How our brand suffered from being too cheap
The world of sustainable fashion is easily one of the ‘hypest’: Consumers are demanding sustainable products and are willing to pay for it. However, many brands have been taking advantage of this to price their sustainable items as true luxury goods.
When we created ORIGEM we wanted to change this.
We wanted to spark a sustainable revolution by bringing bamboo forward as sustainable material of the future and show how sustainable and fair could mean good, fashionable and affordable.
However, soon after launch, hundreds of people wanted to know “how could it be that your sunglasses are not expensive?”. Were we losing clients for being too cheap?
It turns out we were. And we had no idea why until we discovered 2 powerful forces working against us: (1) the market premium and (2) the green premium.
First things first, the market premium.
Prices in the eyewear industry are very (very!) high. Indeed, the fact that a pair of ‘quality’ sunglasses costs a small fortune has nothing to do with the actual production cost. Plastic sunglasses are shockingly cheap to produce: about €10 for an expensive pair (yes, all of them – really!).
Instead, these prices are fixed by a couple of very large corporations, directly shaping your perception of how much “quality” should cost. No wonder that so many plastic sunglasses companies now offer similar-quality products for a fraction of the price.
Secondly, the green premium.
Simply put the green premium is how much extra you are willing to pay for a sustainable product. At the root of this is the fact that sustainable products are, indeed, much more expensive to produce. For instance, our sunglasses can cost from 2x to 5x more to produce than its plastic counterpart. Consumers know this and are willing to cover it. And that’s good.
However, many times brands use this to pass-on to the final consumer a much more than proportional increase in price. These prices often become so high that they end up driving people away. Marketing sustainability as ‘exclusive’ effectively kills the green revolution.
Back to our story.
So, when we hit the market in 2017, people literally did not believe that high-quality affordable sustainable sunglasses could be a reality.
And it did not matter that we passionately explained how our lenses are the best in the market (polarized, UVA/UVB 400), how bamboo is super resistant (its used to make bridges) or how our customer experience includes free shipping, 100% satisfaction guarantee, a hard bamboo case a plantable tag etc. etc.
It did not matter because the question wasn’t actually about that. The question was: Why is everyone else was paying a small fortune for their ‘quality’ sustainable sunglasses?
And that’s when we started explaining the ‘how’ of our brand, rather than just the ‘what’. How could we make high-quality sustainable sunglasses at an affordable price? We can boil it down to this: Fair Pricing.
Fair pricing is the concept that a good should cost enough to cover all expenses and grow the company sustainability, but not so much that it stops reflecting the true production costs and that it drives people away. But, really, how?
To start with, we gave up a lot of our margin. Bamboo sunglasses are very expensive to build and selling them at a competitive price means earning less per item sold. Don’t get us wrong, we still make money out of each pair: this is essential so that we can grow, add more products to our brand and live to fight another day. But our products could easily go for €100 or more. We simply think that our impact is greater by promoting a sustainable movement that can actually fit us all, not just the ones who can afford it.
Second, we cut on all the bullshit. We offer you an amazing product and customer experience that we are proud of. But that’s that. We don’t invest in fancy influencers or ads, we don’t follow big promotions and consumerism and we do not spend thousands of euros in online marketing. We keep it simple and we rely on our happy customers (+1000 and growing) to spread the word.
- Third, and final, we are investing in creating a community. For us this is the biggest aspect of our work. When you visit ORIGEM we want you to feel a part of a community that believes in the power of small actions and that shares our view of bamboo’s potential. Our growing community’s energy more than covers for all the profit that we could have made if we had made our brand ‘exclusive’.
So next time someone shows you their super-expensive sunglasses you know how: someone just made a €10 piece of plastic shiny enough to be worth €120. And on top of that, they polluted the planet, supported mega-companies and contributed to keeping things just as they are. It shouldn’t be this way.