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How did Warby Parker get the name “Warby Parker?”

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Are you curios to why Warby Parker is called “Warby Parker?” Did you ever think that Warby Parker was a a real person? Or perhaps a combination of different names? If you answered “yes” to both of these questions keep reading this OpticalOwl article, because you might be surprised to know how this hipster eyeglasses retailer got it's name.

The name's Parker, Warby Parker

When I first heard about Warby Parker my immediate thought was that the “Warby Parker” moniker was named after a real person. So who is Warby Parker?  Well, actually I found out there is no Warby Parker.  I then thought “Warby Parker” was a mix of names from several people with the “Warby” coming from someone and the “Parker” coming from another person. I assumed that the brand name was a combination of some the co-founders names actually. Warby Parker was started by four friends who meet while attending business school together.  So that would make sense, right? Who are the founders of Warby Parker though? Here are the four co-founders names;

  • David Gilboa
  • Neil Blumenthal
  • Jeffrey Raider
  • Andrew Hunt

In case you were thinking you missed something there, you have not.  There is no “Warby” or “Parker” in the names there.  I thought I was missing something when I first saw the co-founders names. So who is “Warby Parker” and where did the name come from?

Jack Kerouac?

The catalyst for the brand name came when David Gilboa was trying to name his new company to appeal to people who wanted a different experience buying glasses.  As a glasses wearer himself he had experienced the high prices and confusing process of purchasing specs.  For inspiration for a company name he decided to attend an exhibit at the New York Public Library showcasing the work of Jack Kerouac. Two literary characters in one of Jack Kerouac's books are named Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker. Ah, ha! See it now?

In an interview that Neil Blumenthal did with Jessica Harris on the show “From Scratch” he commented about the naming process for Warby Parker;

We were really inspired by early writings of Jack Kerouac and two characters in particular, Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker and we thought we had something here. “

So there you go. The “Warby” comes from the character Warby Pepper, and “Parker” comes from Zagg Parker.

What's interesting is when the Warby Parker co-founders were trying to come up with a great brand name they actually went through over 2,000 different names.  It took almost six months for them to come up with and settle on “Warby Parker.” Blumenthal also said in the interview that naming the company, “was actually the hardest thing that we did.”

I think many entrepreneurs and people that want to launch a company or create a brand can relate … including me.  It is definitely hard to come up with a good brand name. For instance the process for choosing the name for this website covering the online glasses industry took me a long time.  I went through a lot of bad names before I got “Optical Owl” and even when I choose it and it took time and effort to decide. I went through many different names and ideas including generic boring ones which included, “Glasses Site” and “Adam's Eyes” etc. One name I can up with which wasn't bad was “VisionFalcon” but everyone seemed to prefer OpticalOwl because of the alliteration. Of course “Vision” gets a lot higher search phrases compared to “Optical.” but this site is still called OpticalOwl. I guess I think it sounds better too. Anyway back to story of Warby Parker

Neil Blumenthal continued in the interview they thought “Warby Parker” was ideal since it was from one of their literary heroes, Jack Kerouac, and that David Gilboa and him were really inspired by Kerouac. The inspiration didn't just form the brand but also the hipster style from which most of the glasses come from;

When we looked at folks that inspired us, we often looked at literary figures because of the tie between vision and reading. So we took a lot of information aesthetically from our grandparents that went to work in 40s and 50s and then sort of the social ethos of our parents that were coming of age in the 60s and were reading sort of Kerouac, and Ginsburg, and others.

What does it mean?

Interestingly the other reason they liked “Warby Parker” was that it didn't mean anything to anyone. The Warby Parker founders sent out a list of potential brand names to students at the business school they were attending and asked people to rate names.  Most of their fellow students said nothing came to mind with the name “Warby Parker.” This is actually just what they wanted as the goal was to build a brand from the ground up and give it meaning.  Not choose a name that already had a meaning and work around that or with it. Some students even suggested some names however business school students seems to choose terrible names.

An important note in this story is that the Delaware corporation and legal entity for “Warby Parker” is not officially “Warby Parker” but is called JAND Inc. The reason for this is that the co-founders formed a company first then focused on choosing a name for the company. They operate under a Doing Business As (DBA) or trade name of “Warby Parker” which many companies do and is perfectly legal.  The “JAND” in JAND Inc. though does have meaning, those are initials of the co-founders first names; Jeffrey, Andrew, Neil, and David. So I guess the company is named after the founders after all. 🙂

That's how a brand name for pompous white hipsters was born. What do you think of the name Warby Parker for a start-up eyeglasses retailer?  Was it a bad or good choice? How about compared to competitors in the market like Coastal, EyeBuyDirect, EyeFly, BonLook, Lookmatic, etc.?  If you have ever had to name something how did you go about choosing a good name? Did you find this difficult or easy?

[Source – From Scratch]

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