Do you remember when comfortable, utility sandals were all the rage in fashion? No? Me neither. Most likely because finding apparel companies that strike the delicate balance between form and function,especially in casual, practical footwear, is difficult.
Until now, apparently. According to the New York Times, Teva, the footwear company founded in 1984 with its practical, Velcro-fitted sandals, is making a real campaign to be the next fashion trend.
Quick disclaimer, nobody has ever mistaken me as a fashion expert, but I know enough to avoid major fashion tragedies, like mixing patterns, no white after Labor Day, or fastening the bottom button of a sport coat. So any opinion henceforth is that of a middle-aged, casual GQ subscriber, for whatever that's worth.
With that said, my belief has long been that practical sandals, like Tevas, were reserved for dads, campers, and dads that went camping. Unbeknownst to me, Teva has been on a mission since 2010 to dispel this stereotype with various collaborations with fashion labels to create buzz around its Velcro strapped sandals.
For instance, a quick glance at the Teva website yielded a collaboration with designer Anna Sui for a Teva sandal that sells for -- wait for it -- $275.
Most recently, Teva partnered with activewear start-up, Outdoor Voices, to release a sandal collaboration signified by mismatched, color-blocked straps. Outdoor Voices reported that most sizes had sold out within a week after launching on its website, sparked primarily by a prominent showing during the New York Fashion Week this past September. At the show, these new Tevas were part of several spring collections, with runway models adorning Tevas, even with socks.
Turning rugged utility clothing into a fashion trend is nothing new. Levi Strauss originally manufactured utility wear from denim fabric for gold miners during the California gold rush of the 1840's. Although worn casually for years, jeans became the iconic standard for casual wear in the 1950's with their popularity among youth subcultures.
More recently, Inc.com writer, Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, discussed the rebirth of Carhartt, the Detroit-based apparel company known for its utility work clothing, including jackets, overalls, and dungarees. Since 1889, the company had quietly and effectively serviced blue-collar workers, but in 1992, its line of rugged apparel jumped onto the fashion scene after being adorned by House of Pain in their wildly popular music video, "Jump Around."
So what's the point of all of this? What can entrepreneurs learn from these lackluster apparel brands turned fashion phenoms?
Building a popular brand, or giving new energy to an existing brand, very much depends on social acceptance. This has long been the case, as brands act much like people, and just like many people, they depend on the acceptance and validation of others.
This has never been more important than today, as the impact of social media continues to grow and influence our lives. In the past, marketing strategies were the primary driver of consumer behavior, but these days, we are more influenced by the feedback of and validation by others.
For instance, when was the last time you sought to buy or download something, only to change your mind because of the poor ratings and comments of others? On the other hand, have you ever purchased or downloaded something impulsively because you saw so many other people doing it?
If not, congratulations on having a much stronger constitution than us other mortals. Most of us, however, seek the feedback of others to validate our buying decisions. So, while you don't need to partner with Gucci or Louis Vuitton to boost your brand, you can learn from those who have. Here are a few take aways:
1. Be willing to evolve.
Discovering the new and creative ideas that will spark life into your company requires a willingness and culture that is open to them. Maybe the "old way" worked in the past, but if you are reading this hoping to find inspiration, my bet is that the old way no longer works as well as it once did, and something new is needed.
2. Be open to collaboration.
The benefits of collaboration are many, including expanding your network of expertise and consumers. You don't need to partner with a large and established brand, but rather seek out other companies that fill a need, missing expertise or untapped market for your brand.
3. Encourage sharing.
Younger generations love to share their experiences, but older generations are less willing -- unless to complain about a bad experience. To build credibility and social acceptance, you need to take an active role in encouraging and reminding customers to share their experiences. Sometimes, it just requires you to ask.
4. Make it easy to share.
In order to make sharing effective and plentiful, it needs to be frictionless. This requires a very active role in developing your online presence, including regularly managing your business listings and curating social media profiles.
5. Stay true to your values.
While collaboration and sharing is important, so too is authenticity. Staying true to your brand and your values, including identifying the right collaboration partners, is key for creating loyalty with consumers from every generation.
What do you think? Have you used collaborations to spark new life into your brand? Please share your experience with me on Facebook.