Love them or hate them, Crocs had a stellar 2020 with 33% year-on-year growth and the brand is targeting between 40 and 50% again in 2021 – so what, other than a lockdown-induced desire for comfort, can we learn from this success?
Why it matters
Per reporting from the Washington Post, much of this is the result of a turnaround that began in 2013 with a chunky investment from a private equity firm and a significant change in leadership and strategy. This saw 75% of stores close and the scrapping of most products outside the core range.
Little of it is revolutionary – simplicity, after all, has always been a strength in a business – but it holds lessons about how an ailing brand can tap into its detractors as much as its fans to create conversation and let people express themselves through the product.
Not only does the company sell fewer types of shoes (it briefly had a golf shoe and high heels), it stripped back the styles to core models capable of bringing sustainable growth.
The business of personalisation
Look at the video game Fortnite’s financial success: people spend money on cosmetic extras. Crocs does something similar with the Charms or Jibbitz line, as the company calls them. These are small plastic icons selling for $5 that will customise the shoe.
While this is a revenue generator in and of itself, Retail Insight Network point out that in 2020, the company told investors that people who buy Jibbitz online double their lifetime value compared to the average customer.
Embrace the ridicule
A bit like Unilever’s Marmite where the product’s divisiveness is a brand asset, Crocs believes that detractors are now “critically important” according to CEO Andrew Rees. When Victoria Beckham declared last April that she’d “rather die” than wear them, the online attention was a huge moment.
Influencers and the tribe
The brand has judiciously used its cult status alongside paid partnerships and collaborations. What sparked Posh’s comment was a collab with the singer Justin Bieber. Non-affiliated celebrities like Nicki Minaj have also posted about their love for the shoe, bolstering the brand’s tribe credentials.
Other partnerships have included shoes with Balenciaga ($850), and KFC ($60). There is evidence that these involvements have had an impact in all-important international markets, which will be a core avenue for the brand’s growth in the near future.
Though a shift of ad dollars from TV and print toward social is reported to have made a big difference, it’s possible to argue that an early move to online sales alongside a communications strategy that put talkability and engagement at the core played an important part. Fame, however, had already been established and together with a wide network of distributors, Crocs was well placed to catch a shift toward comfort.
Sourced from Crocs, Washington Post, Retail Insight Network, WARC