Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Converse’s CMO Geoff Cottrill speak at a Boston Ad Club event. His approach to marketing is exactly where brands should be as content marketing evolves and we move into the social era. Converse does some traditional advertising, but it is not central to their brand promise or customer engagement strategy. Their approach dovetails nicely with this HBR blog post explaining how in the social age, media pipes are less important, and people are the channel. This was the foundation of Geoff’s talk – as he opened with the comment that “people are media”. Here are some highlights I took away from Converse’s marketing approach:
• “People as media” means turning your customers into brand advocates by starting conversations and bringing like-minded people together. Helping instead of selling and understanding your customer’s persona and the essence of the brand connection.
• Converse strives for authenticity and knows exactly who they are and who is the core customer. The days of being a performance sneaker are long in the past and they focus on the musicians, skateboarders and fashion conscious people who make the brand part of their lifestyle.
• In a sense, they create a platform for creativity and self-expression – both through the shoes (a blank canvas that can be customized) and their Rubber Tracks music studio where they help aspiring musicians record original music. Below is an example of music created as part of a series "Three Artists, One Song" - "Warrior" is a song by New Zealand singer Kimbra, featuring Mark Foster of the American indie pop band Foster the People and Canadian electro house DJ A-Trak.
• Converse wants to own their media, not rent it. There is little interest in slapping their name on an event they don’t own. With their worldwide social presence (including 36 million Facebook fans) and web site, they have aggregated an audience of nearly 120 million – those are Super Bowl numbers. In contrast to the Super Bowl, they own their media channel and have an existing permission based relationship with the community.
• Converse knows what business it is really in – sure they sell sneakers and apparel – but it is bigger than the products. They are a lifestyle brand that stands for originality, creativity and a rebellious sprit. The products help enable and enhance the lifestyle for their loyal community. They know it is all about the customer, not the brand.
The sellout crowd of over 300 left with much to think about and a $50 Converse gift card – new converts to Converse Nation.