Do you have a favorite brand of sunglasses? Are you willing to pay extra for it? Designer sunglasses are an interesting product category. When you peel away the veneer that is branding, you discover just how similar most pairs of sunglasses really are. Change the brand name and you still have essentially the same product.
Sunglasses by any other name would still be sunglasses. It doesn’t matter whether you call them sunglasses or shades. You can even call them sunnies if you want to. But the whole naming thing goes even further. Most of the brand names you are familiar with are just that: brand names. They are not models or manufacturers.
Does that matter? In terms of having a set of UV-filtering lenses covering your eyes, no. But it does matter to your budget. The biggest brands tend to cost the most. But if a brand is just a name, do you gain anything by spending more for it?
1. A Brand Is an Image
Marketing experts will tell you that a brand is essentially an image. It is the image a company wants to project about itself and its products. Do you remember the cola wars of the 1970s and 80s? Pepsi worked hard to brand itself as a company tailor-made for young people looking to buck the system. They succeeded for the most part.
Then there were the PC wars between Microsoft and Apple. Apple positioned itself as a company for the young and hip, in contrast to Microsoft that was allegedly for older establishment types. Apple won significant market share from that branding image. The company still benefits from the image today.
In terms of fashion sunglasses, Luxottica dominates the market. They own most of the well-known brands including Ray-Ban, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, and Giorgio Armani. Every Luxottica brand projects a certain image to a specific consumer base.
2. Branding Is Marketing
With the understanding that a brand is an image, the exercise of branding is a marketing exercise. It is all about finding as many ways as possible to get a company’s image in front of its customers. It is no surprise that the success of any marketing campaign is rooted in the effectiveness of the image presented.
Marketing can be employed on multiple fronts. Luxottica’s marketing is mainly aimed at consumers themselves. They focus on creating retail demand for their products by marketing to the people most likely to buy them. It’s an effective strategy.
Olympic Eyewear, out of Salt Lake City, approaches marketing from a different perspective. They are less concerned about marketing to consumers and more concerned about marketing to retailers. They are retailer focused because the company sells its more than two dozen brands of designer sunglasses to retail outlets. They are a wholesale business for all intents and purposes.
3. Nearly Identical Products
Both companies market a certain image to their customers. Their respective images encapsulate everything about their differing brands. But take away both marketing and branding, and you are left with nearly identical products.
There isn’t a whole lot of functional difference from one pair of sunglasses to the next. Most sunglasses are made of the exact same materials as well. Their price points can vary drastically based on customer demand. But in the end, sunglasses are still sunglasses.
Some people are willing to pay a lot more for a well-known brand. Others are content to purchase off-brand sunglasses in exchange for saving money. To each his own. The important thing is understanding that, at least in the eyewear industry, brands are little more than names and images.