Anti-glare Technology: a Marketing Challenge

Anti-glare coating has been in retail for decades, and it was available decades before that in the scientific industry. Yet it really is amazing how many of our patient/customers have never hear of it, have no idea what its benefits are, and, when told about these benefits, still choose not to purchase it.

Today’s consumer focus is on the frame. The concern is primarily with style. Fashion Leaders recognize the latest trends and happily purchase them. Fashion Followers watch the leaders and eagerly seek the same. Fashion Laggers take their time, but eventually they, too, end up purchasing the style– if only because it is on clearance. Trends in eyewear are treated like trends in shoes, handbags, belts, and jewelry. Too bad the customer has to pay “extra” for those troublesome, pesky lenses too! The lens always seems to be the afterthought.

No one in our industry could deny the benefits of the ’80s designer brand “revolution” that has spiked our revenues ever since. But it can be extremely frustrating dealing day to day, as on a battlefield, with our customers’ “form over function” and “style over substance” mindset. Customers “shop” for the frame. We have to sell them the lenses!

You advise them to purchase non-reflective lenses because they eliminate glare. “I don’t notice any glare,” the customer says. Then you tell them that non-glare lenses work better. They tell you they don’t need a lens that works better, just one that works. You counter that they will see better. Here they may consider, with furrowed brow, but in the end it’s often a shrug and a, “Hmm. Maybe next time.”

One young woman told me straight out that she didn’t really care about how she saw out of her glasses. All she cared about was how other people saw HER in them! Well, at least she was honest about it.

Lens Bundling: a Quick-Fix for Anti-glare Sales

Many optical shops bypass the problem by selling “bundled” lenses, lenses packaged with non-reflective coating, which really works best for higher priced optical boutiques and private optometry practices. Customers getting eyewear at optical boutiques may already expect a higher ticket price and more easily accommodate the bundle. Patients at a doctors’ office may trustingly accept whatever the doctor recommends, and if they have insurance (which almost never covers add-ons,) showing them the over all savings usually does the trick.

It isn’t so easy, though, in the Alternate Universe of optical chains, Big Box discount stores, and warehouse-style outlets. Their ridiculously low advertised prices: $30.00 eyeglasses, two pairs for $100.00, or 50% off coupons serve to lure the customers in. Then the optician’s job is to “talk them up.” It can be done, and I do it every day, but it’s an uphill fight we don’t always win.

While there is a class of consumer who will buy just about anything if they think it’s “the best,” these are not that sort of customer! This class of customer is suspicious of anything “extra” they don’t yet perceive a need for. Many already know what they want and are looking for a “deal.” Most have limited funds. That’s why they’re there.

Of course there is an assumption among some of the “optical elite” that these customers really don’t matter because they aren’t buying the BEST, newest, and most beautiful of optical goods. After all, These are the folks who buy $10.00 sneakers and store brand food! They buy mass produced frames that are cheap, cheap, cheap in styles that are years behind the times. NOBODY is marketing to them! (except internet companies, but we won’t mention that…)

But THOSE customers are a sizable part of our population. That’s why discount, warehouse, and outlet stores exist. Many customers who shop off-brand have money but are very careful with it. Others with little money often still find a way to afford things they want. Think of all the “low income” people who have smart phones and HD TV’s.

NEVER discount this patient base! They make up about half of all optical customers. These are the people who most need anti-glare marketing. When it comes to modern lens technology, these are the “Undiscovered Country.”

As I stated earlier in: The Vocation of Opticianry, and Optical Branding, “wants” sell more merchandise than “needs” do. You’d think it would just the opposite, wouldn’t you? I mean, if you need something, you go and get it. Basic survival, right? Not so, Buddy, not so! People may be rational creatures, but we are emotional creatures too. We don’t always act rationally, especially about money. Buying our wants is always more enjoyable than supplying our needs. People will put off their needs and put themselves into hock for their wants! Advertisers understand this…

Successful Advertising: Creating Wants out of Needs

One of the most successful ad campaigns of the last half century has been in oral care products: toothpaste. The original purpose of toothpaste was to clean teeth to prevent tooth decay. Early ads concerned its medical benefits, how dentists recommended it, how much fluoride was in it, and how better off you would be without cavities.

Then, some marketing genius came up with the idea that bright, white teeth would make you sexy. Almost overnight all the major pharmaceuticals were advertising the sexual appeal of beautiful teeth. Television ads showed gorgeous models with brilliant smiles cavorting on beaches and flirting. Consumers were bombarded by the idea that brushing their teeth would get them a mate, or at least a date. Sales must have spiked exponentially!

Now there is a plethora of oral care products. You don’t just buy toothpaste, you shop for it, and you can pick up additional “whitening treatments” (or pay big bucks for a dentist to do it!) in case the regular products just aren’t enough. Advertisers took the need for clean teeth and turned it into a want by appealing to people’s vanity.

The optical industry should market anti-glare coating the same way. We need to market sexy eyes!

Anti-glare Coating and Sex Appeal

Does “sexy eyes” sound strange to you? It shouldn’t. Cosmetic companies have built fortunes on the sex appeal of the eye. If you had taken a poll before the launch of the “sexy teeth” campaign to find what body part attracted people most to a potential mate, it would NOT have been the teeth!

It would have been the eyes.

The eyes are the “windows to the soul.” Yes, we value the smile, but a smile needs eye contact to connect. Poets don’t write sonnets about teeth, but people sing songs about eyes! Eyes convey feeling. They show personality. A look can be innocent and sweet or sultry and alluring. Our very first sexual encounter happens with our eyes!

So why obscure the eyes with lens glare? Lens glare isn’t sexy at all!

Lots of customers don’t even realize that their glasses have lens glare, much less that they should get rid of it. Just like consumers didn’t realize that their lives were incomplete without dazzlingly bright teeth, they simply don’t know how important clear, non-reflecting lenses should be to them.

Of course WE know that A/R is important because it enhances vision, but good vision is a need not necessarily a want. To really sell the idea that customers should WANT anti-glare, we need to make it a vital beauty issue, and we have to market this aggressively.

Creatively advertising Anti-glare

I can think of all sorts of really FUN ads that could be run for a new “sexy eyes” campaign!

Consider this:

A scene opens to a lovely model applying eye make-up. The camera pans in closer to show her carefully treating her great big eyes with eyeliner, mascara, and two kinds of eye shadow. Then she puts on a bold, designer eyeglass frame with light glaring off the lenses. (extra flat base curves would do this!) The angle is shot so that the lens shine makes the eyes hard to see. “Don’t hide those PRETTY eyes behind UGLY, unsightly lens glare! Then show the same model with non-glare lenses smiling straight at the camera before turning to the side to bat her eyes flirtatiously at a good looking man. The man smiles back appreciatively. “Get Anti-glare lenses. Your eyes will thank you… and so will.. he!”

Or this:

Open the scene with a musician (you supply the musical genre, the regional, ethnic, and racial character of the man, and the appropriate accent and idiom) seated at a piano (or musical instrument of your choice.) He looks up at the camera and winks. “Before you flash them baby blues, make sure your lens ain’t flashin’ too! Glasses used to cramp my style, man.” Skip to an image of the musician performing on-stage with glare-gleaming lenses. Make him seem impaired. “Those lights! I couldn’t see my music. No one could see me!” Now have him put on glasses with non-glare lenses. He winks again. “Now YOU can see ME!” He starts to play. “So go ahead and wear those COOL specs, baby, but GET THAT ANTI-GLARE! Cuz glare ain’t cool. And it ain’t pretty! When it comes to your glasses, Flashin’ ain’t the Fashion!” (Sadly, I made him sound like Wolfman Jack, but think of my age here!)

And how about this:

A young, 20-something hunk is lounging on a street corner, James Dean style, watching an approaching girl. The man’s “bro” style glasses shine with glare. “Before you give that girl THE EYE, make sure she can actually see it!” The man winks, but the girl walks past him. She didn’t notice his overture. The girl walks toward another stud, this one wearing clear, glare-free lenses. They make meaningful eye contact. The stud winks. His eyes sparkle. She sees it, smiles. and he smiles back. An instant conquest! The first hunk watches them walk off hand in hand and he stands there lonely and left behind before turning, crestfallen, toward the camera. “Don’t let this happen to you! Wear glare-free lenses by…

Well, you get the picture! We really should run ads that feature clear, glare-free lenses as desirable from a beauty perspective, and we have to portray antiquated glare-obscured lenses as something that makes us look stupidly ugly– especially to the opposite sex!

Do my ads contain an obviously silly element? Of course! I’m an optician, Jim, not an advertizing executive! But I think, to make these ads truly effective, they would have to be a little funny, a little corny. Most (heck ALL!) of those old sexy-teeth ads were unbelievably corny, but they got results. Customers like humor. They remember the corny ads and forget the serious ones. So make ’em laugh! You might just make ’em buy.

And, as opticians, what we really want is for everyone to be wearing the latest and best vision technology. This better, “sexy eyes”, approach to marketing anti-glare lenses might just be the thing!