The evolution of Ray-Ban's 'NEVER HIDE' advertising campaign gives some insight into how the company has grown its target market over the years and how it has tapped into the very lucrative youth market.
Launched way back in 1936 by US entrepreneurs Bausch and Lomb, the original Ray-Bans were made exclusively for US airmen.
The company's Aviator sunglasses not only offered eye protection they were very stylish and were quickly adopted by the US army.
In the 1950s the sunglasses were at the forefront of the rock and roll cultural revolution, worn by both artists and fans.
But it was Hollywood that made Ray-Ban famous worldwide as movie stars of the 1960s were rarely seen without a pair of stylish shades.
And by the 1980s, the sunglasses were a social, cultural icon, worn by rich and poor, famous and obscure and has become the ultimate fashion accessory when Ray-Ban was sold to Italian conglomerate Luxottica for $640 million.
But the Italian company was faced with a problem. Ray-Ban sunglasses had gone downmarket, and the cheaply-made shades were selling in supermarkets for just a few dollars.
As part of its bid to take Ray-Ban upmarket again, Luxottica launched a massive marketing campaign as well as shifting production to modern eyewear factories in Italy.
The first marketing campaign 'CHANGE YOUR VIEW' in 2004, featured cool looking models in standard poses with an emphasis on style and celebrity culture.
But the biggest marketing push came with the 'NEVER HIDE' campaign in 2007 when the focus switched to the rebellious and non-conformist.
The first 'NEVER HIDE' campaign took up the theme with a movie short, and YouTube videos featuring top bands such as Slash and Guns 'N Roses wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses at live gigs.
A series of creative posters aimed at the younger market challenged Ray-Ban wearers to break free of social norms, establish their individuality and become the centre of attention.
The irony of the campaign's message of wearing a globally marketed mass-manufactured product to stand out of the crowd was entirely lost on the youthful audience that was the primary target.
Consumers bought the message, and their Ray-Ban sunglasses, in droves. The 'NEVER HIDE' strategy went on to become one of the biggest and most successful of modern advertising campaigns. Sales soared fivefold in seven years.
The posters went on to become ever more extravagant but mainly featured individuals in relatively dangerous places – a cowboy in a bullring; a police cop surrounded by bikers, a white DJ in a black club, a photojournalist in a bomb blast.
The message was always the same – that the Ray-Ban customer can stand out as an individual in any crowd if only they wear the right sunglasses – Ray-Ban sunglasses.
The campaign reached its zenith with the celebration of 75 years of Ray-Bans and a now notorious poster where two sharply dresses-homosexuals hold hands in a city street set in the 1950s – individuals ahead of their time in a conformist milieu.
This and similar posters also carried the message that wearing Ray-Bans was not only a stamp of your personality but a passport to success in any difficult social environment. Just pop on the shades and you will be accepted by any crowd.
A 2007 slogan for the Never Hide campaign effectively sums up the strategy by pronouncing rather pompously that "the most fashionable thing to be is yourself" while at the same time convincing customers they can achieve individuality with a mass-market purchase from Luxottica.
More than that, of course. The purchase of Ray-Bans ensures your social success in any environment. It was a seductive message and one that helped turn around Ray-Ban's fortunes.