A startup footwear company enlisted my help to create a unique brand identity, build awareness, and gain market share.
The company was entering the sandal market with premium price points and materials. The target channels of distribution were surf and outdoor retailers, and luxury department stores. The company needed a unique brand identity to stand out from the crowd and appeal to the unique customers at these different retail outlets.
We determined that the competition fell into three categories: surf-inspired, outdoor-inspired, and comfort footwear. The brand’s price points were well above the surf and outdoor brands, placing it in the premium price tier in those stores. We identified an underserved customer niche and decided to appeal to this niche with lifestyle-driven branding, while offering a deeper and more mature brand identity.
It would have been obvious to go with a surf-inspired theme like a majority of the competition, but instead we decided to focus the branding on authentic aspects of island culture from both land and sea perspectives. We developed strong relationships with cultural leaders, struck a mature and respectful tone in our communications, and highlighted unique aspects of island life with sophisticated brand visuals. We establishing charitable giving and eco-friendly practices as core business practices. We carried these themes through all points of communication from catalogs to website and packaging.
Discovery at Retail
With constrained budgets, we knew that we would have to be creative in our approach, and maximize the value of any investments. A big media campaign to drive brand awareness was out of the question. Instead we focused on being discovered at the point of sale.
We developed unique free-standing fixtures to display the products, which separated them from the sea of competition on the wall, and signaled to consumers that the product was something unique. We worked with retailers to secure in-store real estate for branded window graphics, light boxes, and distribution of marketing materials. We invested in clinics to educate staff so they could communicate about the brand with passion, confidence, and authenticity. And we incentivized store staff with sales contests where they could earn free pairs of their own. The focus on retail also had another powerful advantage; it drove word-of-mouth referrals as consumers were excited to share with their friends about this newly discovered brand.
To drive broader awareness and authenticity, we created an annual branded event in Hawaii brining together professional and recreational athletes, music, food, and cultural activities. The event was filmed and broadcast on NBC World of Adventure Sports, reaching millions of people nationwide.
Brand awareness and market share soared. The brand secured further retail distribution in the best surf and outdoor retailers, outdoor chains, and luxury department stores, doubling in revenue year over year. The brand was awarded the surf industry’s Breakthrough Brand of the Year, for standout growth, brand recognition, and appeal.