fresh look. Your automated service reply emails, staff LinkedIn pages, and office lobby count too.

Once you’re finished and feeling really certain about things, flip it sideways.

Architectural Model

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warby Parker: finding a niche and making it happen

A few days ago, I happened to be scanning channels in the car and came across an interview with Jeffrey Raider, founder of Warby Parker on Business Radio powered by The Wharton School. This interview really got me thinking about the importance of identifying an unmet need in the marketplace and really focusing on that niche market. Raider and his business partners have done just that with their business Warby Parker, the wildly successful online prescription eyeglass company that’s changing the way people buy and shop for prescription eyewear.

The idea for the business was born in 2010, while Raider was studying at The Wharton School. During the interview, he recalled his experience of not being able to find any glasses that fit his personal style or his budget. That frustration led to an idea that led to the formation of the company (along with three other classmates) that would provide quality, stylish eyeglasses at a fraction of the price of designer prescription glasses. They figured out a way to keep prices low by designing their own frames and selling online, cutting out the middle man altogether and refused to charge outrageous prices. This link explains exactly how they do it: http://www.warbyparker.com/how-we-do-it. They identified the unmet need in the marketplace and delivered in a big way. They’ve carved out that niche — and the target audience is quite specific: men and women ages 18 to 34 who like to buy designer eyewear, but not willing (or able) to shell out $500 for a pair. Warby Parker designer glasses typically cost about $100/pair, including the prescription lenses.

They win over customers by making the online ordering process simple and easy — with a focus on the customer and making sure the brand experience is all positive. For example, they’ll send five pair of glasses for you to try for five days, offer free return shipping on the ones you don’t want. On the website, you can try glasses on virtually to see what they look like on you. Oh yeah, and if that’s not enough, there’s a Buy A Pair, Give A Pair program. Warby Parker funds the production of a pair of eyeglasses to give away each time a pair is sold. To date, they’ve provided 500,000 pairs of glasses to people in need in developing countries. Certainly, a powerful social mission and a great way to make a difference.

The founders’ affinity for simple design as well as an appreciation of well-made objects is evident. Spend some time on the site, and you definitely get the sense that they are passionate about the products they create and truly care about making the world a better place. They’ve found their niche and have filled the need, and with the added component of social good — that’s what I call a relevant and purposeful brand.

http://www.warbyparker.com/

 

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Note: Raider and another partner from Warby Parker started another company in 2013 called Harry’s— “Great Shave. Fair Price”. This time the products are shaving razors and blades. You guessed it — design conscious, quality, german-engineered blades and stylish razors at a very reasonable price. Check them out at www.harrys.com.

On Tattoos

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a fantastic contradiction. She is a tattooed, Lutheran pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. Her journey is a fascinating one, from addict and comedian to a renowned personification of a new type of church.

In a recent interview with Krista Tippett, she remarked on how tattoos, in her day a standout symbol of rebellion, are now worn by soccer moms. “I think we are used to personalizing everything. This is a generation that grew up with choose your own adventure stories. They got to choose how a book ended, they got to personalize their homepage, they personalize their Facebook page, they personalize everything. So I think it’s the personalization of the body.”

This type of personalization and individual expression began in the 1980s, with Swatch as an early example. Since then, personalized products and individual attention have grown to be today’s price of entry for affinity and loyalty. Yet still, companies and brands, particularly nonprofits, have a seemingly genetic tendency to focus inward. As we approach fourth quarter and year-end giving strategies, let’s commit to focusing externally and meeting the needs of our audience.

Deconstructing Your Brand

We were in a meeting with a potential new client recently when a rather interesting question came my way.

How do you go about creating a great brand? What makes your process different?

It took less than a millisecond for me to answer.

We fight for the truth, I said.

(Quizzical looks all around.)

And you’d be surprised how difficult it is to get there, I said.

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We all have a tendency to cling to that which is familiar. Change is difficult—and scary. But if you hear yourself (or others in your company) saying any of the following, it’s a pretty good signal that something is hiding under there that needs to be addressed:

  1. “I know my business.”
  2. “It’s what our customers expect.”
  3. “It’s how we do it.”

Be brave. Deconstruct, and then shine a light in the dark corners to see what is there. By coming face to face with your realities, you can begin the exciting process of (re)freshing and (re)building a brand that is not only honest, but worthy of connection.