Being True To Your Brand- Lessons From Cari Zalloni

Rick Ross, with Cazal tattooed on his face.

I was saddened to hear about Cari Zalloni .. eyewear designer – founder of Cazal dying.. It was a great loss to the optical industry and eyewear design. He was a lesson in branding, you can spot a Cazal frame from 100 feet. That is branding. In the 35 years that I have been in this industry, one of the few eywear companies through thick and thin, through plastic and metal through ups and downs that has offered consistency.

Back when I started 35 years ago selling Neostyle, my competition was Cazal, Silhouette, Menrad, Metzler.. Those German-Austrian companies  were known for unparalled quality and or bold styling.  Through out the years.. well you can see where those companies are now, but the one  design that still stands out is Cazal.. because he was true to the brand. That brand today has built a following of consumers, eyewear collectors and is valuable product from the vintage eyewear market.

Great Branding is timeless – think Frank Lloyd Wright, think Coco Chanel, think Steven Jobs- think Coke. Many great brands fall off the wagon, think NEW Coke, think Apple when Steven Jobs was gone, but it doesn’t mean they can’t come back.

So exactly what is a brand? Simply put, a brand is your identity, your corporate identity. It is the one thing that differentiates you and your office from everyone else. That message is carried over from business cards-to staff dress -to office decor-to products-to logos-to social media.

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”

When I look at optical retailers who have created their own brand- I think of Justin Bazan, who bravely is building his brand via Yelp and Facebook, encouraging online engagement regarding contact lenses and events (see discussion on ODs on Facebook) Madeline of Optique of Denver, with Laughing Yoga classes and Art shows, Gents Breakfast, a small cosy garage boutique in Los Angeles, Nate Bonilla-Warford with 4Square. When outside a bar in New York and asking a consumer where he got his glasses and he proudly announced he got them from Julia Gogosha, where even Lady Gaga got some frames. Europtics, in Encinitas building their brand by quality and buying local, even Ira Haber from Europtics as part of his branding message (ipads, decor, after sale and quality high end merchandise.)

Building your brand is leadership, vision and marketing. Leadership is a strong commitment to who you are, what you stand for and a vision of what you offer. Branding is your staff knowing your vision and fitting into your brand.

Building your brand takes time, patience and committment. It starts with a mission statement or a statement of who you are, what your fundamental core mantra is. According to Guy Kawasaki your mantra should be simple and 3 or 4 words. That mantra is shared with all staff His examples:

  • Federal Express: “Peace of mind”
  • Nike: “Authentic athletic performance”
  • Target: “Democratize design”
  • Mary Kay “Enriching women’s lives”

Your mantra could be anything from enriching peoples faces, vision performance.. not to steal from the above.. But that mantra decides everything from LOGO, to dress, to attitude, to products, to equipment.. Everything is driven around the mantra.

The questions I ask:

  1. Have you defined your brand?
  2. Do you have a mantra? Does that mantra reflect your mission statement if you have one?
  3. Is your staff aware of your brand? Do you talk about building your brand in staff meetings? If you asked each staff member separately would they be able to tell you your brand?
  4. Is your brand timeless?
  5. What are you known for?
  6. Does everything you do reflect your brand?
  7. Will the memory of your office last?
  8. When people see or visit your office is it memorable?
  9. Will they talk about you in years to come?

I would challenge each office to really examine their brand, whether corporate or personal. Make it a point to discuss brand building in staff meetings. Make lists of things that need to be updated to reflect brand building. Incorporate brand messaging into social media.. It will take time but the end results, like Cari Zalloni will be timeless.


Aspire MidPage June 19