Warby Parker plays down social mission in marketing materials

Although eyewear company Warby Parker works with nonprofits to supply eyeglasses to people in need, the company's co-CEO and co-founder Dave Gilboa prefers to keep the charitable acts fairly hidden in its marketing materials.

Although eyewear company Warby Parker works with nonprofits to supply eyeglasses to people in need, the company’s co-CEO and co-founder Dave Gilboa prefers to keep the charitable acts fairly hidden in its marketing materials. 

"We wanted to create an organization that is having a positive impact, but we wanted to make sure it didn’t feel like a cause marketing campaign, so we de-emphasized the social mission from our marketing," Gilboa said at the Page Society Spring Seminar at the Conrad New York on Thursday.

For every pair of Warby Parker glasses purchased, the company funds the production of a pair for the nonprofit organization VisionSpring, which sells the glasses directly to consumers or companies. Last July, Warby Parker distributed 500,000 pairs of glasses to people in need.

Gilboa noted that it is simple for companies to be opaque about business and employment practices and partnerships, and it’s impossible to hide these facts in today’s world where information flows so freely.

Being authentic and transparent with consumers is important because people are going to find out how you are operating, he explained.

"Our customers are buying our glasses because they think our glasses are a great product at a great price point, and we make that convenient," he said. "I think they feel good about supporting a company that has a bigger social mission, but for the vast majority of our customers, that is not the primary purpose in buying our product."

Warby Parker’s values focus on transparency, innovation, and showing staffers, which Gilboa added are mainly Millennials, how their work has an impact on the world. The company engages employees by giving them opportunities to "learn and grow" through initiatives such as Warby Parker Academy. The program involves special guests teaching staffers various skills, including how to fundraise for startups, how to be hospitable, and how to be a better customer service representative.

The company shows employees how their work is effecting lives around the world by flying them to meet with nonprofit partners that distribute glasses to people in need in places such as Guatemala.

On a weekly basis, staffers are also asked to share an innovative idea.

Gilboa founded Warby Parker in 2010 when he lost his glasses and realized that to replace them it would cost $700. He looked into why glasses are so expensive, and found out they cost 10 to 20 times more to buy than to manufacture, so he built a business model that cut out the middleman and licensing fees. By designing glasses in-house, the company is able to lower the cost of its glasses by a significant amount.

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