The Ray-Ban brand - a Luxottica success

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Now one of the biggest selling designer brands in the world, Ray-Ban sunglasses is a very different brand today than once it was.

The iconic sunglasses have lived through a number of rebrands and Ray-Ban is the star turn it is today thanks in large part to Italian eyewear behemoth Luxottica who bought out the ailing eyewear company from Bausch & Lomb in 1999 for $630 million.

When Luxottica took over, the Ray-Ban brand was in pretty bad shape. Customers across the United States could pick up a poor quality pair of Ray-Bans for around $20 (£15) at virtually any convenience stores.

It was a case of making them cheap and stacking them high, with old factories using out-of-date tools and turning out low-quality Ray-Bans by the thousand; the flimsy frames and cheap lenses were a giant headache for the new owners.

It took an aggressive marketing campaign and a multi-million-dollar investment to turn the eyewear brand's fortunes around.

First steps in rebranding Ra-Ban

A year after Luxottica took over, Ray-Bans accounted for just 10% of sales for the Italian eyewear giant. By 2014, sales had skyrocketed eightfold and now made up nearly 30% of the sales of the whole stable of Luxottica's designer sunglass brands.

According to industry watchers, Ray-Ban is the now biggest selling designer sunglasses brand in the world with 5% of the total global eyewear market.

Indeed the name can be said to be back to the top of the tree in American popular culture — back to the days when it was the eyewear of choice for Hollywood stars, pop idols and style leaders.

But more than that, Ray-Ban has now been transformed into a luxury brand with mass-market appeal. But it has not been a smooth ride, and the turnaround has cost its owners a fortune.

The first step in revitalising Ray-Ban was to improve the product. In 2000, Luxottica closed down scores of outdated factories across the world and moved production to a state-of-the-art eyewear manufacturing facility in north-east Italy.

The second step was to cut off supplies to low-market outlets and switch to high-end stores to sell the rejuvenated Ray-Ban brand.

The move led to higher prices as it began to introduce new materials for its frames and capitalise on the latest in optics technology to improve its lenses.

Within a few years the price of a pair of Ray-Bans had doubled, and the old low-quality, high volume Ray-Bans were no more.

Step three was to add mass-market appeal to what had now been transformed into an expensive luxury product.

From celebrity chic to street cool Ray-Bans

Ray-Ban's 'Never Hide' campaign was launched in 2007 with a series of YouTube adverts featuring cutting-edge pop bands such as Guns 'N Roses and Slash.

Adverts began to featured celebrities, bought to promote a 'cool chic' image then quickly shifted to woo the everyday audience, with Never Hide adverts featuring ordinary people in 'extraordinary' circumstances.

The run of Never Hide campaigns cost millions but was enormously successful. It put Ray-Ban sunglasses back into the dominant player in the sunglasses market.

Never Hide's success spurred Luxottica on to both further improve the product and widen its appeal even more. It launched the Re-Mix campaign where customers could mix and match frames and lenses to personalise their eyewear.

The move proved another huge hit and Re-Mix quickly made up 40% of online sunglasses sales. More innovate mash-up offers followed offering even greater 'personalised' choice such as Wayfarer frames made of leather, denim and even velvet.

Today the challenge is to take Ray-Ban into Asian markets where the sales potential is enormous. Luxottica will surely apply the lessons it learned in turning the brand around in the US and Europe.

Style watchers claim the key to Ray-Ban's success being the unique blend of style and technical performance.

Part of its Ray-Ban's huge appeal is its reluctance to be too dominated by fashion trends. It knows its place in the world of fashion and sticks to what it knows while enhancing the product with technological improvements.

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