By Vicki B. Masliah
Everyone is susceptible to the power of a brand. Just answer the following questions. What kind of car do you drive? What kind of sneakers do you wear? Chances are your first thoughts were not sedan or high-tops, but rather, Honda or Nike, or the like.
A brand is, basically, a label. It is a name, phrase or logo that notes a product or family of products. Through promotion, though, the label becomes imbued with an identity, creating a full of benefits that define the brand. A successful brand maintains that identity and it remains over time. The brand then becomes the guarantee that the product has value beyond its inherent quality. An expectation is developed that the product will perform. The consumer feels secure in the purchase. Customer loyalty is inspired by the perceived value of the brand.
How does the lens industry transfer the tremendous power brands possess into valuable sales? Think about some of the brands that have been attached to lenses. Consumers know of the connection between precision optics and Zeiss. Pentax and Nikon make superior cameras. Polaroid is known for developing the technology for instant photographs. Seiko is the world’s timekeeper. Kodak freezes the moments we remember. Nothing sticks to Teflon, and it’s so easy to clean.
A few optical industry brands have even achieved consumer recognition. For example, Varilux has become known as a multifocal without lines. Transitions lenses are recognized as a lenses that change color density when exposed to sunlight.
Some optical retailers have created successful private-label brands.
“We have created a certain cachet to our eyewear by offering our brand name,” says Randal Golden, vice-president of D.O.C Optics in Southfield, Mich. “It is well supported by our staff and as a result, quite successful. The patients find credibility and sincerity in our dispensers so it isn’t difficult to direct them to a particular product.”
Consumer advertising has proved to be effective for not only creating perceptions of both consumer brands, industry brands and private label brands, but also for raising awareness of an entire product category.|| “The advertising being presented for the Teflon anti-reflective coating has been quite beneficial,” says optician Joan Rutka of Mission Optical in Orland Park, Ill. “The patients are being made aware of and acknowledging the benefits of AR coatings. The advertising is opening a dialogue for us and that’s kind of nice. Once the conversation is begun, we can direct the patients to what is most beneficial for them.” Dispensers and optical retailers can take advantage of the power of consumer advertising even if they don’t offer the advertised brand.
“Even though we don’t do brand advertising in the store, patients are asking for the Teflon coating,” says optician Bob Royden, owner of The Village Eyeworks in Surprise, Ariz. “Of course, they are also asking for Varilux lenses. Since there is no marriage between the two, this gives us a real chance to educate the patients about the features and benefits of anti-reflective and progressive lenses, and aid them in their decision.”
Russ Tolar, director of optical operations for Eyecare Center of Rocky Mount, N.C., observes, “The particular name connected with a product is important. An Adidas lens would have no meaning. The brand helps define the product. We do the brand names to aid our sales. We display posters, countercards, dispensing mats and demonstrators of the products we believe in. We will not, however, compromise on quality, just becaa product has a well-known name attached to it. It is much more important to assure patient satisfaction.”
One benefit of branding a lens is that it can make it easier for the patient to understand a product’s features and benefits. Since most patients don’t understand the technical aspects of how a lens works, the brand becomes a promise from the manufacturer and dispenser that says, “trust me, you’ll see great when you these lenses.” This is especially important with lenses becathey are hard to compare. It is cost-prohibitive for a person to purchase three different lens designs to see which is better for them. The patient has to have faith in the dispenser and has to feel good about the product they are receiving. The brand helps to foster the good feeling that the fitting will be successful. The choice becomes a team effort. The patient trusts in the practitioner’s suggestions of the best options for them and can trust in their own decision in the which they are content and assures return business.
Vicki B. Masliah is director of professional education for Hirsch Optical, an independent.