Ace & Tate wants to show you its glasses are cool, then tell you they’re sustainable
Having held its hands up about previous sustainability shortcomings, the eyewear brand’s chief marketer tells us how it now communicates supply chain improvements to customers and avoids running the risk of greenwashing.
Ace & Tate is trying to get real about the supply chain / Ace & Tate
The thing with glasses, Ace & Tate’s chief marketer Sean Peron tells The Drum, is that they are highly personal. “Myself, I’m blind without my glasses, so yes we’re a fashion apparel company, but there’s also a medical aspect. You want to express yourself, but at the end of the day you need glasses.”
He says this is why offering a sustainable alternative in the eyewear market has become so important. As such, marketing at Ace & Tate is somewhat of a family affair. “We look after all the touchpoints that bring our brand to the customers: so marketing, PR and social media, but also the sustainability and responsibility teams – so the ones actually working with supply chain improvements, setting goals and working to maintain our B-Corp certification.”
He says that, in today’s crowded market, it’s far too easy for brands to lean into sustainable messaging without the action to back it up. “As marketers, we have to think of a compelling way to tell our stories to customers and the temptation can really be to over exaggerate our talk of sustainability.”
But having marketing sit right alongside the teams pioneering the brand’s circularity ensures honesty about the process, Peron says. “The product and sustainability teams sit right alongside each other, and then marketing is there for us to communicate that.”
This is where Peron believes Ace & Tate has succeeded – in its transparency about its own journey. “It’s almost become a bit of a cliche to say you’re not a sustainable company, but it is something we’ve been saying for a while! Really the best we can do is try every day to be better.”
That was certainly the message behind Ace & Tate’s 2021 blog post, ‘Look, we f*cked up,’ which highlighted the brand’s shortcomings in both the sustainability of its product development and its own messaging. Peron says the reaction at the time was mixed. “Some people thought it was awesome and others were criticizing us for some of the brutally honest things we revealed.”
For example, he says, the brand realized it’s going to take it a lot longer to hit net zero than initially anticipated, due to the need to reduce emissions across its entire supply chain – and not just offset them using carbon credits. (“Our provider is awesome, but offsetting is not a perfect solution.”)
For brands on the back burner, increased regulation and legislation against greenwashing across the EU will have been a reality check, Peron believes. “It’s 2023, you can’t lie to customers anymore!”
He says brands are much better positioned “providing the customers with honest information and allowing them to make their own decisions, rather than trying to wrap a bow around it and hope they won’t look too deeply.”
But on the flip side, the resulting challenge is trying to stand out in a noisy market. A recent study by GFK revealed that despite more brands marketing themselves as green than ever before, many consumers can’t actually identify a single sustainable brand.
“Customers are being bombarded with information all day, marketed to all day. We prefer not to run the risk of greenwashing and would rather the customer discover our sustainability themselves and hopefully think it’s cool.”
Following on from its ‘We f*cked up’ revelations, Ace & Tate now prefers to serve its credentials to customers through neat product launches that highlight the improvements in sustainability across its supply chain. Peron uses a recent example of a 3D printed glasses case made from demo lenses, the temporary lenses found in all glasses at the point of purchase before prescription lenses are added.
“That’s a place where the sustainability story is the exciting element of the product. It looks cool, but it’s also a circular product and so we want to lead with that message.”
Peron adds the retail experience also plays into this, serving as a place of discovery for customers closer to the point of purchase. “Some of our glasses are made from a bio acetate, but we might not tell you that straight away. We want you to think they look awesome first.”
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