So I’ve been a fan of Warby Parker since last November, when I saw a new product announcement (ad) in a copy of my wife’s Vanity Fair magazine. I remember thinking that there was zero probability that it was possible for them to sell me a hip pair of retro-cool glasses for $95.

This is why I don’t gamble.

Turns out that you can, indeed, get a brand new pair of nerd-chic glasses by mail for under a hundred spot, and Warby Parker will donate another pair to charity, to boot. The whole experience exudes trendster cred (which could be a good thing or a bad thing, of course), but one thing that’s clear is that they have hit the sweet spot when it comes to identifying an unexploited niche market and making it their own.

The Warby Parker founders realized that almost all glasses were sold by a few giant corporations that were artificially jacking up prices due to limited competition. Recognizing a need and an opening to redefine the market by offering glasses not as a medical device, but as a fashion accessory…and pricing them accordingly…paid big dividends.

Further, they used cool online marketing campaigns and saavy Web 2.0 merchandizing to build a following, not just a customer base. For example, potential customers are urged to post pictures of themselves trying on sample frames (which the company mails to your home–for free) and post them to the Warby Parker Facebook page so other customers can chime in and help you decide which is right for you. This type of personalized, interactive try-on process increases the potential customers’ psychological affinity to the “Warby Parker club.” Suddenly, the potential customer feels inclusion into a perceived peer group of cool trendsetters. It is a type of brand indoctrination, and one that works (see my photo at the top left of this page for proof).

So what can associations learn from this? One, careful examination of mature markets can expose new opportunities created when traditional ways of doing business do not take advantage of new technology. Two, you will increase members’ or potential members’ likelihood of purchase follow-through if you are able to “bring them into the fold,” psychologically. And three: Ensuring that your brand image fits your target market segment like a pair of cute eyeglasses doesn’t hurt, either.

Here are an inc article and video about how Warby Parker got it right.