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Don’t Tell Your Product or Service. Sell Your Story.

There's a quote that I read a while back that really stuck with me. I'm not sure who wrote it, but whoever it was was a genius! It's an unbelievably simple idea that gets forgotten over and over again by marketers. We may find ourselves thinking, Why the hell is my marketing team not garnering ROI after all this time?

Maybe there's a very good reason, like it could be time to try a different marketing tactic. But, most other times, it's as straightforward as this:

Don’t tell your product or service. Sell your story. 

Well, duh, right? It sounds easy, but it's truly not or everyone would be doing it. Though, it is simple. And we have all seen crappy marketing campaigns where we think to ourselves, What the actual #$^* were they thinking?  Ahem, Pepsi in 2017.

On the other hand, we have also seen really successful campaigns from brands that have mastered storytelling in their marketing efforts.

In these cases, it's important to mention that people don't just become instantly sold on something, whether it's a product, service, or idea in general. They have to buy into it to buy it. In other words, they must be inspired to take action, or feel like there's something in it for them.

This is something Warby Parker does really well.

Warby Parker

Warby Parker is a brand that was started by a group of classmates who wanted to disrupt the glasses industry to serve customers in a much better way. At the time:

  1. Prescription glasses were expensive
  2. Eye doctor appointments felt inconvenient
  3. Travel to glasses showrooms could be far for rural customers especially.

With their business model, customers were able to order prescription glasses and sunglasses all online. Customers' first purchase would give them five glasses styles to choose from free of charge and allow them to send the remaining pairs back also free of charge. Customers only have to pay for the pair they keep. Today, the brand has shipped over 500,000 pairs of glasses and employs over 100 people.

So, how did they garner traction with the business?

Social media, of course!

Warby Parker used social media to their advantage by developing authentic relationships with their customers. Many of us in the marketing industry refer to it as online community building.  

And online community building is highly underappreciated.

It's one of those marketing buzzwords that "smart" people like to throw around in networking events or on job applications, but it's rarely given the time and thought it truly deserves.

Here are five ways that Warby Parker builds and sustains online communities.

1. Internal & External Engagement

Warby Parker makes it a point to try to respond to all forms of engagement on their social media platforms. That means, every comment, DM, tag, and so on from users that involve the brand, these users see reciprocated engagement. I refer to that as internal engagement because it comes from the brand on their own posts.

On the other hand, I refer to external engagement as when the brand engages with posts from like-minded brands or users. Brands can do that by searching for relevant, commonly used hashtags and engaging with the posts that stand out, or by sharing stories from users that are inspiring.

On both occasions, it brings awareness to users who may not already know about the brand, or if they do, they will feel a better sense of community as if there are real people behind the screen. It may also drive more comments, follows, shares, etc. to the brand's profile.

2. User-Generated Content

Who would you trust more to promote a product to you: your friend or the brand selling it? Probably your friend because they are less likely to be biased and will offer you a more realistic, authentic review.

Whenever brands can, especially in the e-commerce industry, they should encourage users to post content using their brands. It's not only free sales collateral, but it's also a very effective marketing tactic for driving sales. In fact, one survey by Stackla found that"79% of consumers say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions."  

Warby Parker knows the importance of UGC; it can be like gold for brands on social media. They share photos, videos, recommendations/reviews, and more. Users love to see brands share their content, and it will motivate them to generate even more, knowing they were acknowledged. In addition, "customers who post photos of themselves in frames are buying at twice the rate of those who don’t," according to Warby Parker.

3. Educating Users

Brands will never sell a product or service that consumers don't understand. And let's be real: who the hell reads the directions anymore? Certainly not me, and probably not you either. It has to be simple!

Another thing that Warby Parker does exceptionally well at is their product and process education. If users have questions, they have various ways to ask and receive an answer from the brand. Social media is just one of them! A lot more users would rather type out a message to brands than pick up the phone, according to numerous studies.

In fact, according to research, 1 in 3 social media users would rather reach out via social media to receive customer service than phone or email. Additionally, "71% of consumers will likely recommend your brand to others."

4. Social Good

It's no surprise to anyone that consumers love to represent and buy from brands that market for social good. Warby Parker makes this a big priority. By joining forces with VisionSpring for the "Buy a Pair, Give a Pair" campaign, they are able to provide one pair of eyeglasses for every one of Warby Parker glasses that is purchased from a consumer. 

To date, VisionSpring has donated over seven million eyeglasses to those in need and continues to do so.

This is an effective marketing strategy because it allows brands to connect their mission and purpose to inspire consumers. People are more receptive to brands that do good for the world and touch upon something they feel passionate about. It also helps to break up continuous promotional, salesy posts.

5. Memes & Fun Posts

Who doesn't love a funny or silly post by brands? That's what social media was truly made for: to encourage conversation and the exchanging of messages. It's a dialogue, not a monologue. Rather than giving off a cheesy, awkward vibe, Warby Parker does a great job of incorporating humor with a little bit of promotion. The post above received a ton of engagement because of this.

Users feel a part of the community when the content isn't too stale or corporate. That's what makes it both relatable and shareable. For someone that doesn't even wear glasses, I still think the post above is funny and real. People love to laugh, and it will make the brand seem more human.


Using the effective social media marketing tactics from Warby Parker, we learned to:

  1. Tell stories that people actually care about, and more specifically— your target audience.
  2. Remember that communities can be built, but not easily sustained. Make sure to continuously provide value and entertainment.
  3. Not all stories are good and should be told. Focus on the ones that are funny or light-hearted.
  4. Engage, engage, engage with users!

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to reach out with any questions about the content above, or about digital marketing in general. I would be happy to help! Stay tuned for more to come. ?

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