Sound & vision: eyewear brands and music

With 285 million visually impaired people on the planet, the eyewear business is by no means underrepresented when it comes to music. Whether its Buddy Holly (an artist that “made it OK to wear glasses” according to John Lennon), Elton John, Rivers Cuomo, or a string of hipster indie bands sporting horn-rimmed empty frames despite probably having 20:20 vision.

With eyewear (both fashionable and practical) on the rise and the business shifting its marketing trajectory due to new startups, such as Warby Parker, redefining the ethos of purchasing optical products, brands are looking for points of differentiation.

So, its not surprising that the vision care industry, a $32 billion business in the US alone, is ramping up its musical connections in a bid to woo a new generation of glasses, contact lens and sunglasses wearers. A good ear is crucial to the eyewear business. If we didn’t have them, our glasses would fall off.

Below is a global snapshot of optical brands that are using music to leverage their products.

TORTOISE & BLONDE

Tortoise & Blonde, one of a number of new startups biting at the heels of the eyewear establishment, was set in motion during the 2011 SXSW Festival’s Stylex Music Showcase. The brand describes itself as “the eyewear equivalent of an indie label band” making its alignment with the emerging music scene in many ways a natural fit.

The brand has since entered into collaborative partnerships with a wide range of carefully selected indie artists, such as Ra Ra Riot, Savior Adore, The Jane Doze and Pearl and the Beard, offering tour and promotional support, pop-up live gigs, and – in the visual equivalent of Taco Bell’s ‘Feed the Beat’ initiative’ -  free eye care for the artists.

WARBY PARKER

Warby Parker, the increasingly popular online eyewear startup, touched down in Austin earlier this year with its Citizen Circus, a live music festival curated by Grammy-award winning music supervisor Randall Poster, featuring over 15 emerging bands – including Xray Eyeballs, Bleeding Knee Club, and Dee Dee (Dum Dum Girls).

You can read more about the other aspects of Warby Parker’s SXSW experience - which included burlesque dancers, live theatre and lots of Warby Parker girls cycling round the festival letting music fans try on frames - in our ‘Exclusive: FRUKT SXSW 2012 Insight Report’.

BURBERRY

Burberry, a brand that is not stranger to music collaborations, chose to launch its summer 2012 eyewear collection with help from a variety of up and coming British acts. The fashion brand teamed up with One Night Only, Life in Film, The Daydream Club and Marika Hackman, in order to release a selection of exclusive free downloads over the month of April.

Each act also recorded an accompanying video for each track and behind the scenes footage, (with Burberry helping with those expensive production costs), plus the groups also went on to headline at Burberry gigs in Paris, Milan, New York and Sydney at the beginning of May.

ZOFF

Zoff, the Japanese optical brand, recently teamed up with seven member strong South Korean boy band U-Kiss (short for Ubiquitous Korean International idol Super Star), on an endorsement campaign that saw the group acting as brand ambassadors in the region.

The group, despite coming together in 2008, have only just recently launched themselves on Japan, with the success of the single ‘Tick Tack’ once again highlighting Japan’s love affair with all things K-pop related.

Each member of the group was showcased wearing Zoff eyewear, with plenty of behind the scenes footage adding additional value for fans.  Zoff also promoted the launch of a new store in Shibuya with a limited edition 500 product run of U-Kiss original branded glasses cases.

MOSCOT

Moscot, the NYC eyecare and eyewear brand, is side stepping the indie associations of companies such as Warber Parker and Tortoise & Blonde, instead opting to align itself with hard rock. A new campaign showcases the heaviest of heavy hitters by pairing up the brand with Chris Adler, of Lamb of God; Matt Heafy, of Trivium; Scott Ian, of Anthrax; Alex Skolnick, of Testament; and Zakk Wylde, of Black Label Society.

It’s a bold campaign, testament to the changing perception of eyewear and the fact that this category is reassessing itself amongst both the youth and the older boomer demographics

Outside of the metal endorsement the brand also hosts acoustic live sessions at its NY base, which do have a more indie vibe.

Wendy Simmons, who is co-president of Mascot, recently told the NY Times of the perception shift away from glasses as a “medical device”, highlighting how you previously “bought a pair disgruntled, because you thought you were getting older. Now, it’s an extension of your personality.”

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