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Traditionally in the eyewear industry, manufacturers relied on eye care practitioners (ECP) to push sales of their brands. Building a strong relationship with ECPs has therefore been a top priority for them. However, in recent years, the heightened competition in the industry repositioned eyewear products, making branding targeted at consumers more important than ever.
In the eyewear industry today, eyewear products are no longer being marketed as a medical device, instead being marketed more as fashion accessories and lifestyle products. Both manufacturers and ECPs are now encouraging consumers to own more than one pair of glasses to match their mood and what they wear. Similarly, in the fashion scene today, eyewear is no longer associated with nerdy and geeky high school looks. Thanks to being linked with celebrities, eyewear products have been accepted by the industry as mainstream and grown-up fashion statements.
The trend of eyewear as fashion accessories can be dated back to 1948, as noted in the exhibition “Framed!” in 2012, tracing the history of eyewear, examining the cultural significance of eyewear and looking at how eyewear products rose to become the fashion accessories they are today.
We have seen big brands spending a fortune building and protecting their brand image all over the world. Having a consistent and well-conceived brand positioning is crucial to creating the brand experience. For example, a guest in a Marriott hotel expects to be treated with the same high level of service and hotel experience, regardless of the country it is located in.
MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) is a common policy manufacturers sign with retailers or distributors to prevent price wars. Unlike the MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price), MAP pricing does not limit the actual selling price, it is the agreed price to advertise a product at. The Apple brand is one of the most successful examples of implementing such a policy. We seldom see any Apple products on sale or offered with huge discounts, regardless of the size of the retailer.
In the eyewear scene, Ray-Ban and Oakley are the two iconic lifestyle brands of Luxottica – they are the top performing brands at the company as well as in the industry, contributing to more than 45% of Luxottica’s brand share globally. Due to their popularity, these two brands also top the charts for counterfeit products. Prior to Luxottica’s acquisition of Oakley in 2007, Oakley Inc was protecting the number one sports sunglasses brand by only allowing authorised Oakley retailers to sell this brand. With MAP in place, violators would risk losing their Oakley distribution contracts. This policy has remained in place following the acquisition.
More recently, Luxottica announced the implementation of the MAP policy for Ray-Ban in an attempt to protect the brand. With Ray-Ban being so popular, counterfeiters are marketing their products online as the real product at a fraction of the price in any optical store. With MAP in place for Ray-Ban, this should help control unfair representation of the brand in public.
In a previous opinion article we looked at brand engagement via the “store-in-store” retail layout, with an emphasis on international brands. High street fashion brands are capable of capturing consumers’ attention, but cater more to the segment with higher purchasing power.
Luxottica, the largest spectacle frame and sunglass manufacturer, holds exclusive licences for some of these fashion brands, such as Burberry, Chanel and Prada. With such a portfolio, Luxottica should be able to market a range of luxury eyewear in the marketplace. Eyewear is generally at a lower price point when compared with other product types within the brand, and can be marketed as an entry level to luxury, capturing the segment of younger consumers with lower purchasing power by offering them easier access to these luxury brands.
While international brands are one of the ways to connect the brand with the consumer, the success of Warby Parker proves that a brand can be simple and affordable yet successful if the strategy behind the brand connects the brand with the consumer. With the rise of new digital and social channels, connecting brands with the consumer no longer requires a luxury positioning.
Due to this success, many Warby Parker lookalikes emerged over the years. Owndays, the Japanese optical retail store player, with a similar pricing strategy to Warby Parker, established 17 stores in the Singapore market and a further 18 stores in other parts of the Asia Pacific region within four years. The success behind them is the connection of the brand with the consumer through active social media engagement.
Consumers today are looking at an omni-channel shopping experience where they can be part of the brand, exchange ideas, and communicate and share their experiences. Brand owners should look at using this omni-channel approach in order for their brand to remain relevant among consumers in the near future.