As global brands show off cars of the future in Detroit at the annual auto show (NAIAS), coming off a week of unveiling high-tech visions of the future at CES 2014, one brand in particular is kicking off 2014 honouring old school icons. Converse has this week released Black Sabbath styles featuring artwork from select albums like Paranoid.
Making up part of the brand’s 2014 Spring Collection, the release is a glimpse at where the brand is headed this year. This follows on a strong finish to 2013.
“These boots are made for walking” or so the saying goes. Add “and keep you nice and toasty” to the mix and good old Nancy Sinatra could well have been talking about the winter-ready Chuck Taylor All Star Holiday 2013 Collection.
To celebrate the collection launch, the brand hosted a month-long series of #GetWinterized events focused on having fun and staying warm, outside. The experiential campaign consisted of four parts. Working with local artists, one pub in all four corners of London had their gardens transformed into winter-friendly destinations, each one playing host to one of Converse’s special events.
Each event was down to earth in tone but with an interesting twist, and the campaign mechanism was essentially a competition to which the public could apply to win tickets. Numbers of course were limited, giving that elusive air of exclusivity that brands try so hard to cultivate.
First up and in the heart of East London, lucky ticket holders were treated to a viewing of cult classic Wayne’s World under the stars, with a live performance of the soundtrack from the London Metropolitan Orchestra String Quartet. Pretty cool.
Next up, West London public house The Mason’s Arms played host to not just any old quiz but an ‘immersive’ one, compèred
by BBC Radio 1 veteran Huw Stephens. North London brought the laughs as Adam Buxton headlined a night of al fresco comedy in the garden of The Abbey Tavern, and then it was South London’s turn, as a host of up-and-coming bands took to the stage before headliner La Havas stole the spotlight. Free warm rum punch and choice of stew or burger completed the experience.
So what was the campaign really trying to do, and how did it do it? Well, obviously shifting the collection was the overall objective but so too was gaining positive feeling for the Converse brand and building equity into the aspirational lifestyle on which it rests. Indeed, if their recent ATL campaigns are anything to go by, at the heart of the Converse brand lies an element of escapism, of being that little bit leftfield, of youth sub-culture that doesn’t want to play by the rules.
This event tried to capture and codify that lifestyle in a 360-degree way, championing the kinds of things that people who wear Converse might associate with themselves. So Converse is pub, not bar. It’s indie cult classics, not blockbusters. It’s comedy, not theatre.
In the four events of #GetWinterized lie the beginnings of the lifestyle of the aspirational Converse wearer, but it strikes us just how hard it is to codify the full wealth that lies in the icon of a Chuck shoe, and manage it well when the brand is so mass market. Does the sub-culture of Converse’s roots become diluted when it is worn by so many?
Is the trick to manage this recognising, with the equity it has, it doesn’t need to plaster itself everywhere but can limit itself to a few really good initiatives that demonstrate its point of view? Perhaps so. One thing’s for sure though: the richness of the Converse shoe is something to be celebrated.
Laura Tarbox is a Consultant, Brand Strategy, at Interbrand London.