How would you, the viewer of this site, go about marketing the Converse All Star "Chuck Taylor" in today's world? Here are some ideas from various correspondents:
Imagine that you were working for the marketing division of Converse. Here are some important things to address:
How would you carry out the Back to Basics Ad campaign to make it a success?
What new colors would you come up with for chucks? Especially colors which people would want to wear on their feet.
If you could chose among different celebrities to endorse chucks, who would you choose as the new spokesman?
If you think chucks marketing in America is lacking, check out how chucks are marketed in Europe.
An iconic brand in American pop culture and fashion, the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star is perhaps the most famous American shoe in history. Yes, I am saying more famous than Nike. While Nike may be the face of today’s athletic shoe market, no brand has transitioned from the forefront of the sporting world to an iconic style piece in the way chucks have. Unlike Nike however, chucks do not feature the same amount of in your face, omnipresent marketing campaigns that Nike seemingly rolls out on a weekly basis. During the 70s and 80s, chucks were marketed by some of the biggest starts in American culture, like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Yet today, you’d be hard pressed to name someone currently endorsing chucks. So, what can the brand do to reinvent itself and target a modern, 21st century audience?
It all starts with social media. Converse is winning this marketing battle over Nike. On Facebook, the company boasts over 37 million followers compared to Nike’s 23 million. While they’re winning in the overall likes department, the content that they are producing is not. Converse’ various posts, whether they be articles, pictures or videos, are not reaching their 37 million strong audience. These posts average anywhere from a few hundred to 4,000 likes, with videos generating under 150,000 views. Nike, on the other hand, is hitting a solid part of their audience. Their posts average likes in the mid-thousands, to over 77 thousand likes and views in the mid-hundred thousands to millions range. While post likes are hit or miss in terms of their effects on audiences, the video post disparity is something to be looked at. Nike commercials are designed to stick with you, as all good commercials should. They combine inspirational stories, with testosterone inducing bravado, and marketing savvy to get their audiences pumped about doing something. While Converse doesn’t have this appeal, what they do possess is a cultural prominence that Nike does not. While Nike comes out with a new shoes almost every week, chucks have only two iterations. Converse should focus not only on the timelessness of the all-star, but also on its rebirth. Video ads showing the all-star II being worn everywhere from concerts, to parties, to football games and bars would hit the 18-25 demographic that is fixated on social media. Chucks can be worn anywhere for any nearly any location, and Converse needs to highlight that. Furthermore, chuck ads should also emphasize the economic benefits of buying a pair of chucks. Most Nike shoes run north of $100, with some of the nicer models nearing $200. Chucks run far below that, with a pair of black high tops costing $53.99 on Amazon. The chuck II’s are a tad pricier at $75 bucks, but this comes at no surprise seeing as Converse is now owned by Nike.
A prime example of where this strategy would work, yet is not being done, is on Twitter. On Converse’s page, which boasts only 987,000 followers, the majority of visual ads are bland. They feature images of chucks being worn by one person, alone, predominately in nature. This could not be any farther from reality. Most people don’t walk on a beach or through the woods in chucks. They wear them to tailgates or to class, at their favorite bands show or to the movies. What these posts should emphasize is that chucks bring people together, and when you wear them, you’re usually doing something fun. While yes, Converse is a Nike owned company and it’s likely that big boss won’t let them trudge too much on their toes, Converse can indeed get back some of their market share. The All Star II brought Converse into the modern era, it’s time their social media accounts follow suit.
It’s rather same to assume that we all took fashion suggestions from what we read and/or watched as teens. Whether it’s the pages of Cosmopolitan or the latest Drake music video, popular culture has a profound impact on the fashion choices for pre-teens and teenagers. Advertisements have a profound effect on this demographic as well, given that pre-teens and teens are more susceptible to outside influences. With this in mind, Converse can employ a few new strategies to hit that demographic.
An essential strategy can be in the realm of social media. Converse already has a sizable social media presence and is on all the major outlets. However, the content that these accounts post is geared more towards the older end of their target demographics. Posts on Twitter and Facebook target the independent individual, and by independent, I mean both personally and financially. One outlet that is becoming a major social media powerhouse is Vine. The app has ushered in a new wave of pre-teen/teenage celebrities, who are famous simply for having millions of followers through posting 7-second videos. Teens are a huge portion of the Vine user demographic, and utilizing these social media celebs would be an instantaneous way of reaching millions fast. These people also boast many million strong followings on Twitter and Instagram, so utilizing cross-outlet campaigns would hit a huge audience.
A recent survey of teenagers showed a high approval rating for Converse All Star products. The survey was entitled “General Characteristics of Cool Teenagers” and it showed that the Converse All Star had the same preferred brand of footwear percentage as Nike (53%). How could the Converse Company take advantage of this positive view? One thing would be to make Chuck Taylors available at more stores, especially those catering to teenagers. Especially frustrating to teens who like chucks must be the lack of availability of seasonal colors and bright colors like bright blue, orange or canvas print models. But even the core colors can be hard to find. Teenagers are more likely to purchase and wear core colors like red, maroon, green, or monochrome black besides the staple black and white chucks. The company needs to make these various models easy to find and purchase.
Converse All Star ads need to be run on the cable stations which young people watch (MTV, VH1) and on network television shows that have a lot of young viewers. The advertising should be aimed at young people because teenagers are our biggest consumers. There should be advertising in magazines like Teen, Rolling Stone, Seventeen, and Men's Health. Lately, chucks have become an important fashion trend with teenagers, so the company should build on the momentum.
The main point the ads will stress on TV and in magazines is that chucks are cool and fun to wear! The ads should stress the price of them and describe the many different cool and neat colors Converse has out on the market! And no staged scenes in the ads. The ads would run in July and August when back to school time rolls around, and when the weather gets warmer. The advertising scenes might show just normal activities like young people walking to class, wearing chucks, young people dancing in chucks, or playing hoops in chucks. Young people after seeing those ads would want to wear them and would ask their parents to buy them a pair of chucks. Those type of ads and gearing them towards the young would certainly be a huge success, but they have to be aired or published in magazines at certain times of the year.
Retail stores need to have neat displays of All Stars and promotional materials showing and stressing to people that chucks are cool and fun to wear! Have at least two of the employees wearing chucks and possibly a Converse T-Shirt as well. Place the promotional displays in the front window and large enough for everyone (and especially the young people) to see. One good promotion that the company has done with Footlocker in 1999 has been the promotion of a CD, which is given away free to anyone who purchases a pair of Converse sneakers.
Converse should run an advertising campaign aimed at the youth of America and use some young actors, athletes aged 10-18 (not older professional athletes), and musicians to show the All Star as a cool shoe for leisure and sports wear. Why not start with those celebrities that have already been seen in chucks. A lot more All Star products would be sold to this generation, and Converse would be creating a larger mainstream market for the future.
To promote chucks, Converse should use television commercials and billboards and have them focus on the overall "comfort" aspects of Converse. A commercial scenario: A bunch of teens just hanging out, somewhat apathetic toward the confines of society. All are wearing different colors, some of which are dirty and torn. It's all for fun, and it's clear the teens don't take things too seriously. Some of them should be wearing non-Converse shoes without labels, just to add a sense of reality. Groups of teens' feet are often dominated by Converse so it would be realistic.
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Athletes would play a major role in the campaigns for the younger generations to relate with. The campaigns would feature well known athletes in sports other than basketball. Chucks are made now for casual wear and the ads would stress that they are shoes to wear for leisure.
A good advertising ploy to start the ads going would be to lower the cost for a pair of chucks to 60's and 70's prices again, say around 15-20 dollars a pair.
Another great plan would be for Converse to furnish a group of employees with the matching chucks to wear. For instance, employees in the Footlocker stores could wear the high tops as well as sell them.
To endorse chucks, give pairs to rock stars, the people on MTV and VH1, young heartthrobs on TV and in the movies, and athletes. Make sure though the athletes, heartthrobs, and musicians endorsing chucks are very cool and somebody the young follow, watch, and listen to. For example, Bruce Springsteen owns many pairs of chucks; why not use him as an endorser. Also, Mark Bryan of Hootie and the Blowfish would be another person to use for endorsements; he wore them all the time on stage when the group was making its big surge in popularity. He even has a pair enshrined in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Hard Rock Cafe. (Click here to see the story.) If Converse did all the above, chucks would be flying off the shelves.
Mark Bryan, guitarist for Hootie and the Blowfish wearing black chuck high tops.
To make the commercials for new chucks ads, why not employ some up and coming filmmakers of this generation to create and shoot the spots. For example, sponsor a contest open to students in graduate schools who are learning to make films and videos. Have them design 30 and 60 second commercials that will appeal to their generation, submit their entries, and then fund five or six of them a year (along with a donation to the film departments). I am sure that you would get some very innovative work that would really represent the views and thinking of this generation. This kind of ad campaign could really spur more sales to this market, and would probably receive some sort of awards for its innovation.
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This is a market group that Converse has really neglected. It's too bad because “baby boomers” were the original users of Converse All Stars. The Converse Company needs to develop an advertising theme that sends the message that Chuck Taylors were and are the sneakers of the people. One advertising campaign could be centered around the word “Originals.” Real people would sell the product. Have them share brief stories about getting that first pair of chucks. These stories roll off the tongues of “baby boomers” who first laced up in high white or black chucks. The best way to market the product is to take it to its roots. Pictures in the campaign should be like the ones on this web site: a regular guy shooting hoops, for example, is target marketing for the product. These are the people who are still buying the product, yet they seem to be totally neglected in the advertising campaigns seen in the past few years. Converse needs to strengthen its marketing emphasis on “P-1's” (primary users) and attract those who remember the product.
One of our correspondents relates this story: “I was at a Corporate Sports Challenge on Saturday. I wore my high black chucks. The comments were numerous. The reaction, the same: warm feelings about their first pair of high black chucks. All of these people were wearing Nike or Adidas running shoes. Converse needs to reconnect with these people in its advertising. I think Converse is trying to re-invent the wheel with each new marketing campaign. Judging by their stock performance, we can only guess that Converse executives are looking at their shoes! And to think, that's where the answer lies!”
Converse needs to advertise All Stars to the masses, not just the “lunatic fringe”. Converse needs normal people like us in the ads. Converse needs to expand sales of its most popular product, Chuck Taylor All Star high tops. When was the last time you saw them advertised on TV? Probably never. How about in magazines? A long time ago for sure. Converse has allowed its greatest product to wallow in anonymity too long. We need TV and magazine ads with normal people lacing up and talking about their chucks.
Celebrities in chucks? Just get TV shows and movies to have characters laced up in Converse. And not just laced up, get them to overtly refer to their chucks in the shows. Develop a real following for chucks and get people of ALL ages to wear them.
Arnold Schwarzenegger wearing chucks in the movie Twins.
Keep lacing up YOUR chucks as an example for others to wear them also! First of all, with any marketing campaign, the product needs to be visible. That could be accomplished by television and magazine advertisements. The market needs to be flooded with Converse products. Some new products could be things like round mouse pads made from the ankle patch image. Also, using the ankle patch, design a clock with the phrase, Chuck Time... or something like that.
Place the ads in popular magazines and use common people as the endorsers. Basketball teams are not going to wear the chucks, but other people can sport the chucks. Remember the movie Twins where Arnold Schwarzeneggar sported the black high tops? Use characters in the media that sported the chucks for still photo shots in magazines and television clips.
Anyone “out of place” wearing chucks would be a good spokesman, if it were done humorously. For example, a recent Biography segment on the Arts and Entertainment channel showed Harrison Ford dressed up in a suit and wearing chucks. The Disney introduction to their remake of The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes shows Michael Eisner putting his feet up on his desk wearing a pair of black high tops.
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Converse needs to put out advertisements showing real people wearing chucks. “Back to Basics” needs to have a TV commercial featuring ordinary guys laced up, hanging together, having fun, and then lastly show a couple of stars wearing them like Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, or Michael J. Fox. Everyone would have on a different color with jeans, dockers, shorts , all different looks. The magazine ads would feature just ordinary people relaxing and having fun.
Tom Hanks wearing chucks.
The “Back to Basics” campaign also needs to emphasize the Converse All Star Chuck Taylor shoe as an American classic. Show how it has been worn over by different generations of people in the twentieth century. Wouldn't it be cool to see three or four generations of the same family talk about how they wore (or still wear) their chucks, and what chucks meant to them in their lives? Include some great “first pair” stories. Talk about chucks as a great American tradition, and emphasize the fact that they are still made in the USA, just like they were back in the beginning of the century.
Why not create a television or video persona for Chuck Taylor? Have him talk about what chucks did for the sport of basketball in the early days, and how the tradition has been carried on all of these years. Have him tell some great stories about how he spread the word all over the country (and the world) about Chuck Taylor shoes.
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Here are some different approaches to the issue of new Chuck Taylor colors:
To determine new colors, have a contest and run it during August and September -- back-to-school time. Entrants would answer these two questions: “If you had to design a new color for a pair of chucks, what color would it be? And why?” Make sure everyone who buys a pair of chucks gets this form and have neat prizes to for the top five people who come up with the best ideas, and then make sure those colors are then produced! Finally, have a small give-away to everyone who buys a pair of chucks...A poster...A t-shirt....A hat,..or something with the ankle patch on it. WOW! If only Converse could and would do the above, Nike would not know what hit them!
As to colors, this is where Converse has diluted its product to the point of not competing with the Nikes, adidas and Reeboks. Converse has too many colors. New customers cannot develop a favorite unless they only choose the more popular of the core colors. Perhaps Converse should retrench to the core colors and eliminate pine, monochrome black and maroon from the core. Black, white (both classic and optical), red and navy blue. Period. In fact, I think the classic white used to be a little whiter and if that were the case, just go with that color. Production and warehousing costs would plummet and more advertising could be afforded. You could even go with black and white leather chucks for basketball, but the casual market is where the money and opportunities lie.
Market the colors that are available now for longer periods of time. New colors just need to be available in a lot more stores and regions of the country. It is disheartening to go to Converse factory stores and see other colors that were available at one time, but were never available in our local area.
Converse should produce Chuck Taylors in gray, brown, teal (like the Eagles’ color) and all would have matching black pin stripes. They should eliminate that red pin stripe on the white chucks. It should be black like the other models.
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Here are some suggestions from web site visitors for a new spokesman.
From SK: Matt Damon would be a cool spokesman. He has that all American boy look. Too bad he did not wear all-stars in Good Will Hunting. Scenes of Damon buffing the floors while wearing black high tops would have been too much!
From JJK: Converse should get someone in their 20's to pose as Chuck Taylor's grandson. He could reminisce about his grandfather and father lacing up Converse All Stars. He could also demonstrate his following in their footsteps by wearing a pair of high black chucks.
From JD: Converse needs to find an athlete that has the gritty work ethic of the common man. They don't need the glamorous high profile trash-talker. The image they should look for is the player who shows up and plays his/her heart out every game, doesn't talk much on the court, and contributes to the team's win. A good example would be Grant Hill. Even though he is with Fila, it may be possible to get him because the Grant Hill shoe sales are way down, and have been for a couple of years. Some other players that would fit the mold now would be: Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter, Stephon Marbury, Nick Anderson, or Brent Barry.The other approach would be for Converse to create their own player. Several years ago Reebok introduced a line of outdoor basketball shoes called “Blacktop.” It was marketed by showing commercials of playground players sitting around talking about a playground legend named “Lamar Mundane” and his incredible moves. Converse can do the same to promote the “good-ol” American blue-collar image it is known for.
From DA: If not Rodman, then...maybe not any athlete at all. Converse has always been a respected sports brand, but is just as strong as a lifestyle brand. Perhaps a regular Joe should be a Converse spokesperson, or a non-sports star, such as an actor or a writer.
From CB: I think the official spokesman for Converse should be Daniel Johns, vocalist from Silverchair. He loves Converse, just look at some of the pictures of him, and he wears them well. He enjoys wearing them because they are not made from animals. Daniel would definitely be a better spokesman than Dennis Rodman. First of all he wouldn't embarrass the Converse Company.
From GH: Dennis Rodman and new Converse models are all wrong. Converse should focus marketing and a spokesperson around the core shoe-- the Chuck Taylor All Star. Disposable personalities do not serve a classic shoe maker well. I would opt for the “everyday" Joes to market the Converse All Star — guys shooting ball and having fun in a historical monologue. Let the little guy speak for the shoe that is the best and who makes it the great product it is.
From CP: If anything's going to get the Ramones to regroup, Converse can. There is almost nothing as synonymous as the Ramones and chucks. Just watch the Rock’n’Roll High School video. I wouldn't mind seeing Converse sign them on, and watching all those wannabe rock stars buying chucks.
From TE: Converse makes pretty cool looking basketball shoes. I think they are cooler than Nikes, are American made, and as far as I've heard Converse doesn't run a single sweatshop. That's good. I buy chucks myself, but to sell the basketball shoe, I would pick someone who is a good all around well liked player, who's not too expensive, and supports any kids he might he father out of wedlock. Its hard to say. Maybe Zack de la Rocha, lead singer for Rage Against the Machine could be the spokesman for chucks.
From CG: Converse should use spokesmen from the entertainment and music industries as endorsers for the Chuck Taylor line, and start to advertise this product for mainstream Americans again. For their pro basketball line, they should look for a young hot prospect in the college ranks, and work with him to develop a line of products over the years, just like Nike did with Michael Jordan. Instead of calling everything All Stars (because they will never supplant the original Chuck Taylor All Stars), make this the “All Star Pro” line of shoes. And its very important for them to pick someone who doesn't carry all of the baggage and negative publicity of a Dennis Rodman.
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Maybe the American marketing people for Converse should get some ideas from their European counterparts. Cross, Speed, and Associates (CSA) are a London marketing firm that has come up with some innovative ad campaigns. One idea that they had to promote the 75th anniversary of the Chuck Taylor, was to build a giant balloon in the shape of a Stars and Bars model Chuck, and fly it around the UK for a full year to generate publicity and interest in the product. Entitled “The Sky's the Limit”, the 144,000 cubic foot hot-air balloon was a £100,00 investment that ended up receiving over £1.8 million of free editorial exposure.
A giant air balloon designed to promote the Converse All Star.
Another concept developed by CSA was a “Fly-Poster Guerrilla” campaign, aimed at the 15 to 20 year old youth market, and designed to increase street level awareness of the product by targeting major youth areas of interest. CSA has posted a complete slide show of some of their recent advertising campaigns for Converse and other companies on their website.
Examples from CSA's poster campaign aimed at the 15-20 year old youth market: street people wearing chucks and flying chucks.
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