By Trudi Charest

As of late March, the retail world shut down and much of North America finds itself in the midst of a full-blown pandemic. Suddenly, my little column about old-school marketing tactics that are underemployed by modern businesses just feels… out of place. Surely there are bigger fish to fry.

But the reality of our collective situation is that, when the dust settles and our world begins to return to a sense of normalcy, the need for effective advertising will be front and centre as optical dispensaries and eye care practices across the continent aim to capture as much revenue as possible.

And while your peers are driving up the cost-per-click on Google and Facebook ad platforms, many will be ignoring old-school tactics that, when executed effectively, work really well.

TV Never Did Kill the Radio Star… & YouTube Hasn’t Pulled it Off, Either

Let’s start with radio. In the SEO space, our team can often identify when a client kicks off a radio ad campaign. How?

We see a tangible and obvious increase in the amount of direct traffic coming to the website (direct traffic is when someone types your domain name into their browser, bypassing Google).

The second indicator is when we see the number of people that search for our client in Google increase.

It’s interesting how we see ripples of the radio campaign in digital metrics, but it’s also not surprising. What you may find surprising is that when more people go to Google looking for you, Google realizes that you must be more relevant than you used to be and, in turn, shows you more often in its results.

In the wake of COVID-19 and the social distancing measures enacted by much of North America, you should also be able to negotiate some great rates from local radio stations.

Engaging Product Demonstrations

One of the most successful viral optical ad campaigns in recent memory is the video campaign deployed by Enchroma. If you haven’t seen these tear-jerking videos of colourblind people wearing Enchroma’s for the first time, check it out: they’re all over YouTube and their view counts are staggering.

This campaign was a brilliantly executed example of how an old-fashioned product demonstration can sell ideas, products and people.

Look for ways you can employ a similar tactic in your own YouTube or Facebook video marketing campaign. A few ideas:

  • Showcase how a particular line of frames is virtually indestructible by beating them up on camera;
  • Create side-by-side comparison videos, where competing products are tested alongside each other so the user can see the differences between them;
  • Drop a YouTube playlist filled with quick how-to videos (how to properly clean your eyeglasses using X, how to properly use X-brand contact lens solution, etc.). This is an obvious but often overlooked tactic, as many people seek instructions/how-tos for products they buy or are interested in.

With YouTube and a modern smartphone, it’s never been easier to educate and elevate your target audience.

Branded Promotional Products… for Kids

Stamping your logo and phone number on a pair of inexpensive sunglasses may not qualify as having your own optical line, but to the end-user, there might as well not be much of a difference.

At a local community event last summer, an optical dispensary in the community decided to sponsor the event. They had a small booth that was a short walk away from the bouncy castle (which, as you can imagine, was packed). They were giving away free sunglasses to kid, and over the course of the two hours I was there, I must have seen more than 50 kids rocking their own pair of “OPTICAL STORE” sunglasses.

You better believe that they were all the rage among the bouncy castle demographic. 

In the push for digital everything, we often neglect the value that something tangible and accessible provides. For these kids, it means a free pair of sweet sunglasses… and for their parents, perhaps a new eye care practice to visit.

Just Remember to Plan!

The best-delivered marketing campaigns in the world will fall flat on their face if they lack a plan. The three old-school tactics called out in this article can work really well, but they need to be positioned as part of a larger strategy.

But, while your competitors flock to Google and Facebook, you may find a gem of an opportunity hidden in plain sight.

Trudi Charest is the co-founder of Marketing4ecps, a digital marketing agency for eye care professionals. Trudi can be reached at or