Wendy Yang of Deckers Brands

In order to stay a step ahead in the active and athletic footwear game, connecting with micro-influencers, creating peer-to-peer experiences and other forms of experiential marketing are key, according to Wendy Yang, president of the performance lifestyle group at Deckers Brands.

Yang spoke about “Creating a Footprint for the Next Generation Consumer.”

When it comes to tapping influencers and ambassadors, “finding people already using our product is important,” said Yang. “It can be a sponsored athlete, a celebrity, an artist or a regular person, like a store clerk.”

Yang oversees the Teva, Sanuk and Hoka brands in the Deckers portfolio. Sport sandal brand Teva’s target audience is described as the “modern outdoor enthusiast.”

Its band of influencers is known as the Teva Explorer Collective, and they drive content by capturing themselves wearing product and participating in local experiences. “Potential customers are identifying with them,” said Yang, citing social media posts of sandaled feet propped up on mountain ranges and riverbanks.

“Even our product advertising is more focused on activities,” she said, showing a similar-looking ad for comparison. She said these posts yield 4000 to 6000 percent ROI because they’re both real and relatable.

Yang cited the Bonnaroo Music Festival as a key place for Teva activation in the form of a vintage bus takeover.

“We create small experiences in an authentic way where users and future users can hang out. If you do it in an authentic way, they will find you and talk about you,” she said.

Social media posts from the event enable people to feel like they were there, with product seamlessly integrated.

At surf lifestyle brand Sanuk, the motto is “the journey to your happy place.” Its 20 ambassadors are professional surfers and yoga instructors like surfers Malia Manuel and Torrey Meister, who recently did Instagram takeovers with Self and Men’s Health magazines, respectively.

Running shoe brand Hoka, which just passed the $100 million mark in sales last spring, is trying to steal market share from Nike and Asics. Founded and supported by elite runners, the brand is playing by new rules when it comes to marketing.

“You used to spend big bucks to buy the best athlete you could and spend more for twice-yearly photo shoots and invest heavily in media,” said Yang. It’s a strategy that can backfire if an athlete like Tiger Woods has a meltdown.

Hoka focuses on up-and-comers with high potential and active social media profiles who can also help them develop future products.

“What kind of brand do they portray, how many followers do they have and are they invested beyond their sport?” are some of the criteria, according to Yang.

Through its #HumansofHoka campaign, the brand also highlights regular people who share inspiring stories of how running saved their lives.

“A week doesn’t go by where I don’t get some consumer who has tracked me down on LinkedIn to tell me a great story,” said Yang. “Digital and social platforms give us a great way to share this.”

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