Warby Parker Co-Founder: Creating A Strong Brand Without Marketing [PSFK 2013]

Warby Parker Co-Founder: Creating A Strong Brand Without Marketing [PSFK 2013]

Ahead of PSFK CONFERENCE 2013, keynote speaker Neil Blumenthal gave us a taste of his vision for Warby Parker and how he has made the company stand out.

Betsy Mead
  • 12 april 2013

As part of the run-up to PSFK CONFERENCE 2013 in New York this April, PSFK will be publishing a series of short interviews with speakers to give a taste of what will be discussed in this meeting of creative minds. Neil Blumenthal, co-founder at Warby Parker, manufacturer of vintage-inspired glasses, will be a keynote speaker at this year’s event. He spoke to PSFK about what drove him to create a charitable range of spectacles and how he has managed to keep his philanthropic ethos in tune with the need to run a business.

What was the inspiration for Warby Parker and the charitable aim behind it? 

We love glasses but hate paying the equivalent of an iPhone for them. Dave had just lost his $700 glasses, and Jeff’s glasses were broken. All of us were overpaying for them. Andy had an idea to sell glasses online which no one was really doing yet. I already knew how to design and manufacture glasses from working at the non-profit VisionSpring. It seemed like we could solve a real problem by designing and selling prescription glasses for $95 instead of $500 and in the process, create a brand centered around doing good in the world.

We wanted to build a mission-driven organization that wanted to work at everyday. For us that meant being stakeholder-centric and considering our customers, employees, the environment and the community at large in every decision we make. An example is that we distribute a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair we sell by partnering with VisionSpring, the non-profit I used to manage.

While we believe our social mission resonates with our customers, we don’t think it’s the primary reason why they buy our glasses (the main reason is because they look good on their face!), so some it’s often not the first thing you hear about us. However, our hope is that this approach (business as a vehicle to do good in the world) becomes the standard for all companies. We believe that businesses can be profitable, can be scalable and can do good in the world without charging a premium for doing so.

How have you used marketing to make your brand stand out in an extremely crowded market? 

At first, we were more concerned with creating a great product and an awesome customer experience, namely through an innovative Home Try-On program and a beautiful, user-friendly site. We thought if we created great customer experiences that word would get around, so we didn’t spend any money on marketing and advertising. That said, as the company’s grown, our approach to marketing has changed, while still remaining decidedly offbeat. We ran our first television commercial last year, collaborating with the illustrator Alia Penner to create a quirky introduction to the Warby Parker story. For us, it’s more about collaborations, high-concept events and creating reasons for our customers to tell their friends about us.

While we can’t say that we’ve taken a completely passive approach when it comes to marketing, the authenticity behind the brand has done more for us marketing-wise than any big marketing initiative like the other guys. We have many people to thank for helping spread the word early on and following our growth for the past few years. We can also attribute much of our success to innovative marketing directions such as Warby Barker, our April Fool’s joke last year, and the Annual Report, both of which has not only driven a lot of traffic to our site but also further established us as a lifestyle brand instead of just somewhere customers buy glasses.

How have you managed to stay relevant, given that many people are moving towards contact lenses, and reconcile your desire to do good with the need to turn a profit? 

We launched the company with a lofty objective: to radically transform the optical industry and likewise, we wanted to create a model for how for-profit companies should act, thinking about all stakeholders from customers, to employees to the communities we work with and the environment. We like to think of glasses as a fashion accessory, something you’d treat like any other accessory, swapping out frames as often as you match shoes, hats, even jewelry to the rest of your clothes. Unlike contact lenses, glasses are becoming less and less about fulfilling a medical need than it is about style and one’s identity. Glasses go on your face, which means people take more care in choosing a frame and color that suits them. With the $95 price point, style (and its constantly shifting trends) is more accessible for everyone.

Thanks Neil! 

To learn more about PSFK CONFERENCE 2013, click here, and to watch the live stream go to, where the action will be live until 5:30pm EST.



Japanese Face Wash Creates A Perfect Rose Every Time

Arts & Culture
Mobile august 26, 2016

Get A Better Idea Of How You Are Wasting Your Time

The TouchTime app is trying to revolutionize personal task management by providing detailed insight on how to be more efficient

Culture august 26, 2016

London Telephone Box Repurposed As A Tiny Mobile Repair Shop

Tools and supplies to replace broken screens or damage are neatly stowed away in these micro-workrooms


Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Work

See All
Design august 26, 2016

Conceptual Sportswear Created Out Of Futuristic Condom Material

A Dutch fashion designer is experimenting with new methods and fabrics to make high performance clothing

Fashion august 26, 2016

Fashionable Tassel Will Ensure You Never Lose Your Valuables Again

The device is fashion meets connected tech, that will help you keep track of your belongings at all times


Zach Lieberman

Art, Technology, Programming

Syndicated august 26, 2016

Would You Wear Wool Shoes To Save The Environment?

As demand for wool shoes grows, a number of US footwear brands are heading directly to the source: the sheep pastures of New Zealand

Sustainability august 26, 2016

Self-Healing Material Is Fashioned Out Of Squid Teeth

Penn State researchers have devised a new textile that uses organic proteins

Arts & Culture august 26, 2016

Search Engine Turns Your Own Drawings Into Photos

This image-matching software accepts hand-made sketches instead of keywords


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

PSFK Op-Ed august 25, 2016

Retail Expert: What Sustainability Means To The Millennial Generation

Jo Godden, Founder of RubyMoon, discusses how brands can limit their environmental impact worldwide

PSFK Labs august 25, 2016

PSFK’s Workplace Vision: How The Nurturing Of Seeds Will Come To Define The Onboarding Process

Our Future of Work vision is a service that allows companies to assemble and deliver welcome packets that are uniquely focused on the concept of growth

Arts & Culture august 26, 2016

Illustrator Interprets The Experiences Of Blind Travelers

Artist Alby Letoy creates drawings of poignant travel memories for the visually impaired

Advertising august 26, 2016

Clickbait Titles Used For The Good Of Charity

An agency devised an unlikely campaign that uses clickbait as a positive force to drive awareness to nonprofit initiatives

Advertising august 26, 2016

The Best In Eye-Catching Olympics Campaigns

PSFK rounds out the Rio Games with our picks for the best advertising moments off the field

Work august 26, 2016

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist

Arts & Culture august 26, 2016

Transforming Light Waves Into A New Art Form

An artist uses glass treated with layers of metallic coatings to create a unique installation called lightpaintings


Rio Olympics
Innovation Coverage From The Rio Games

Design august 26, 2016

This Windbreaker Lets You Explore The Outdoors While Charging Your Phone

The apparel includes solar panels that allow the wearer to stay connected through the power of renewable energy

Asia august 26, 2016

The Goal Of This Game Is To Not Get Laid Off From Your Job

A hit mobile app has you working really, really hard to not get fired as you climb the corporate ladder

Advertising august 26, 2016

Movie Critic Bot Guides Viewers Through Festival Offerings

The Toronto International Film Festival has created a Facebook Messenger chatbot to help attendants curate their schedule

No search results found.