Case Studies - Brand & Marketing - Lifestyle

How John Jacobs is Building an Aspirational Brand

John Jacobs’ brand strategy uses unconventional brand ambassadors and formats, to target specific subcultures

Scene from Prabh Deep music video Ethe Rakh with Sikh musicians around a table

John Jacobs, the premium eyewear brand from Lenskart, had a peculiar problem. Given that they had access to Lenskart’s 1600+ stores, their numbers were robust, making up 40% of total sales. 

However, consumer research showed that even amongst buyers, brand recall for John Jacobs was low. Priced in the Rs. 5000-10,000 segment, the competition for John Jacobs includes global brands with deep legacies like Ray Ban and Fossil – a fact that made the problem even more pressing. The challenge before the John Jacobs team was to create a brand personality that was sharp, memorable and garnered mind space beyond product transactions. 

Storytelling is perhaps the most abused word when it comes to brands, but John Jacobs has created a differentiated strategy to create brand recall. This combines unconventional choices of brand ambassadors, focus on human insights rather than staged glamour and a deep understanding of target subcultures.

Says Sumit Chawla, Assistant VP, Marketing, John Jacobs, “We are seeing that relatable, authentic narratives really connect with our audience. ​​There’s so much in-your-face marketing that it’s become a blind spot. When you are creating an aspirational, lifestyle brand, you need a far more nuanced approach – you can’t be just forcing ads down your customers’ throat.”  

The Customer Segments

John Jacobs has identified three broad customer segments for the brand, and creates communication assets in line with these identified needs.  

Social Media Followers (Aspirational Buyers)

  • Age: 20-35
  • This audience values trendsetting styles and an aspirational brand image.

2. Regular Buyers 

  • Age: 35-45
  • This audience seeks a balance between quality, style, and value-for-money. They value product performance, durable materials and efficient customer service.

3. Utility Buyers 

Age: 40-60

  • This audience has a focus on practicality and functionality. They value comfortable fit, clear vision correction, ease of use and efficient customer service.

The Turban Edit & Prabh Deep

Irregulars Alliance, a creative firm, has collaborated with John Jacobs on several projects, including the development of its new brand identity in 2023. 

Says Anant Ahuja, Co-founder, Irregulars Alliance, “There is the typical celebrity / influencer playbook that relies on sheer budget size to create awareness. And then there are smarter ways of shaping brand perception through much more targeted storytelling.”

One example of this is John Jacobs’ Turban Edit

John Jacobs launched a turban-friendly eyewear line in response to requests for products that fit better with turbans. To promote the line, they collaborated with Irregulars Alliance and musician Prabh Deep, to create a music video for his new EP’s song called Ethe Rakh. Ahuja says that this is the first time the rapper and songwriter has collaborated on his music with a brand. The reverse may also be true – this is amongst the first music videos we know of in India, where the music, and not the sponsoring brand, is centre-stage. 

The video only shows the John Jacobs logo in the last frame and stays true to Prabh Deep’s gritty style. A line we particularly loved from the song says  Ethe Rakh, Tera Shak te Mera Haque (Bring it out  – your suspicions and my rights).

The video itself is a far cry from a typical, cheery, product placement video. In Prabh’s trademark gritty style, the film speaks of the obstacles he has faced and the journey he has traversed to realise his true value as a human being and as an artist.

While the video features Prabh Deep and his crew wearing John Jacobs eyewear, noteworthy is the fact that the brand’s logo does not appear until the very last frame. Ahuja and Chawla admit that this was a hard thing to pull off, but it reflects the brand’s confidence in its storytelling and its commitment to being seen as an integral part of the community’s cultural fabric. “You stick the logo on the opening slide, and people will immediately say this is branded content and tune out,” they say.

While exact numbers are not available, Chawla says that the song’s virality and reach has “far exceeded their expectations.”

Ahuja points out that the initiative has also resulted in some interesting compounding effects. For example, Prabh made a still from the video into his Display Picture on Spotify, where he has 300,000+ followers.  

Doesn’t a music video cost a lot of money? We couldn’t get exact figures, but Ahuja promises it can be done smartly, and in a way that the returns wholly justify the investment. 

Unconventional Brand Ambassadors & Collaborators

Influencers and celebrities are part of every lifestyle brand’s playbook, but John Jacob’s choices and execution are interesting. One of their brand properties is called The Gentleman’s Edit, and again, the emphasis is on telling the stories of individual journeys, instead of focusing solely on the product. The first Gentleman’s Edit kicked off with actor and poet Arunoday Singh and chef Ranveer Brar in 2023, and an upcoming series will feature actor Arjun Mathur and creator Varun Duggirala.

Aronday singh as brand ambassador for John Jacobs

From a range called Huetopia, created in collaboration with artist and photographer Pranoy Sarkar, to a retro-themed, limited edition collection with actor Sobhita Dhulipala, John Jacobs is sticking to a strategy that focuses on creating cultural affinity and a sense of personal identity.  With limited edition drops like the Dhulipala collaboration, there is also an emphasis on the craft and process behind the finished product. 

sobhita dhulipala wearing fur and john jacobs eyeglasses

Expanding into New Markets

John Jacobs currently has about 20 standalone stores, in addition to Lenskart’s formidable network. The brand has recently expanded into Dubai and Chawla says the response has been very encouraging. 

It helps that John Jacobs is a small, agile team, and CEO Apeksha Gupta runs it like a startup. “We’re crafting an aspirational world where eyewear is a key component of a larger lifestyle narrative. We experiment with our marketing, we succeed with some initiatives, we learn with others and we keep course-correcting and trying new things,” says Chawla.

3 Comments

  1. A niche, subculture strategy may work to seed brand image, but finally a brand like JJ will have to adopt a more masstige strategy with higher reach. No way out if you want to deliver numbers. Big Bollywood star or big ATL spends. Wait n see.

  2. Have to admit had not heard of John Jacob or Prabh before this but loved the video & Sobhita cateye range

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