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Best of Eyecare

3 Simple Elements (and a Dash of Science) Define This Minnesota Optical’s Striking Branding Effort

A little goes a long way for this beautifully branded Minnesota optical.

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BRANDING LEGEND AND FORMER Steve Jobs collaborator Ken Segall (he put the “i” in iMac) based an entire book on his 40 “heroes of simplicity.” Well, we’ve discovered our own hero of simplicity, Dr. Sarah K. Ebeling, founder of Wink Family Eye Care in Chanhassen, MN, who has built a successful optometry practice with a distinctive look that many independent ECPs would struggle to match, and which was recently applied to a second location in St. Louis Park, another suburb of Minneapolis.

“We stick to the motto ‘less is more,’” says Ebeling. “We really have only three key brand elements — our Wink green, the logo, and the dots from our wall — but we consistently use them everywhere to create brand recognition.”  

Ebeling describes the overall look as “fresh, modern and clean.” She purposely chose green based on something she learned in color perception class in optometry school. “The wavelength of 555nm is the easiest color for the human eye to see. I remember thinking if I ever had my own practice, I’d use that same green. We have. Everywhere.” The color crops up on Wink’s exam chair, paper towel holders, pens, custom wall art and beyond.  

The Wink logo is placed tastefully on anything given to patients, including lens cloths and spray bottles, bags and pens. It’s all green (of course) with the logo and social media info printed on them — nothing more.   

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The same consideration that went into the choice of color goes into the composition of social media imagery. “We try to take most images that are put on social media platforms in front of the green-dot Wink wall, all with a similar filter and light to create the same bright, clean vibe that they can expect when people come into our office. 

According to Ebeling, Wink’s largest demographic is young families, so the space was intentionally designed to appeal to young children without turning off adults. “Everything we do can transition from pediatric to adult seamlessly, and it carries over to our marketing. Everything is bright, cheerful and fresh but still modern enough with simple elegance to appeal to our adult patients.”   

She is quick to credit Edana Hoehn at Mustard Stripe in Minneapolis for “translating the concepts in my brain into reality. She’s a genius. Our space was designed by Bob Shaffer of The Foundation Architects in Minneapolis. Also, genius. He came up with the pop-artish wall art of green dots that spells ‘Wink’, which we use as a backdrop for images on social media, on our website, and even in a few of our printable graphics.” 

To optical retailers looking to elevate their brand image, Ebeling’s advice is… well, it goes without saying: “Commit and keep it simple. Build a great marketing team who really understands your vision and can make it reality.”  

Green is Good

Wink’s color scheme is based on lessons Sarah Ebeling learned about color perception in optometry school.

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Logo Motive

The Wink logo is placed on everything handed to patients, from pens to lens cloths.


A Little Dotty

The green-dot Wink wall is used as  a backdrop for images posted to social media.

After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at heath@smartworkmedia.com.

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America's Finest

A Florida Optical That Offers A Slice of European Style

Along with an inspiring tale of overcoming adversity.

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OPTIK! European Eyewear, St. Petersburg, FL

OWNERS: Anja and Edin Jakupovic; URL: optikstpete.com; FOUNDED: 2016; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2017; EMPLOYEES: 1 part-time; AREA: 1,500 square feet; FACEBOOK:facebook.com/optikstpete; YELP: yelp.com/biz/optik-european-eyewear-saint-petersburg-2; INSTAGRAM:@optikstpete; BLOG:optikstpete.com/blogs/blog; TOP BRANDS: Wissing – OPTIK! bespoke line; Etnia Barcelona; Lafont; FHone; Dutz


QUALITY,” BELIEVES ANJA JAKUPOVIC, co-owner with husband Edin of OPTIK! European Eyewear in St. Petersburg, FL, “does not know a competitor.” In its confidence and sense of commitment, the statement says a lot about how the couple overcame adversity to establish a proudly high-end optical catering to the Tampa Bay area’s mix of the youthful and the seasoned, from tourists and artists to retirees.

Anja and Edin’s families fled war in Bosnia in the 1990s and lived in Germany as refugees before migrating to the U.S. After working in the optical field for 12 years, from big box stores to luxury boutiques (including a stint in which Anja returned to Germany to learn the ropes as an optician), she and Edin established OPTIK! in 2016, achieving a goal she had set years earlier — to open her own optical before she turned 30.

“As refugees we truly understand what staying strong means and bouncing back from hardship. We had to start life again not once but twice, and that experience … gave us the determination to do bigger and better things in life in order to have a better future,” she says.

OPTIK! is located in a high-rise condominium on centrally located Beach Drive. Anja describes the clientele as “Upper-class Baby Boomers that are in that stage of their life where they do not want to look the same as everyone else … We also cater to a lot of local artists that truly enjoy being ‘different.’” Almost as soon as the store opened, it began to attract VIP customers including members of the Tampa Bay Rowdies professional soccer team and IndyCar drivers.

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She designed and furnished the store herself; renovations were done with the help of Edin’s friends and family. Inspiration for the modern rustic floors, mid-century modern chairs and chandeliers came from fashion and home design magazines, and intensive online research. The frames are displayed on white floating shelves, “and we will soon feature a custom pegboard accessory section that we are in the process of building,” Anja says.

The store’s focus is independent European eyewear and accessories, and its best-selling line is its own bespoke OPTIK! frames from Germany. Customers can have these customized in any of thousands of color combinations via the online store. “No frame will ever appear twice on our shelves because we believe everyone should have their own individual look,” she says. The store works with independent labs to source advanced lenses.

OPTIK! didn’t waste any time establishing a presence in the neighborhood; among other community-based activities, it collaborated in a women’s book club, then held a trunk show exclusively for its members. At the end of its first year, the business held an exclusive party for residents of the Parkshore Condominium Plaza, which houses the store. “The event was a wonderful way to establish a ‘meet and greet’ with the residents that live above the store and introduce the brand to the community,” says Anja. In a move that typifies its marketing, OPTIK! even fitted out the local mailman (see Fine Story, page 63). The Jakupovics also give all their customers several business cards to hand out to friends or anyone who approaches them about their glasses.

Anja believes consistency in branding and service equates to quality in customers’ minds. “We keep our ads consistent … The same goes for our branding in store.” Every visit to OPTIK! starts with a ‘Welcome!’ and ends with “Please refer us to your friends and family,” she says, adding that consultations are never rushed and always come with a complimentary latte, macchiato or espresso from the mini coffee bar. “We walk our clients to the door, as if they were guests visiting our home.”

OPTIK!’s e-commerce shop is a logical fit for an optical with a private label, though Anja says it functions primarily as a “brand-recognition tool,” allowing for “heavier content on our website and therefore driving more traffic to the shop. It has helped people get an idea of who we are.” Additionally, it also features OPTIK!’s smart, nicely illustrated blog, which is strong on eyewear-related fashion posts and updates on the latest accessories.

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The resourcefulness and determination that were once necessities for survival have translated into business success for the Jakupovics. Says Anja, “As businesspeople, we have embedded this strength into our blood, and that is the only way we know how to operate now. If you want to do great things in life, you must take risks.”

PHOTO GALLERY (26 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About OPTIK!

1. GOT POLYGLOT? Anja and Edin Jakupovic both speak English, Bosnian and German; the latter in particular comes in handy in St. Petersburg’s tourist market.
2. GIRL BOSS! A self-taught entrepreneur, Anja draws inspiration from people like Sophia Amoruso, who also established her first business in her late 20s with no professional help and very little money.
3. SHOW TIME. OPTIK! always schedules a pickup time for eyewear, says Anja, “to ensure we prepare the final product on a presentation tray.”
4. GIFT WITH PURCHASE. All clients get a small thank you gift (it could be a box of European chocolates or a complimentary OYOBox for their eyewear collection) and a personal handwritten thank you card.
5. WEATHER REPORT. As far as sunglasses go, it’s hard to beat St. Petersburg, FL, as a location for an optical. The town holds the Guinness World Record for logging the most consecutive days of sunshine (768 days).

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • Location, location, location! Very smart to be part of the retail community at one of the most desirable buildings in the area. There is a deep passion here. They’ve certainly put in the years learning the biz from the ground up to realize their dream. Robert Bell, The Eye Coach, San Francisco, CA
  • The business cards, logo and sandwich board are lovely. The blog is very interesting, definitely original content. The accessory board display is charming. Online presence channels pure love of eyewear. Natalie Taylor, Artisan Eyewear, Meredith, NH
  • I love the spaciousness. It feels organized which makes it easy to shop. A unique experience that any customer will enjoy. Smart to use locals as brand ambassadors. Jennifer Coppel, TURA, Inc., New York, NY

 

Fine Story: A Word of Mouth Brainstorm

Taking word-of-mouth marketing to new heights, OPTIK! decided to look around for local individuals they felt could benefit from a new pair of quality glasses. They found the perfect candidate in the local mailman, who wore over-the-counter readers for years. “We invited him in and educated him on our eyewear and lenses,” says Anja. “As a thank you for his daily service and to help him look and see his best, we offered him our state-of-the-art digital progressive lenses with all the necessary treatments and coatings completely complimentary.” The mailman later purchased a beautiful Lafont frame from OPTIK!; he gets daily compliments and has spread the word around town. “Not only does his new look change the way he sees and feels, but it has also drastically increased our client-referral base,” says Anja.

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Best of the Best

How This Colorado Practice’s ‘Office Culture Blueprint’ is Boosting Referrals

And how they persuaded their team to embrace a new mindset.

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EYE CARE CENTER of Colorado Springs, CO, has a large specialty contact lens practice that owes its success in part to the referrals it receives from ODs and MDs in Colorado Springs, Denver, Pueblo and as far away as California. You don’t maintain a referral-driven practice without top-level service, and with so much on the line, sometimes it pays to codify what’s expected of staff. But no one responds to a laundry list of rules. “We have found we have to re-educate ourselves and any new team members we hire,” says co-owner Sara Whitney, OD, and this realization recently led the practice to develop its own “office culture blueprint.”

THE IDEA

Translating a vague desire to get the best out of your team into a set of tangible principles is harder than it sounds. “We made a feeble attempt to create a culture statement a few years ago,” recalls Whitney, “and we never finished it because we didn’t really know how to implement it.” Practice founder and co-owner Dr. Reed Bro eventually came across the concept of “above the line behavior,” an approach based on personal responsibility. Whitney says the beauty of this concept is that it encourages “behaviors that create a positive event for the next person in the chain.” The goal is to “resist the temptation to blame…to complain for the sake of complaining, or become defensive.”

Dr. Reed Bro and Dr. Sara Whitney

THE EXECUTION

Whitney, Bro and office manager Mindi Andrade developed what would become the office’s cultural blueprint over several months. It takes its starting point from a few core beliefs. These are matched with a set of encouraged behaviors and desired outcomes. Your core beliefs, Whitney says, “are the reasons you decided to start practicing optometry or open a business.”

Once these basic elements were finalized, the managers initiated a transitional phase in which they used the vocabulary that forms the core of the blueprint in day-to-day interactions with one another and with staff. “We did not present the blueprint to the team until we were comfortable that we were able to personally apply the core beliefs to any situation,” Whitney says. They launched it at the beginning of January, when people are making resolutions and personal improvements. “We printed up the culture matrix on a card for each member of the team.”

Whitney says you can tell right away which staff will be on board and who will resist. “We lost three team members around the time the blueprint was rolled out. It may have just been a personal decision for the employee, but it can cause you to momentarily doubt your decision to demand these behaviors.” It’s important to be strong and stick to your guns at this stage, she says. Remember that the key beliefs you identified as the basis for your blueprint are important. “They are the reason you get up in the morning and come to work,” she says. “Expectations … make some people uncomfortable. They will resist change, and you have to let them move on.”

THE REWARDS

Whitney says the blueprint has delivered its targeted outcomes: an enhanced sense of community, patient satisfaction, trust, loyalty, adherence to treatment plans, and referrals. But there are personal benefits too. “I think those who have embraced this new mindset will be able to see it spilling over into their personal lives.”

Ultimately, Eye Care Center of Colorado Springs’ aim with the blueprint was to cultivate behaviors that grow the business, and so far, that aim is being met. Says Whitney: “We have developed the mindset that being presented with a challenge is our opportunity to get ahead of the problem and to possibly even be someone’s hero.”

Do It Yourself: Develop an Office Culture

  • DON’T RUSH IT. “Take time to define your beliefs over a period of weeks or months,” says Whitney.
  • WALK THE WALK. “Live out behaviors that support your beliefs,” Whitney advises. “You are the biggest example of your practice culture.”
  • TWO-WAY STREET. An office culture doesn’t have to be static: Survey your team periodically and ask for feedback.
  • COMMUNICATE. If you don’t, a blueprint is just a list tacked to a wall.
  • STAY STRONG. A change like this might cost you an employee. But stay the course or it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

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Brand Portfolio

This Optometrist Was Super Picky When Designing Her Logo … and Now It’s Paying Off

Her North Dakota practice created a more modern look than clients were used to.

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ONE OF THE FIRST things Dr. Jessica Keller realized as she was planning Elite Eye Care, which opened in Bismarck, ND, in 2017, was how important branding was going to be to promoting her business to patients. “Most major businesses are remembered not only by their name but by a branding picture, and I wanted to incorporate that into my clinic,” she says.

The starting point was the logo — and she was picky. “I went through a few companies until I found an image that was unique for my area… and was versatile.” That versatility has allowed the logo to serve as a springboard for a comprehensive branding effort that looks sharp and chic but still feels warm and fun. Keller can use the visual components of the logo either as a standalone image or a background image to tie in with branding on an array of items including business cards, letterhead, envelopes, signs, cleaning cases/cloths, mirrors, flyers, emails, advertising, website, social media, promotional products and more.

“The creator incorporated eyewear as well as a non-traditional heart in the logo; it’s just something different that again makes it stand out.” It actually comes in two different versions — one with a more square appearance and a second circular image.

“This gives me a little more freedom to add my brand to lots of different items by choosing which option fits and looks the best,” says Keller.

While she designed the store pretty much on her own, when it came to the branding Keller sought help from a clinic consulting firm, as well as a branding company. The two companies not only helped her devise specific visuals but also gave her ideas on how to display and promote the brand.

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Elite Eye Care’s core demographic is families. Keller felt that by creating a more modern look than they were used to, she was able to send the message that Elite can provide “a modern and trendy, as well as caring, eye health and eyewear experience.” She advises ECPs to scope out the other brands in your area and find something that will set you apart. “Once you have settled on a design and general theme, find as many ways to incorporate that into your clinic as possible.”

The clinic’s branding appears on an impressive array of items including business cards, letterhead, envelopes, signs, cleaning cases/cloths, mirrors, flyers, emails, advertising, promotional products and more.

 

Keller tried several brand consultants before settling on one that was right for her.

 

Keller can use the visual components of the logo either as a standalone image or as a background image on any branded item.

 

A clinic consulting firm and a branding company not only helped Keller devise visuals, but also offered assistance in how to display her brand most effectively.

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