The footwear industry is long overdue for massive change. Compared to other industries, footwear is late to the game of utilizing software, technology and machines in the designing, building and commercialization of product. Footwear brands must disrupt the old business model on multiple fronts from product to marketing to selling. Today we will look into the importance of the customer relationship and how storytelling and brand purpose are key drivers for new brand growth.
With only 25% of millennials engaged with the top brands, the growing number of smaller niche brands are eroding the top brands and retailers market share. It is clear that consumers are leaning toward brands that they relate to and that speak to their unique point of view. No longer is just providing great stylish product a differentiator. A brand’s story, purpose, image, influencers and content is a critical factor to maintaining market share and or scaling as a new brand.
The success of each of the following brands can be attributed to multiple aspects of their business model. The common thread is in the strong storytelling and relationship with their customers that is clearly resonating with their rapidly growing consumer base.
User Generated Content
Cotopaxi, with an incredible founding story, social and environmental efforts, and national events, is a role model for future brands. The tag line “Gear for Good” is influential in everything that they do from utilizing of leftover materials in their products to donating 2% of revenue to help alleviate poverty around the world.
The strong brand purpose and unique colorful designs creates a compelling reason for consumers to purchase their products over competing outdoor companies. Certainly there are plenty of “do good” companies, especially in the outdoor industry. Cotopaxi’s is able make their customers feel as though they are truly apart of something special. They seem to do this effortlessly leveraging the digital experience, storytelling, and clear messaging related to their purpose.
Perhaps what makes them most unique is their event called Questival. This 24 hour adventure race consists of teams of two to four people who choose from hundreds of challenges with the goal of racking up as many points as possible. Participants compete for an opportunity to travel to exotic destinations as a social ambassador for the brand.
During the race participants capture video content of their journey, and in certain challenges are required to make posts on social. Not only does this help Cotopaxi develop great organic reach, it also creates unique user generated content. This strategy of creating and leveraging content places the biggest brand advocates at the heart of their story.
Amazing Video Content
Deus Ex Machina is a cross cultural, multi faceted lifestyle brand that is primarily focused on surf and motorcycles. Their artful design aesthetic is carried across everything they do, from custom vintage motorcycles to cozy sweaters.
Their stores are truly a mecca for the brand. Most locations feature a full service coffee shop, where customers can check out the latest custom motorcycles, newly shaped surfboards, or browse through their fully curated inventory of apparel and footwear. These locations serve as a meeting place for kindred spirits.
Deus’s content is just as impressive as everything else they do. In fact, they have some of the best brand produced video content we have seen and most of it is available for free on Youtube. Videos capture the ultimate guys adventure, filled with surfing, motorcycling riding and exploring. The subjects of the videos are certainly great riders but importantly aren't professionals. This makes the content relatable and that much more inspiring.
United By Blue
Cause and Community Focused
Another purpose driven brand, United By Blue (UBB), is a making a splash in the outdoor-lifestyle category. Their mission is to reduce trash in oceans and waterways by removing one pound of trash for every product that they sell. Rather than donating money to other organizations to conduct trash clean ups, UBB takes this responsibility head on and has removed more than one million pounds of trash so far through their national cleanup efforts. This year they have formed a partnership with REI to gain more reach on a national level with their clean up efforts.
In addition to REI, UBB has also partnered with Chaoco and Oru Kayak to create co branded product to help raise awareness for their cause. These partnerships are allowing each brand to extend their product offering and reach new customer demographics, which in turn allows UBB’s story to reach more people.
UBB is striving to be a leader in the fight against trash and are beginning to shift their focus to preventing trash in the first place. Check out their inspirational video below.
We feel that there is plenty of opportunity for footwear companies to embark on this new trend. In fact, it is way over do. How are you creating a lasting relationship with your customers?
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