We are a visual society. We care about what looks good, what looks pleasing. We like looking at pretty people. We like looking at pretty buildings, pretty homes, pretty cars, and pretty food. We all like art, no matter how you define it, we want to surround ourselves with what we each think is aesthetically pleasing. Part of the reason many of us got into optical is we appreciate the art that is nice eyewear.
Now take that human desire to showcase that art and combine it with our saturated social media universe. People don’t read like the use to, we scan. We look for headlines that attract us. We look for images that move us. The average person sees over 5,000 images a day. Some 95 million photos are uploaded online each and every day. Only a small handful are ever going to resonate with each of us during the day. How does your eyecare business stand out in this tsunami of photography?
It probably doesn’t. One of the reasons it doesn’t is because eyewear manufacturers have become increasingly chintzy with sharing the images they so artfully create every season. There are vendors I have worked with for decades who stubbornly refuse to share the images they create to promote their brand with their retail partners. It’s a fight that makes practically no sense at all.
Certainly, there are those who have abused the images provided by splashing some sort of SALE message atop that artwork. I will readily admit to being guilty as charged for doing so in the past (you know the saying about glass houses). It is always bad policy to base how a company shares images based on the occasional misdeeds of one or two accounts. You don’t stop offering doctor redo’s because one customer decided to take advantage of the policy and change frames at the same time.
Let’s start with what happens when a manufacturer doesn’t make it easy to share artwork with their ECP “partners”. First, it’s not all that hard to lift images from a website and use them with no approval from any brand. Most ECPs are not well versed in Photoshop, so you see ads all the time with remnants of overlayed text they couldn’t clean because the brand wouldn’t share. Secondly and more importantly it curtails how much that brand is every advertised and promoted. Every brand, from the biggest to the smallest is in the business of selling that brand. It doesn’t matter if you make the finest eyewear or the finest lenses from the bones of the hardest to find mythical creatures under the constant surveillance of fairy princesses, if you don’t or can’t sell the product.
A store that doesn’t sell through Brand A because they have been hamstrung by their corporate “partner” is far less likely to reorder when Brand B is more than willing to step in and help. So why does Brand A choose not to share their imagery? I’ve heard every story under the sun from protecting “creative integrity” to “we are happy to do the work for you”. What usually happens is nothing and both the brand and the retailer are the worse off for it. I’ve even heard a company tell a retailer to take their own photos. Do they actually think the retailer is going to go out and spend more money on a professional photographer and models taking images of the eyewear than they spent on the opening order for the eyewear? No, they will whip out their cell phone and do what they were never trained to do, take terrible pictures of good eyewear. Who is helped there? The retailer? The brand?
The funny thing is, those images have a very short shelf life. This year’s Spring Campaign is out of date next year and what good is a picture of a frame or color that’s no longer made? We just finished another Vision Expo and with it millions of dollars in orders were placed. If all those companies want reorders in Las Vegas it is incumbent on them to truly partner with their authorized retailers and provide them quality images both for print and social media.
The technology exists to help protect those images, such as passworded file sharing accounts. Some companies have stepped forward to provide quality images of every model at multiple angles as well as “lifestyle” shots or photos of models wear the eyewear. Then there are others who want to fight you and make life difficult every step of the way. One is leading the way in the year 2020 while the other is fighting like digital is new and we are worrying about Y2K all over.
Most ECPs are not planning their advertising months in advance, let alone their social media. Having to go through some convoluted corporate approval for any shot and any campaign is silly and ridiculous. It’s time-consuming for both the ECP and the vendor when both could be more productive doing other things. Dealer agreements already abound about the pricing structure for many brands. A clause can easily be inserted into the same agreement controlling how images are used if that is of major concern. If a retailer breaks the rules, take it up with them, don’t punish the entire eyewear marketplace. That’s akin to the automobile dealer never letting their sales staff haggle because one salesperson discounted a car $50 too much. Yes, a lot of $50 mistakes add up, but so too does the lack of appearing anywhere or worse yet, looking terrible when your brand is promoted because the brand felt it had to protect some version of artistic integrity over actually doing what they are in business to do, sell eyewear.
Too many companies remind me of the seagulls in Finding Nemo.
We applaud those brands that open themselves up and share their vision, their story, and their artwork with their ECP partners. Those brands understand the meaning of the word “partnership” and those brands will grow in the years ahead. Independent ECPs know and appreciate true partnerships. It’s time the rest of the optical community to catch up and take their partnership more seriously to help everyone sell more eyewear.