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The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star is arguably the most popular pair of sneakers of all time.
The iconic sneakers have remained essentially unchanged in almost 100 years.
I dropped by Converse's Facebook Page earlier and had to do a double take in admiration. That playful flash of red! That mysterious giant hand bolted to the roof of the car! I'm instantly imagining a fun road trip with a bunch of devil-may-care musicians.
Why don't I have a pair of Converse sneakers, anyway?
Converse gets it.
It takes conviction to clarify what your brand is not.
And real conviction is precious in the marketplace, which is why the picture is so refreshing. You can surely imagine some marketing or PR person going, "Hey, we'd better not use that line. It's a little too brusque. It might turn people off. It might be offensive. What if we want to get into shoes next time? We'd better play safe."
The only way to truly be "safe" is to avoid doing anything at all. Otherwise, you might as well be bold. Making a bold statement requires guts. It requires the conviction to say "If somebody doesn't like us saying 'shoes are boring', we don't want their business." That's when you move from a frame of neediness to a frame of confidence. And people love well-placed confidence. It feels authentic.
"Be bold" doesn't mean "be stupid", though.
Making bold statements doesn't automatically give you adoring fans, as Abercrombie & Fitch found out recently. It's important that your bold statement resonates with your audience, and the only way to really do that is to listen to them very carefully.
You'll have to constantly adjust and calibrate your message to make sure that you stand for something that people believe in. This requires a level of humility. You can't take it for granted that you know what your audience wants. You'll have to keep listening to them.
The difference between knockout brands and wannabes? Guts.
Guts to take action, to put your money where your mouth is. You say you love your audience? Prove it. Prove that delighting your fans and supporters is worth more to you than your immediate bottom-line. Show it. Don't be needy.
Converse has several things in common with RedBull, who dropped a guy from the edge of space and gives away drinks to tired or sleepy people for free.
Both brands have the confidence to spend time and money on things that are cool, but don't immediately improve their sales. This gives them the opportunity to hang out with their fans and advocates, and understand what they really want. They're "learning brands", with a finger on the pulse of their audience.
Converse set up a recording studio in Brooklyn, NY where artists can record for free.
Converse doesn't take a cut of the profits, or own the songs, or ask them to advertise their shoes, nothing.
They do it just for the opportunity to participate in the community that adopted their brand.
Converse's CMO, Geoff Cottrill, seriously knows his stuff.
[caption id="attachment_5673" align="aligncenter" width="400"]
Converse CMO Geoff Cottrill. Image: Allison Cottrill[/caption]
Mashable's 2011 interview with Converse's Chief Marketing Officer Geoff Cottrill is an incredible source of wisdom. Here are some of his best points:
- "Our philosophy in social media has been to bring our voice to the medium, which includes acting like a good party guest — we bring something to the table, and we listen more than we talk."
- "We think that the fans of any brand want to know about product and like offers too, but they also want to have an emotional connection -– we’re trying to be a good host for that connection."
- "The bottom line is that in social media you have to “let go." Forget about the old methods of one-way communication. Social media isn’t even a two-way conversation –- it's more complicated than that."
- "Our job is to keep focused on making great products our consumers want to wear and to be a participant in the discussions going on in the social media space."
- "By showing respect and trusting your consumers, I believe your brand benefits via strong advocacy –- having millions of advocates can be a powerful thing. You just have to let go and trust your consumers."
- "Converse shoes aren’t about added technology or even about us. They’re about what our customer does in them. It works for other companies for sure, but that’s not our MO." - In response to the idea of putting USBs with added-content in shoeboxes
- "But social media has the potential to mature into a powerful hybrid of traditional marketing techniques and community engagement, especially if that community becomes your brand advocates. Which is why we focus on a couple of core marketing truths via social –- be relevant, make a connection, be useful, etc."
- "The key is to know yourself as a brand, be confident in your POV and act that way wherever you are."
Incidentally, his twitter account description is "I sell sneakers and I do not like Coldplay".
Coldplay wears shoes.
Shoes are boring.
Images courtesy of Converse, Flickr, Kubrak78
Hey! Check out the story behind another shoe manufacturing behemoth, Vans!