A brand is a reason to exist, a vision for the future in this world and a story and one that resonates with other humans. I think often there’s this misperception that a brand is a name or a brand is a logo. Those are just manifestations of the brand. At the end of the day, a brand is why you do a certain thing that you do. So it’s sort of the what, the how, and most importantly the why.
How to Build a Brand
What I want to do is build a company that can scale, be profitable, do good in the world, but not charge a premium for that. And if we could demonstrate that, hopefully we can influence other entrepreneurs and executives to run their businesses in socially conscious manners. – Introducing. – Warby. – Parker. – Just $95 per. – Pair. – Including prescription lenses. And for each pair bought. – A pair is distributed to someone in need.
And that’s good for everyone. (piano music) – I’m Neil Blumenthal. I’m one of the founders of Warby Parker. And along with my co-founder Dave, I lead the company as co-CEO. We started Warby Parker because shopping for glasses was not fun and super expensive. We thought that we could design the frames that we wanted, sell direct to consumers online through warbyparker.com for a fraction of the price. And for every pair of glasses we sell, we distribute one to someone in need.
I can immediately, if you want, follow up and say like, if you saw what I did there, I didn’t tell you like X is X, I told a story. And I can lead that into branding if that’s helpful? – Yeah. Go for it. Yeah. So tell us right now. – Think about your favorite brand. What makes you love that brand? Is there a founding story that you’re familiar with? Do you understand what that brand stands for? That is because they’ve thought about all those things and they’ve crafted and articulated who they are and why they do what they do.
A brand is a reason to exist, a vision for the future in this world, and a story, and one that resonates with other humans. I think often there’s this misperception that a brand is a name or a brand is a logo. Those are just manifestations of the brand. At the end of the day, a brand is why you do a certain thing that you do. So it’s sort of the what, the how, and most importantly, the why.
As you think about brand, I would just encourage you to think about a brand holistically as a narrative that has reasons for every step of the journey. And we’re in a time where authenticity matters most. And you need a reason for doing everything that you do. And the brand should be that reason. But it only has credibility if there’s depths to the brand. You really want to start from the core essence of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Again, that reason for being as you’re building out a brand because, as I mentioned, a brand is a lot more than a name and an image. Right? It’s that narrative. The brand dictates all. For us, it was always easier to figure out what we weren’t, as opposed to what we were. So, Warby Parker is not pretentious. It’s not snarky. It’s designed to just make people happy.
When we were building Warby Parker, we went through 2000 different names before stumbling upon this Jack Kerouac exposé at the New York Public Library in which we encountered these two characters, Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker from which Warby Parker is named. Design’s a core part of any brand. Right, especially since it is a visual manifestationof that brand. Early on, we would create mood boards and found ways to articulate what these images sort of meant to us and our brand.
One of our rules for designing eye wear is that we never want to design something that we ourselves would be embarrassed wearing in 10 years. And that’s represented by this Hasselblad camera that anybody today would still enjoy. And for us, we were building a company that was not just a fashion company but a technology company, one that believed in quality but also one that believed in a classic aesthetic. (upbeat music) There was always this imaged of a blue footed booby that really encapsulated what Warby Parker’s about.
It has a quizzical look on its face that’s very curious, and we wanted to build a company that was about learning and growing. It’s a little bit of quirk, a little bit of flair, and that was something that was important to Warby Parker. So that image ended up leading to one of our core values which is to inject fun and quirkiness into everything that we do. And you’ll notice that it plays into even our color palette on our website or in our stores. So those images might not just influence the visual aspects of the brand, but all different components of it.
So as you’re thinking about imagery that could help tell your design story or your brand, think about what images speak to you. How do you explain what those images mean to you and mean to your brand and your company? Obviously customers play a pivotal role cause they’re part of that reason for being. Right, who you’re serving. And it’s important to understand how and why they want to be served. And that doesn’t mean that you need to do things the exact way that they want.
Right, it was Henry Ford that said that if you ask people what they want, and they would say a faster horse. But you can use sort of the wisdom of the crowd and your customers to help optimize choices that you’ve made. When we were starting Warby Parker, if we asked people, and we did, would you buy glasses online? Most of them didn’t want to, right? They want to touch and feel the glasses. And that helped inform our business strategy. Help lead to a home try-on program where you select five frames, we ship it to you free of cost, and you have five days to try it on at home.
But it didn’t dilute our belief in that eCommerce had a role in the optical industry. So what about your customer? How are you thinking about their needs? We did a lot of work up frontobserving the way people buy glasses, going into optical shops, talking to opticians, talking to eye glass wearers, and we found that there were different segments of customers. There were some people that cared only about price. We decided we weren’t going to go after those folks.
And then there were people that were more similar to us that cared a lot about fashion and design and the way glasses made people look and feel because glasses are a core part of your identity. So when we were thinking about what is Warby Parker’s communication hierarchy, right, which is a core aspect of the brand, we decided to lead with fashion and design because that’s what was most important to our potential customers. Then focus on price, then quality and service, and then our social mission. So it’s still, to this day, a lot of our customers don’t even know that we’re a certified B corp, that we’re carbon neutral, that we distribute a pair of glasses for every pair that we sell until after their purchase because of the communications hierarchy that we set up that was really based on the purchase calculus of our customers.
So it’s really important for you to spend time thinking about your customers as you think about your brand and communications hierarchy. At Warby Parker, we have a list of core values and we consider this a constitution in that it’s a living document and what we do is every couple years we get everybody in the company together. We ask them what are values by which you live your life? Right, nothing to do with business. Nothing to do with Warby Parker. We consolidate those and find that there’s actually lots of similarities.
People might use slightly different words or phrases, but often they’re living their lives by very similar sort of values. One thing that I often ask people is how do you think about your talent or people strategy? And your brand strategy should actually inform your HR strategy. Your brand is not just what you showcase to customers, it’s what happens in the office. If we’re hiring folks that live our values, then they’re the best representatives and advocates of the brand.
And our hope is that they take pride in working at Warby Parker and they tell others. So we spend time going over the mission, sort of the why, the fact that we want to build a globally impactful brand through design, technology, and customer experience. That we want to lead the way for socially conscious businesses. We figure if people understand the why, then they can go on to do the what pretty well. As you think about brand, I would just encourage you to think about a brand holistically.
So why are you personally interested in this brand and working at this company or building something? Why did you do this instead of that? The brand should tell you that. And you can do that by having a very clear vision and mission. By having clear core values. By having imagery that inspires you and explains and is representative of what you’re trying to build.These are all components of a brand architecture that then inform naming and visual identityand other ways that the brand manifests itself.
Cause at the end of the day, you’re building an experience. And that experience needs guide posts on how to build that experience. And that ultimately is the brand.