In 1978, Brian Smith landed in Southern California with a bag of sheepskin boots—but the UGG brand would never again be just a sheepskin boot. People either love or hate UGG Australia, but everyone has an opinion of the brand. Since its humble beginnings, the brand's magical combination of functional benefits and emotional appeal quickly spread around the globe. I, for one, never saw myself as a big UGG fan, but I have to admit that I secretly admire the company for its successful brand strategies, thoughtful product portfolio extensions, and the creative new brand experiences it offers. The UGG story and the evolution of the brand is an inspiration for all retail brands—and a good example of how a brand's identity can transcend all platforms.
To its credit, the UGG brand has always had a recognizable brand proposition. However, to stay relevant to consumers over its 36-year history, the brand has had to evolve quite a bit. From a symbol of laid-back southern Californian culture to a luxurious global lifestyle brand for active people, UGG has always been able to embody both comfort and luxury, which it embraces as core values. These values had always been consistently reflected in UGG's brand mission statement and in everything the brand does, but in the digital age, a clear mission and close alignment between its values and brand expression was no longer enough. Now UGG is taking a different strategic approach to flex its brand expression and integrate digital touchpoints to further extend its brand image in the digital space. Specifically, UGG is breaking new ground by fusing brick-and-mortar with online channels and cultivating a thriving online community.
Give influencers the spotlight
With the online universe being as extensive as it is, a brand cannot attempt to assert its own voice among all channels without the risk of diluting the authenticity and inspirational qualities of its brand image. To expand its social media footprint and build awareness of its brand and products—without losing authenticity—UGG set up the "Creative Council." A disparate group of influencers, with strong personalities and a sense of style, will share their passion for the UGG brand and its products in their own unique way. The blog posts will live on each blogger's site, but will also be part of UGG.com.
Lead the conversation with authentic content
In a world in which consumers now trust on-line tastemakers more than they trust brands, this is a very smart move—and a clever way to market through content without UGG itself having to create it (something brands aren't always good at). Instead, the brand will be delivering the content to the digital world, while the bloggers share their individual opinions and real points of view—which will ensure more authentic content. Since this is marketing after all, UGG will obviously be influencing the influencers to write positive things about the brand but, the fact is, UGG cannot actually control what the bloggers write. It may be difficult for companies to let go in this way, but brands can no longer grow in isolation. Instead, brands need to focus on influencing and engaging people in the hope that consumers will shape "what the brand stands for today" in the best possible way.
Use digital to create a seamless shopper experience
The aim to deliver a seamless customer experience across all available shopping channels, is a goal that is supported by UGG’s parent company, Deckers Outdoor. In fact, the corporation opened a brick-and-mortar "innovation lab" store with integrated technology offerings to improve its omnichannel strategy. The next generation retail store will serve as a testing ground for new technologies and merchandising approaches. You can now walk through the store, educate yourself about the UGG brand with the provided tablets, order your favourite pair of UGGs that are just out-of-stock and have them delivered at home, or even customize your own pair of new footwear. Regular UGG stores are also at the forefront of new generation retail, allowing customers to order out-of-stock goods online on in-store mobile devices. To stay relevant, brands need to integrate digital touchpoints into their physical retail environment, as customer journeys existing entirely in the physical world are history.
As these examples illustrate, UGG is forging new ground and flexing its brand expression across touchpoints to move with the world. By facilitating real dialogue, giving influencers the spotlight, generating authentic brand-associated content, and leveraging brand-led conversations across all platforms, brands can not only increase exposure, but reach the consumers who truly value what you have to offer.
Dominiek Post is an Analyst at Interbrand
You can follow her on Twitter @DominiekPost
Photo credits: Images courtesy of UGG's corporate website