Ray-Ban Wayfarers: Made in the Shade

If ever there was a brand of sunglasses that has had a love affair with the camera, it’s Ray-Ban’s boxy Wayfarers. One of the brand’s big breaks was in 1961, when Audrey Hepburn wore a pair in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It also got a boost when John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd donned Wayfarers in the 1980 movie that still inspires portly guys everywhere, The Blues Brothers. But the brand hit its apex of cool in 1983, when a young Tom Cruise put on the sunglasses as he danced around in his skivvies in Risky Business.

But Wayfarers, launched by Bausch & Lomb in 1952, were low on the buzz scale by the time the new millennium rolled around. According to a company spokesperson, to get it back on track, Ray-Ban launched a three-pronged comeback strategy: a return to the Wayfarer’s original, rebellious styling; an edgy marketing campaign by Cutwater in San Francisco, and high-profile PR events; and embracing new media alternatives such as MySpace.com.

In 2002, Wayfarers, by then owned by global eyewear titan Luxottica, got a major revamp that included softening the edges of the frame in an attempt to woo more women, says a company representative. In November 2006, Luxottica reissued the original Wayfarer in a variety of hip frames—from black and tortoise shell to camouflage—and a healthy dose of PR, the highlight of which was a “coming-back-out” party at Irving Plaza in Manhattan. It featured a number of celebrities, including Jimmy Fallon, Molly Sims and Mischa Barton, and an exhibit by legendary photographer Mick Rock, who captured hot, young artists such as The Killers’ Brandon Flowers, Johnny Marr and members of Franz Ferdinand in their Wayfarers.

Currently, Ray-Ban is sponsoring a Battle of the Bands-style contest on MySpace.com as part of its “Never Hide” campaign, launched for the spring/summer selling season. The gist of the campaign is to position those who wear Ray-Ban sunglasses as courageous, somewhat rebellious independent thinkers who aren’t afraid to show the world their true selves. The creative executions for the campaign, which broke March 2007, were handled by Cutwater (media by Carat International).

According to Bill Balderaz, president of Webbed Marketing and the author of a blog on marketing buzz at buzz.ducttapemarketing.com, the contest is an effective way to marry two forces that are joined at the hip: sunglasses and rock ‘n’ roll.

“Ray-Ban knows that the brand is hot right now, and they’re looking for ways to take advantage of that,” says Balderaz. “It’s hard to think of something more likely to drive buzz for them than a rock-themed contest on MySpace.”