Crocs, the company that skyrocketed to footwear fame for its innovative rubber clog, turns 10 this year. And in that short time, through some ups and downs, it’s grown from a quirky Colorado-based shoe company to a billion-dollar global business. After becoming the company’s first chief marketing officer in 2011, Andrew Davison led the effort to reshape and expand the brand by connecting with target shoppers, introducing a greater range of more stylish products and focusing on emerging markets.
Ahead of the Shop.org Annual Summit in Denver next month, where Davison will discuss how consumer data is driving Croc’s brand strategy, he shared why they dove deep into the data, what they found, and what’s next for Crocs.
When attempting to reshape a brand, as a CMO, where do you start?
It starts with a laser-like focus on the consumer. Finding out who the consumer is, what is driving engagement, and asking what are the current behaviors and the intended behaviors we want to cultivate. The consumer is driving our future, and we need to understand how she measures into our business goals, our product strategy and engagement strategies. Then, we can determine how the brand can enhance its product offerings, differentiate itself and drive an effective retail strategy.
At the Shop.org Annual Summit, you’ll be discussing how to use customer metrics to build your brand. What challenges did you face when you set out to create a research-driven strategy?
Well, the first challenge anyone faces when doing this is getting the organization to understand the value in investing in research, but we’re fortunate in that our senior leadership understands its importance. For a long time, we focused on one product and told that story well, but as we expanded our product offering, we found that we needed a more sophisticated approach to customer engagement.
We knew a lot of great anecdotal information about our customers, but we wanted to dive deeper to map the entire purchase funnel and understand what drives behaviors. A qualitative global study showed us consumers’ perceptions and feelings about the brand and how they’re investing and engaging with our brand. We also did a quantitative global study to find out what the market opportunity is. In doing this, we discovered what kind of permission we have as a brand, in terms of products, activities, silhouettes and channels to grow our business
Tell us what you found when you dug into your consumer data. What are some of the key insights that guided your strategy?
It was no surprise to find that we have phenomenal brand awareness. For a brand as young as we are, it’s up in the stratosphere, comparable to brands like Converse and Nike. We have some passionate loyalists, but there are also some misconceptions—specifically that people only know us for the clog. The clog is still half of our global business, but we make many other products. But having such strong brand awareness is a good position to be in, because we found a lot of those consumers would like to hear more about other offerings.
We also found out more about our target audience. Women are driving a lot of purchase decisions these days, and we learned more about what makes them tick. Our brand is targeted toward women, aged 30-55, with children. This customer, she’s doing reasonably well, but she’s also managing a budget and being mindful of how she spends her money. And when she’s purchasing footwear for her family, she wants to know that she’s getting a highly functional product that’s well-made at a good price. But she also wants a product that’s stylish. That makes her feel good about her decision not only financially, but emotionally.
We always knew we had a strong connection with functional comfort, but we found that we had a big opportunity to connect with women around emotional comfort. And that comes from confidence that you’re getting great value, making a good decision for your family, and getting a stylish product.
Shop.org and others have reported on the explosive growth of mobile in retail. What do you think is most important for retailers to consider when creating a mobile strategy?
Mobile is really critical. Consumers are getting more and more wired, and the reality is that we have an on demand, on the go culture. And when you look at our target demographic, a lot of these women are working mothers, so they have pretty busy lives. Mobile tools help them manage their lives, and their expectation of brands and retailers is that they’re going to get what they want, when they want it.
We’re seeing brands pay more and more attention to this, and it’s giving rise to the current buzz-word “omnichannel,” and there’s truth in it. Brands need to pay attention to this dynamic, and make sure they’re available and accessible to their customers. Also, given the engagement of women in the social environment, the ability to share with each other – the good and the bad—it’s really imperative that brands and retailers are being mindful of giving their customers the opportunity to engage with them in the manner they want, whether that’s in a retail environment, a direct mail piece that comes to their home, an email on a smartphone, a mobile site or app, or in the social space.
Crocs, like a lot of brands, is looking at our current position and where we want to be in the next three years. We’re asking ourselves how we can be an effective omnichannel retailer and deliver a great brand experience.
What’s next for Crocs?
Continue to do all these things and engage our customers across channels and platforms, in a way that drives revenue as well as brand equity. Also, we’ll continue to invest in product innovation. We’re known for our innovative products, and you’ll see that we’re continuing to come out with products that build off of our leadership in injection molding and comfort, and in engaging consumers with our product.
We’re going to continue to invest in our direct consumer channels, which means not only reformatting and expanding our retail environment, but also our web environment. We’re actively looking at mobile commerce strategies, mobility strategies within retail and business strategies to better engage with our consumers and help facilitate the dynamic we talked about.
You were on the agency side for many years. What are you enjoying most about working for a retailer?
The agency experience was an awesome environment. You get to work with a lot of really smart people, and work on a lot of really fun and exciting projects. What excited me about coming to the brand side is taking all those experiences and bringing them together in one effort and working with a lot of really smart, capable, passionate people dedicated to one brand.
Crocs is celebrating our 10th anniversary, so in a very short time we’ve grown to generating well over a billion dollars in global revenue. To have a brand that’s accelerated so quickly, to be so young, have such innovative products, with so many passionate people, and to be the first CMO and really be able to drive both the brand engagement as well as the innovative thinking around e-commerce and mobility—I mean, how cool is that? I’m so fortunate. And to be able to leverage all the research and consumer insights as part of a well-founded strategy—it was an opportunity that was just too good to pass up.