Oliver Peoples Sunglasses are just as successful as Ray Ban. Yet some people may argue that the Ray Ban models have a much higher profile than Larry Leight’s quirky eyewear brand. This assumption is probably unfair and based on opinion over fact. The two brands are very different in their approach, partly due to the fact that they offer very different products. It’s a bold statement to make; how can two manufacturers who both make sunglasses offer products that are that hugely differentiated? The answer doesn’t lie in the actual products themselves. The answer lies in the backstory that the two brands have created for themselves, and how those backstories impacted the marketplace.
The Oliver Peoples brand was not created with the intention to conform to other eyewear brands that already dominated the industry. Their creations were purposely vintage in their appearance, taking inspiration for popular American culture. The concept that they had was different. This meant that the brand’s tone of voice and image was somewhat alternative. Unlike other big name brands at the time, Oliver Peoples wasn’t loud and crass in their approach. They didn’t want to attract the usual crowd.
However when you launch a brand with the intentions of keeping it ‘niche’ or alternative it can be hard to ensure that all of your products are in line with your overarching business plan. The huge success and popularity of Oliver Peoples made this an even harder feat to achieve. But through careful advertising Oliver Peoples have maintained their domination of ‘niche’ within the eyewear industry.
Oliver Peoples are known for their very ‘out there’ TV commercials, rarely sticking to the norm. Despite some campaigns using high profile celebrities, the finished ads have a charming, antiquated effect.
2009. Catch a Tuesday (The one when they’re on the run)
Starring Zooey Deschanel & Matt Costa. Directed by Autumn De Wilde
In 2009 Oliver People’s released a quirky campaign that told the story of a young couple who were being chased by CIA agents. Deschanel dons the classic 1960’s Hollywood look and wears vintage-inspired black OP frames with metal plaques, sassy and chic she almost channels Audrey Hepburn. Singer songwriter Matt Costa stars alongside her, looking totally adorable in his white shirt, braces and geek chic black rimmed Oliver Peoples Prescription Glasses. Despite Deschanel’s frequent eyewear changes that act as a disguise, the main draw is the storytelling, with imagery that somewhat resembles the classic silent films.
2010. The Children Are Bored on Sundays (The one where they do outlandish things)
Starring Elijah Wood & Shirley Manson. Directed by Autumn De Wilde
This humorous advert is very ‘Wes Anderson’ in the way that it was filmed. A somewhat upbeat version of Jean Stafford’s children’s story we see Elijah Wood and Shirley Manson try hard to entertain themselves. Sat around in an over the top retro gown and a dashing suit the couple drink rose wine (for a while), attempt to play golf (for a while), kiss (for a while) and even sit in a bath. Almost a mini-movie it’s wild, whacky and very endearing.
2012. Float (The one with the kids that fall in love)
Starring Dakota Johnson and Thomas McDonell. Directed by Lisa Eisner
Float offered a change of tact for Oliver Peoples. With a new director taking the reins the 2012 advert moved away from the 1960’s vintage look and entertained us with the story of two students from the University of Southern California who fall in love. The relatively unknown Dakota Johnson and Thomas McDonnell captured the sense of freedom associated with lust and physical attraction. Representing opposite lifestyles, their young, sensual characters tell an all too familiar story of young, exciting love. Although the campaign is set in the present day it doesn’t lose any of the rustic charm that Oliver Peoples seems to radiate in abundance. It’s young, it’s bohemian but it’s still individualistic.
Despite being established for decades, Oliver Peoples have never lost sight of what their brand name stands for or the customers they hope to attract. They remain a key player in the eye wear industry because they are able to offer a USP that can only be attributed to their brand alone. Whilst there appears to be less hype around Oliver Peoples Sunglasses it’s important to understand that they have not been forced to take a back seat when it comes to advertising. They have chosen to sit there. Instead, their relaxed, vintage frames appeal to the ‘mass’ alternative market. Oliver people aren’t outclassed, just superbly understated.