Oakley, maker of sunglasses and sports gear, is throwing open the doors to the inner sanctum where its products have been mysteriously designed, in the hope of joining the ranks of high-flying sports performance brands like Red Bull and Nike.
Owned by huge Italian eyewear company Luxottica, Oakley will launch its first global marketing initiative in early April. Unlike past product-focused ad campaigns, the upcoming effort, called "Disruptive by Design," seeks to tell the story of the brand’s culture.
Oakley is using previously unseen stories and materials from its 39-year history—plus an introductory video narrated by actor Kevin Spacey—to position itself as a hub for groundbreaking design that goes beyond sports eyewear. "Disruption has always been core to our DNA and for the first time, we are giving insight into our practices," said Tom Cartmale, global brand communications director. Along with making an emotional bond with loyalists, the goal is to attract creative and design-savvy millennials, he said.
Experts say the brand has necessary the street cred. "Oakley is one of the few established eyewear and lifestyle brands that has permission to follow a strategy of disruption with the hard-to-impress millennial set," said James Wright, senior partner at Lippincott, a brand consultancy. But to pull it off, the brand must "provide differentiated experiences that appeal to the target in a way that drives viral excitement."
Oakley has been operating in the sports lifestyle space with major brands like Red Bull and Nike for a while, "but we focus more on craftsmanship," said Cartmale. The company will continue to sponsor elite athletes and hobnob with the Hollywood set, but "it’s time for our brand point of view to be better known," he said. When it comes to social media, for instance, Oakley has a respectable 2.2 million fans on Facebook—but that's a small following compared to Red Bull’s whopping 43 million Facebook supporters and Nike's 17 million fans.
Oakley worked with four23, a London-based studio, on its marketing campaign, which will span print, out of home, digital, film, direct marketing, social media, events and experiences. Initially, the work will feature company founder Jim Jannard and the company’s futuristic "design bunker" headquarters in Southern California, which was designed by CEO Colin Baden.
New retail displays include an interactive display for snow goggles that features a nine-foot transparent skull and an immersive video that puts you on the track with a Super-cross motorcycle racing champion, using Oakley’s next-generation virtual reality headset.
At the same time, the brand campaign serves a pragmatic purpose, paving the way for Oakley’s expansion into wearable technology. (Think Google Glass and Fitbit.) Cartmale confirms that the company is working on new digital eyewear designs and is exploring customized products that use face mapping to tailor a pair of glasses or goggles specifically to the user’s dimensions.