Candid conversations between VCPN’s editors and leading optical executives about their product strategies.
Peter Friedfeld, Executive Vice President of ClearVision Optical, graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications in 1980. He was intrigued with the concept of being able to use his education in the family business and immediately joined the company. Peter has worked in every department at ClearVision, but has focused his energies on product, marketing, and brand development. Today he is responsible for driving new business development, brand management, and international sales. Here, he talks about ClearVision’s heritage-doing whatever is needed to make the customer happy.
BETH SCHLAU: Dilli Dalli to XLFit shows the broad range of your house brand offerings in that you have something for everyone. Are there any other launches on the horizon?
PETER FRIEDFELD: Our house brands give us an opportunity to tap into our strength in developing product as well as generating effective marketing. The company was built on creating strong house brands, with the success of the ClearVision brand which has been in the market over 50 years. Just as we look to the market for our needs in the seven licensed brands we offer, we do the same for our house brands-specialty fit, trend at value pricing, infant frames, etc. At times, the DNA of a licensed brand may not match up exactly to our own needs for the market so we look to create our own brand. Currently, we see a real interest in new materials and technology that, when combined, can create a new eyewear aesthetic. A new launch in January (with a preview at Vision Expo West) addresses this.
Beth: What has been the ECPs’ reaction to the merchandising suite?
Peter: We started to offer full marketing support to our customers when we launched Puriti Titanium early this year. It helps our customers highlight our product in their offices, which helps sell-through. Our newest suite is for BCBGMAXAZRIA. Our licensed partners have wonderful photography and brand recognition, and we know it’s important to highlight that aspect of the brand. Recently we released a mini-collection within IZOD-IZOD Personalized, which is a customizable collection. We created a powerful display system designed to bring customizable eyewear front and center as a way of showcasing the “what’s new” question. Our customers have responded to this type of marketing in a big way.
Beth: Have the Twitter parties brought more recognition to your collections? Do you plan on having more?
Peter: ClearVision was really an early adopter of social media-and we try to be innovative in this area. Our Twitter parties have been fun. We have done two so far. Our most recent one that took place on National Sunglasses Day had twice the number of followers than the first one. Our designers and brand managers also participated. Several hundred people contributed, and their comments were retweeted to hundreds of others. Through the effective use of social media we can reach and include a variety of people across many spheres of influence in a conversation. There will be more and more of this as we continue to try different things to connect with our customers, consumers, and market influencers.
Beth: If you had to choose, what would be the one thing you think ClearVision offers its customers?
Peter: We are a very caring organization. It is the one constant going back to the days when my dad started ClearVision back in 1949, and something that is at the core of our company. At ClearVision, we refer to it as “what would Fred do,” meaning, how would the founder of our company react and feel about something we are doing. And the answer is: do whatever it takes, with care.
At ClearVision, we strive to make a real connection with our customers, and have a tangible relationship with them built on trust and respect. It’s the lifeblood of the company. We are the largest family-owned business in our industry, and all of our employees and sales consultants, as well as many of our suppliers and customers, are one extended family.
Beth: What was the one event that propelled ClearVision from a small family company to a significant player in the industry?
Peter: When we brought in the Fisher-Price‘ brand 25 years ago, we were working in unchartered waters. My brother and I pooled our combined talents in branding, marketing, product, sales, and quality to make a significant impact on the market. Through that experience of bringing a world-class brand into the company and developing a real powerful niche in the market, we were able to expand quickly into new territories. We learned what it took to work with a national brand and build a leadership position in a category that we still enjoy today. That experience opened up many new doors for us, from licensors to national customers, and helped thrust our company, as well as our vision, forward.