It’s hard to miss the core philosophy of Life is Good, particularly since it’s right there in the company’s name, branded across t-shirts, caps and more. Founded by brothers Bert and John Jacobs in 1994, the smiling face of Jake, the company’s iconic logo and de facto mascot, has come to symbolize its joy and intentionality.
The brand story is a compelling one. After the brothers graduated college, they wanted to delay their entry into the workaday world, so they began designing t-shirts that they sold on college campuses, street corners and pop-up shops. Loading up one van, they took their sales on the road. It was not successful until one day John doodled the happy face of Jake as a response to the pervasive negative news, says Vice President, Strategic Partnerships at the Life Is Good Company, Linne Kimball.
Something about that logo and the three simple words Life Is Good resonated. The brothers sold out of their 48 t-shirts in 45 minutes at a pop-up in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. From there, the concept took off. Owners from an ice cream shop asked if an ice cream cone-eating Jake could be added to the rotation, while others from a music store wanted to see Jake playing the guitar. Soon, Jake was camping, relaxing, hiking, surfing, hanging with friends and spreading the message of positivity all while he enjoys his best life of simple pleasures.
Soon, the brothers began to receive letters from people who told them that wearing Life Is Good gear helped their attitude. “They were particularly struck by kids and adults dealing with cancer. They said that not only were the t-shirts soft and comfortable when so many clothes were not – but the message also helped them,” Kimball says. “The brand developed a deeper purpose and meaning. Life isn’t perfect or easy – but Life is Good.”
That inspired the brothers to launch the Life Is Good Kids Foundation, recently rebranded as the Playmaker Project. Ten percent of the company’s profits go to fund the work of the foundation that is focused on helping kids who face life-threatening trauma heal.
The brand weathered the pandemic in part because people wanted to showcase their solidarity with each other. One of its popular designs during this time was an American eagle with sunglasses and a bandanna on, with the tagline: Stay Calm, Stay Cool, Stay Home. It continued to play on its fun brand, with a “quarantini” glass an2016d a dog with a slogan: Wash Your Paws. It celebrated the sacrifices of people, too, with a nod toward virtual graduations and the hard work of health care providers.
BRINGING THE BRAND TO EYEWEAR
Life Is Good began its collaboration with The McGee Group in 2016, and that was one of the first licensing partnerships outside of casual clothing. It made sense, says Kimball. “Our customers have always loved the outdoors and beach. The retail sunwear part made perfect sense.” Now Life Is Good eyewear and sunwear is in about 3,500 optical shops in the U.S., and the frame line is supported by in-store signage, beautiful cases and whimsical point of purchase materials.
“We love the reach,” she says, “because there’s no single demographic for these frames. Optimism works for every age group.” Kimball works closely with Amy Moore, VP of product development at The McGee Group and lead designer of the eyewear collection, to craft designs that complement the optimistic nature of the Life is Good brand. It’s a partnership that has paid dividends for both companies.
Moore says that she was passionate about bringing the brand in. “To sit with the brothers and have their direct input in the partnership was amazing,” she says. The team at The McGee Group works hard to bring that authentic joy into the frames. “Whether the frame is optical or sun or a reader, it’s not just a device to see and look great. There’s a message there.” For example, the phrase Spread Good Vibes is on the inside of the temple on every frame. “It’s the first thing you see when you put your eyewear on in the morning, and the last thing you see when you take your glasses off at night,” Moore says.
The frames are fun and colorful. “When creating the eyewear collections, we chose to focus in particular on two of the superpowers of the Life is Good brand – creativity and simplicity.” says Moore. “The simple details mean a lot, and we love having a family collection so that kids, teens and adults can feel great in these unique and colorful frames.”
A hallmark of the in-office merchandizing is a Jake logo display that can wear glasses. “It’s usually near the front desk so that patients and customers see it right away. It’s such a playful way to make patients smile.”
The sales representatives have incorporated a practice from the Jacobs brothers, where their mom would go around the dinner table and ask each of the six children to “tell me something good. The brothers recall that they went from fighting and bickering to smiling and focusing on the positive. It turns around the energy in the room.” Kimball says the Life Is Good team meetings still start by asking attendees to share something good.
The result is clear enthusiasm. Just as the clothing line is “premium accessible” meaning it’s not at a designer price point but has the high quality and style – the eyewear strives for that same market. “Our sales team understands and loves the Life Is Good story. The philanthropic part is something that is also super meaningful to all of us,” Moore says. The McGee Group is also a company that looks to support organizations, so it’s important that their partners do, too. When frames are presented to a practice, for example, the presentation tray includes information about the 10 percent of profits that go to the Playmaker Project.