Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


In May 1997 Airwair Ltd. assigned the creative portion of its Dr. Martens advertising account to the Dallasbased agency Pyro. Dr. Martens was a brand of work boots and shoes known for their industrial outer appearance. The boots already had an antiestablishment and youth-culture image; Pyro was asked to create a branding campaign that would continue to define that image. Pyro responded with a series of four print ads—none of which contained a product shot—that appeared in consumer magazines and as in-store posters. The expression of the Dr. Martens brand through unconventional images and messages maintained consistency with the company’s reputation for nontraditional marketing strategies. Television advertising developed by the British agency Harrison Carloss followed up on the print campaign, which continued into 1998. This U.S. campaign also extended into an international campaign. Concurrent with this campaign, Dr. Martens extended its brand name by producing and distributing alternative music compilations that complemented its brash image. Then, in 1998, it launched the Dr. Martens record label to continue this marketing strategy by promoting shoe sales through CD giveaways. The move tied into the brand’s historical connection to alternative musical trends, from the days of the British invasion in the 1960s to the eruption of punk in the 1970s to the breaking of new wave in the 1980s to the grunge movement of the 1990s. Dr. Martens sought to use its brand recognition as a means of leveraging publicity for upand-coming bands while at the same time benefiting itself by adding a further compulsion to the consumer’s purchase decision. Dr. Martens also tied into the World Cup soccer tournament in 1998 with a series of boots featuring national flags countries competing in the event.

Dr. Klaus Maertens, a German M.D., teamed up with Dr. Herbert Funk, an engineer, to design shoes to relieve the sore feet of Munich women in the wake of World War II. The shoes also provided relief to Maertens himself after he suffered a skiing accident. The secret to the design was the process of heat-sealing the sole so as to create a pocket of air that cushioned footfalls. In 1959 Maertens transferred production to Britain, licensing the brand to the Benjamin Griggs and Septimus Jones Company (later known as R. Griggs Group), manufacturers of industrial footwear since 1901. The anglicization of the name to Dr. Martens occurred in this transition, simplifying the spelling for the purpose of exporting the shoes to new markets. The Griggs company produced its first Dr. Martens boot on the first of April, 1960, naming the model 1460 after this date. Guitarist Pete Townshend initiated Dr. Martens’ connection to rock and roll. He wore 1460s on stage because the boots proved solid enough for stomping on smashed guitars when his band, the Who, took to destroying its equipment during distortion-filled encores. The gesture of youthful rebellion became embodied in the shoes, which were too bulky to be fashionable but turned into a fashion statement anyway. Subsequent generations of rebels wore them as an expression of their angst. This earned DMs, as the boots were dubbed, an underground following in the skinhead, punk, and newwave movements. The Dr. Martens World Wide Web site asserted that ‘‘classic punk bands such as The Clash, the Stranglers, the Damned and Buzzcocks [wore] the boots almost religiously.’’
In 1995 Dr. Martens tied into this connection with the alternative music scene by releasing a compilation CD entitled Unlaced (playing off the popularity of MTV’s live acoustic series Unplugged) featuring the music of Blur, New Order, and Suede. Music & Media Partnership, a company specializing in connecting branded businesses with record companies, orchestrated this strategy. The CD was a success, reaching the top 20 on the charts with sales of more than 100,000. Dr. Martens followed up with more compilations, shifting from overthe-counter sales to purchase-incentive gifts. One such compilation, released through Warner Brothers, moved 450,000 CDs (and shoes) in a month. ‘‘There’s no way we would have shifted nearly half a million pairs of shoes in the space of a few weeks but for the promotion of that shoe,’’ said Dr. Martens music strategist Karl Nielsen in York Membry’s Music Week article. Subsequent compilations did not move quite so well. Shoe Pie, by the label 4AD and featuring Lush, Throwing Muses, and the Breeders, sold only 200,000 copies in the United States and 80,000 in the United Kingdom. Nielsen stressed that moving product was not necessarily the primary objective of the promotions—Dr. Martens was ‘‘not just in it to buy market share quickly. The Dr. Martens philosophy is to be supportive of youth culture, especially through music, but not overtly commercial,’’ said Nielsen in Membry’s article. Dr. Martens supported the music of youth culture in multiple ways. It sponsored stages at the Phoenix and Reading festivals in 1996. In 1998 it sponsored the Glastonbury Festival and sponsored a stage during the Lollapalooza U.S. tour. Dr. Martens also supported individual bands, sponsoring Soul Coughing on its 1998 U.K. tour and sponsoring a live recording of Logical Progression III during Christmas 1997.

‘‘Music is a great way for a brand such as Dr. Martens to reach its target market,’’ said Rick Blaskey of Music & Media Partnership, who helped seal the deal with Dr. Martens. That target market consisted primarily of youths aged 13 through 25. This connection to youth culture both honored the roots of the brand’s success while also generating future success by hooking in devotees early on. Arkady Ostrovsky profiled Dr. Martens’s ‘‘dream customer’’ in his 1998 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, introducing her simply as Ann, a 26-year-old native of San Francisco working in New Zealand. ‘‘I have been wearing DMs since I was 13. First at school, then at university. My boyfriend was a punk and he had red hair and 20-eyelet boots.’’ Her current boyfriend, by contrast, was a derivatives trader, and she bought him a jumper from DM’s limited clothing line. Dr. Martens thus became the item that nonconformists could carry with them to symbolize their latent rebellious spirit as their lives conformed more to the norm.
Ostrovsky commenced his article by quoting a joking Stephen Griggs, chairman of the R. Griggs Group, his family’s company, which had been manufacturing Dr. Martens since 1960. ‘‘We had Madonna and the Pope wearing DMs, but my mom does not get on too well with them. She thinks they are too clumpy.’’ Though Dr. Martens did not have plans of targeting older mothers of corporate executives, the brand did aspire to expand its target market. However, demographic growth would prove more challenging than geographic growth, so Griggs thought more in terms of expanding distribution, not expanding marketing. ‘‘I am very uncomfortable about the U.S. being 60 percent of our sales. Obviously, I do not want our American sales to drop, but I want to increase the share of other markets to counter the U.S.,’’ Griggs stated in Ostrovsky’s article. Specifically Griggs envisioned China and Latin America as the brand’s biggest potential growth markets.

Dr. Martens advertising did not position the product as a work boot, but rather as a fashion statement identifying the wearer with youth culture. The brand therefore competed against other brands that identified themselves with youth culture, especially those growing out of the rebellious skateboard movement, such as Vans, Air Walk, and Caterpillar. Dr. Martens held an advantage, though, as most of these brands produced sneakers, whereas no other boot held sway over youth fashion as did Dr. Martens. In this sense Dr. Martens had successfully carved its own niche in the youth market without any threatening competition. Dr. Martens’s main challenge, then, became growing its own market without commercializing its image, which would appear to its antiestablishment target market as selling out. ‘‘We have to convince people that DM shoes are still the same; it is just now we are making more of them,’’ said Griggs in Ostrovsky’s article.

Pyro’s product-free campaign, which marked the return of Dr. Martens advertising after a year-long hiatus, commenced with a series of four print ads that ran in consumer magazines such as Rolling Stone and Details, as well as those with a more alternative edge, such as Bikini, Raygun, and Spin. Thematically, the ads advanced the notion of individualism, inherently suggesting that wearing Dr. Martens expressed individualism. One headline read, ‘‘The mainstream is polluted,’’ while another ran:
‘‘You start out and end up just like everyone else. What happens in between is up to you.’’ The ink from one headline—which read: ‘‘The world is full of generic, mass-produced, homogenized products. Don’t become one’’ —bled into the shape of a bar code, punctuating the message of the text. In Steve Krajewski’s 1997 Adweek article Pyro creative director Todd Tilford explained the rationale behind the product-free message ads. ‘‘What the client liked about our work is that we try to blur the line between advertising and ‘brand art.’ ’’ Following up on its success with CD compilations, Dr. Martens created its own eponymous record label, launching the project by releasing a compilation entitled Generation To Generation, which tied together different periods of the music listened to by Dr. Martens wearers. Alternative bands of the ‘90s such as Box Office Poison and Lynus covered ‘60s anthems ‘‘Louie Louie’’ and ‘‘My Generation,’’ respectively, as a means of tying together the first wave of DM music to the current crop of DM music. The collection also included tracks from ‘80s bands such as the Lambrettas and the Untouchables. The long-term goal for the label was to ‘‘push young British talent to an audience who wouldn’t otherwise hear them’’ by running promotional giveaways throughout all the areas covered by Dr. Martens distribution, according to Dr. Martens marketing strategist Simon Mills.
The painted-boots tie-in with World Cup soccer in 1998 was an idea that originated with the Norwegian distributor of the brand to celebrate his home team’s qualification for the tournament. The distributor ordered 40,000 pairs of boots with the Norwegian flag in hopes of catching the wave of his country’s nationalistic fervor. Similarly Dr. Martens sought to capture the patriotism of soccer fans with the Stars and Stripes, the Union Jack, and St. Andrews flags.
Dr. Martens also ventured into broadcast ads in 1998 with the campaign created by Harrison Carloss of Newcastle-under-Lyme. It ran concurrently with the Pyro campaign. In the United Kingdom the ads ran exclusively in cinemas, while France and the United States added television to the media mix. Print ads also ran in fringe magazine titles such as Loaded, FHM, Maxim, ID, The Face, Arena, Dazed & Confused, Frank, Sugar, and Bliss.

Between 1980 and 1998 Dr. Martens sales increased tenfold, reaching $395.2 million in 1998, as the brand sold 12 million pairs of boots and shoes globally. In 1997, when Pyro began creating advertising for DM, the brand racked up pre-tax profits of $54.56 million, a significant increase over the figure of $35.2 million in pre-tax profits for 1996. At the conclusion of 1998 Airwair began making preparations for the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martens by shopping for an ad agency that could handle a global account. In April 1999 Airwair awarded the $10 million account to the British agency TBWA GGT Simons Palmer, London, thus consolidating the brand’s advertising at one agency to create a cohesive global campaign, targeting the core markets of Britain, France, Italy, Germany, the Benelux countries, and the United States. TBWA creative director Trevor Beattie reacted to the announcement with enthusiasm, calling Dr. Martens ‘‘a great name, a cult brand and a fabulous creative challenge. People are fighting to work on the account.’’

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