How Warby Parker’s newsjacking campaign eclipsed the competition [Marketing]

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Newsjacking, or agile marketing as it can also be known, is a tricky thing to get right.

While Oreo succeeded in 2013 – cleverly capitalising on the infamous Superbowl blackout – other brands that followed suit were called out for lazily jumping on the bandwagon. 

Jumping on real-time events such as elections or celebrity deaths can also divide consumers. Cinnabon’s tweet in tribute to Carrie Fisher was both comical and clever to some, for instance, yet tacky and insensitive to others.

One story to dominate the news recently was the solar eclipse, or more specifically, the first total solar eclipse to cross North America since 1918. Unsurprisingly, with nothing to lose, a wide range of brands from Casper to Lipton used the event to capitalise on social conversation. However, the one campaign that stood out as the best of the bunch was from US eyewear brand Warby Parker.

So what did it involve? Here’s a run-down of the campaign, along with a few things we can learn from it.

Brand alignment

Newsjacking is much harder to pull off when the event or occurence is entirely unrelated to a brand or its product, but occasionally, something comes along which feels like a gift.

For Warby Parker, this was the case with the solar eclipse. 

With people desperate to catch a glimpse of the eclipse as it happened, the brand created a campaign based on the importance of protecting your eyes whilst doing so. And what better brand to promote this message than one which sells glasses?

Surprisingly, not many others in this retail category took the opportunity. Coastal created a few informative posts on social media on what to do during the eclipse, while Zenni Optical only replied to customer tweets. Other big brands like Ray Ban tried to avoid the subject entirely, only sternly warning people that they would not be protected by wearing sunglasses. Safety was obviously a big concern.

In contrast, Warby Parker created a dedicated landing page on its own site called ‘The Great American Solar Eclipse’, alongside activity on social and in its physical stores. 

Slick design 

Using real-life events for marketing can often be rushed, with brands quickly rolling out tweets in response to something that’s already happened. However, Warby Parker clearly planned its campaign well in advance – a fact reflected by the slick design of its landing page. 

With stunning graphics and informative content, the page offers users a pleasing UX, and also continues its cool and slightly quirky tone of voice that the brand has become so well known for.

You can read more on Warby Parker’s UX and design features in this article by Ben Davis.

In-store activity

Other brands that jumped on the eclipse did so mainly for the opportunity to insert their name into the conversation, perhaps posting a funny tweet or offering a bit of information about the event.

Warby Parker aimed to provide consumers with something of real value, as well as simultaneously increasing footfall to its own stores. 

It handed out free eclipse glasses (compliant with ISO safety standards) to visitors of its US shops. If people couldn’t make it in person, however, it also offered online users the chance to download a pinhole projector, which is a special eclipse filter.

The potential for consumers to directly get involved didn’t stop there - Warby Parker also held a special ‘eclipse-viewing party’ in its Nashville store, where the location happened to fall in the path of totality.

The event was made complete with music from local artists and food from nearby restaurants. 

Social engagement

Warby Parker is well-known for its clever social strategy, where it fosters loyalty by conversing with users and posting behind-the-scenes goings on. 

The solar eclipse was no exception, with the brand taking the opportunity to post eclipse-related content across all of its social channels.

Capitalising on the visually stunning nature of the event, it worked with professional storm chasers to photograph the eclipse itself – posting the resulting images on its Instagram channel.

On Facebook, it launched a competition whereby the winner would be flown out to the Nashville eclipse party.

Lastly, on Twitter, it continued its focus on customer engagement – ramping up excitement in the run up to the event as well as acknowledging it after it happened with a constant stream of replies.

Humour and pop culture

Newsjacking can often veer into silly territory, mainly because brands recognise that engagement will be short-lived. It’s more about creating a splash in-the-moment rather than serious long-term loyalty.

In line with this, Warby Parker took the opportunity to create a rather daft parody music video – set to the famous Bonnie Tyler hit, ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. 

The brand's content strategy usually centres on user-generated content, focusing more on feedback and advocacy from consumers. However, it is not averse to using humour to engage and entertain too, with ‘Solar Eclipse of the Heart’ continuing this unashamedly fun and carefree approach.

It clearly resonated with the audience, too. The video has gone on to be the brand’s most-viewed video on Facebook, with 455,000 views on the platform. However, it was not created purely in the name of fun. Warby Parker cleverly used it to promote and raise awareness of its Nashville store event and related eyewear offer.

What can we learn?

So, what can we learn from Warby Parker's campaign? Here are a few key takeaways:

1. Make it relevant. Unless the idea is super clever, jumping on a real-time event when it has no relation to a brand can seem insincere. Warby Parker recognised that it could offer something of greater value to consumers thanks to the link between the event and its product, instead of merely using it as a shallow marketing ploy.

2. Use a multi-channel approach. Warby Parker is a great example of agile marketing because it created an entire campaign on the back of a cultural event – not just a one-off tweet or Instagram post. This increases the likelihood of engagement, with users being able to get involved with the campaign via a number of different channels.

3. Create an experience. By hosting eclipse parties and offering free glasses, Warby Parker ensured that consumer involvement would transfer from online to offline. In turn, this increased the brand’s connection with its audience, giving them something more memorable than a standard brand campaign might.

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