Re: Converse marketing

Posted by Rob Walker on July 3, 2008
Posted Under: Advertising,Reviews

Eyecube wonders what I will make of this Converse ad site, and, turns out, I’m taking requests.

Well, up to a point. I only watched a little bit of the material in what seems to be a pretty extensive pile of Converse mini-movies. In a way, the content echoes the brand’s earlier strategy of getting fans to make ads on the brand’s behalf — but these seem pretty obviously to be pro jobs. The one I watched some of, Out Of Your League Girl, seemed, to be honest, pretty lame. I got bored really fast. But maybe the target demo will be into this.

Who is the target demo? I’m not really sure. Teenagers or Gen-Yers, maybe? I have no idea what kind of relevance Converse has in that world these days. I will say that every single marketer I talk to now has some kind of rationale for why the 18-24 demo is super-relevant to their brand.

Whatever. In any case, my overall impression of the site is that Converse seems to be trying a little too hard. I more or less agree with Eyecube’s take, but would differ with it in two ways. First, I wouldn’t call this the Nike-ization of Converse — if that were true, the ads would be kick-ass and hard to ignore. This stuff is really, really easy to ignore.

Second, I actually think the One Star spinoff selling in Target (noted by Eyecube) is probably not a bad idea. I’ve noticed it as I walk through my local Target, and I can kind of imagine that if I were still a Converse guy, I might pick up a pair of these. They’re funny, because they’re kind of like Converse knockoffs — they look like Chucks, but, upon closer inspection, they clearly aren’t. And if you’re going to go with this kind of strategy, Target is a good venue: Thanks to its (inexplicable) rep as a haven for “good design for the masses” or whatever it is, there’s not nearly the same risk of brand damage as putting the exact same products in, say, K Mart.

That said, my broad impression of Converse over the past year or so is that they’re trying really, really hard. Surely you’ve read about things like the Kurt Cobain sneaker, for instance. And I honestly don’t get it. My totally unreported and uninformed outsider guess is that there’s some kind of identity crisis going on as to what they’re trying to do and for whom, and they’re just running through a period of throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the question.

Then again, I thought those Varvatos no-laces low-tops were ridiculous — and they seemed to sell like crazy. Possibly the die-hard Chucks fan just tunes out all this static and keeps getting a fresh pair of the classics? So the emphasis is on figuring out how to bring in a) kids who see Converse as a fuddy-duddy brand, and b) the more casual sneaker-consumer who might pass through Target but wouldn’t bother to visit Foot Locker.

Could work. My whisper-y sources say involvement from the Nike mothership is growing, not fading, and personally, I never bet against Nike.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Rob,

To clarify, by Nike-ization I meant that this new campaign is, especially for Converse, edgy, different and aimed at a trend-setting youth market, rather than being ‘a Nike ad.’

But in general I think we are in agreement that this an interesting time for the Converse brand. They could come out revitalized, as Puma did earlier in the decade, or they could slide into obscurity like Fila.

#1 
Written By Rick Liebling on July 3rd, 2008 @ 7:47 pm

Hey Rick — Sorry if I mischaracterized — I was just being funny, or trying to. Nothing against you there at all.

#2 
Written By Rob Walker on July 3rd, 2008 @ 8:05 pm

No, no offense taken. While blogging has many benefits, it can sometimes result in ideas that aren’t always clearly defined. I think my characterization of Converse being Nike-ized falls into that category.

#3 
Written By Rick Liebling on July 3rd, 2008 @ 10:32 pm

I skipped right past all the Out of Your League Girl movies. Of the rest, some are just head-scratchers (Chucks in soda?) while others are clearly sports-oriented, but maybe the most telling one is the You Should Do It Now video. Here’s the text (the image is two long lines with a small line between them; the text appears above the lines):

This is your past. This is your future. This dash is right now. Remember your past. Some of it was good. Some of it was bad. Learn from it. Now forget about it. This is your future. It is yet to be written. But it’s looking beautiful. Because of the dash. Embrace the dash and it will set you free. Whether it’s playing every stage in California [tour dates surround the dash], doing standup despite your fear [hours at a comedy club], or finally sharing your short story with the world [page numbers surround the dash]. The dash can be whatever you make it. Make it count.

The video would appear to be aimed at the non-sports core of Converse lovers, who have tended to view themselves as “outsiders” of one sort or another (musicians, comics, writers). However, to me it also seems weirdly appropriate for the people running Converse itself: between the loaded “do it” phrase in the website name (hello, Nike!) and the whole bit about learning from (and forgetting) the past, not to mention the fact that “dash” kind of sounds like “swoosh,” is the company revealing its own insecurities?

#4 
Written By Braulio on July 7th, 2008 @ 2:57 pm

I don’t know what the specific demo target is, but my 10 year-old daughter absolutely loves Converse and thinks Chucks are the height of cool.

#5 
Written By Ingrid on July 8th, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

My daughter has an idea for a pattern for converse shoes. It is very unique and I think it would be a great seller. Who should I contact about this?
Thank you,
Carrie

#6 
Written By Carrie Thomas on September 10th, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

I have no idea. But maybe the Converse web site is a better starting point than this one, yes?

#7 
Written By Rob Walker on September 10th, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

Converse is still cool. It just stays that way.

#8 
Written By Marcus Furnival on January 15th, 2010 @ 11:29 pm

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