On The Road With Warby Parker

Hayley Milliman - Content Lead


When it comes to brand activation, there are few companies that kick quite as much *ss as Warby Parker.

Founded in 2010 by a group of friends with a simple mission, Warby Parker has been reinventing retail since day one. Warby Parker sells stylish glasses at affordable prices primarily online. When their first run of products sold out within weeks, the novice company found themselves facing a unique challenge: without a physical store for customers to visit, how would Warby Parker retain their waiting customers AND attract new ones if they couldn’t send their glasses home to try them on?

Rather than tackling their traditional supply-and-demand problem in a conventional way, Warby Parker took the opportunity to activate their brand through unique events that highlighted what made their company special.

First, they invited users to co-founder Neil Blumenthal’s apartment to try on glasses and chat about the product.

Then, they packed their bags, partnered with American Express, and took their show on the road for the Warby Parker Class Trip, a cross-country adventure in a bright yellow school bus.

What Is Brand Activation?

Brand activation may sound unbearably “buzz-wordy” but it is actually a really interesting topic with huge implications for companies.

Basically, brand activation is when you tell people about your brand through unique experiences, thereby increasing awareness and engagement.

Consider how Warby Parker first popped onto the eyewear scene: they had features in Vogue and GQ. While super effective (as I mentioned before, WP sold tens of thousands of glasses within weeks), their initial buzz could’ve died off really fast, especially since they had run out of product to put in front of customers and didn’t have a way to meet their customers face-to-face.

By embarking on the Class Trip, Warby Parker used classic brand activation strategy: they spread the word about their company by creating a one-of-a-kind experience that a.) helped get their name out there and b.) told people what Warby Parker was all about.

Reinventing Retail

Here’s what Warby Parker did on their Class Trip:

  • Outfit an old yellow school bus to look like a professor’s library. This a.) looked super cool and b.) was very on brand with Warby Parker’s retro look.
  • Travel to nine cities across the country. In each city, the bus would let people come on board, try on glasses, and engage with the brand.
  • Blog about the experience online so people could follow along.
  • Create an online contest that customers could enter for a chance to win free glasses and party on the bus.

The Class Trip is a classic example of brand activation done right.

The idea was unique: customers would easily remember a new company showing up to their town in a bright yellow school bus. It also was very “on-brand” for Warby Parker – the visage of a yellow school bus matched the retro aesthetics of Warby Parker’s glasses. It also generated a lot of hype – people wanted to go on the bus, so Warby Parker immediately eliminated the problem of getting their customers in the door to look at their products.

Brand activation events are successful because they generate interest in your company in a way that feels fresh. When customers get to walk onto a giant yellow school bus, they don’t feel like they’re being sold to: they feel like they’re part of a grand adventure. Whether or not the people who went on the Class Trip bus bought glasses, they probably told their friends about the experience, thus increasing Warby Parker’s reach organically.

Why Brand Activation?

Brand activation events are customized for your company. They help you attract new audiences, increase retention of existing customers, encourage repeat visits, get huge PR hits, and are really fun for your staff. Brand activation allows you to strip away a lot of the sales and marketing noise and truly on creating an amazing, customer-centered experience.

If you think a brand activation event sounds like a great fit for your company, we can help. We have tons of experience in creating custom events that help B2C brands activate customers and influencers. All of our events are 100% customized and designed to make sure your customers leave after having an unforgettable time.

Shoot us an email ([email protected]) to learn more.

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