This post was originally published on beauniqorn.com.
Shoes are, in a very literal sense, the foundation of your outfit. Just as fashion in general, the shoe market has also been dominated in the past by big, old heritage brands.
But disruption is the name of the game.
Millennials don't feel the same way about big established players as the generation of consumers before them did. They want a new, distinctive and authentic experience. Today, we will take a look at two shoe brands who monetised the opportunities arising from this new class of consumers. Our two examples are:
Thursday Boots & Paul Evans
Where exactly are these brands positioned?
Thursday Boots offers every day leather boots at the intersection between faceless high street boots that have to be replaced every other year and high end boots for enthusiasts who deeply care about real craftsmanship and boots that last for a decade or longer. Their name is their mission: to be the Thursday of boots manufacturers. On a Thursday, it's time to work hard before the ever-so-slow Friday comes around, but you might still end up having a night on the town afterwards (at least before COVID turned every night's plan into netflix and chill). So you need a versatile pair of shoes, a pair that blends in at work and stands out in your social time. And that is where their polished but still slightly rugged boots come in.
I want to provide absolute quality, a product that you can wear for years if you take good care of it. It’s something that’s comfortable. No one really talks about comfort. We focus on it intently. It’s one of the reasons why I think people like us so much. And then just something that isn’t going to break the bank. And part of that goes into long term trendsConnor Wilson, Thursday Boots
Paul Evans on the other hand doesn't shoot for versatility - they are here to help you look the sharpest. Offering mostly formal, Italian-inspired dress shoes, they aim to provide you with shoes that rival high-end luxury brands for a more affordable (..yet substantial) price. Positioned at the entrance of luxury shoe wear, their shoes are considerably more expensive than your average run-of-the-mil dress shoe from a department store. However, compared to some heritage brands who may ask for the equivalent of a small used car, they still manage to slide into the "quite expensive but affordable" category.
We've turned the luxury footwear industry upside down. By sourcing the highest-quality footwear available and eliminating excessive retail markups, Paul Evans is the leading direct-to-consumer luxury men's footwear brand manufacturing exclusively in Naples, Italy.Paul Evans
Who is their customer? Who is their classic competitor?
While the companies seem to vary in terms of product and price, their target customer actually share very important similarities. Their customer is a young person who places value on individualism, fashion and quality. It is a person who is willing to invest into their appearance, both in terms of time and money.
Here is why: You won't find Thursday Boots or Paul Evans while randomly walking through a mall. They require you to be moderately active in the "men fashion corner" of the internet, or more precisely, social media. At the same time, neither of them embodies the pinnacle of their respective product category. Artisanal or luxury brands above them exist and those are the companies who will most likely attract the people who are borderline crazy about what they put on their feet or are just in awe of the craft. Who does that leave us with? Millennials, in the earlier phases of their career, who are accustomed to getting fashion inspiration from Instagram or Pinterest and who are used to picking niche companies over a perceived faceless major brand. They might hold different jobs, but their purchase decisions are based on aligned factors.
Classic competitors would be Red Wing, Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot or Timberland for Thursday Boots and Allen Edmons, Carmina, Crocket and Jones or Ferragamo for Paul Evans.
Why would you buy there compared to their classic competitors?
Here again, we find striking similarities. Both companies share a similar USP that sets them apart from their competitors. To see this more clearly, it is helpful to divide the market into three categories of product classes: fast fashion, mid-tier brands and luxury goods.
Let's quickly remember what we discovered in the first blog post of the series: the new players are typically situated within the mid-tier market. True? True.
Thursday Boots and Paul Evans both sit comfortably at their respective mid-tiers upper end, offering each a good compromise between superior quality and price. This, however, only answers part of our question. You still have to beat out the classic competition, whose brands have far more history, "standing" and conventional marketing power than an up-and-coming brand. How do you beat that?
Well...you don't! You use it as a feature: Both companies stories start similar: "we were unhappy with the status quo, so we went out and changed it!". Their newness is their strength. Them being not "established" gets them the attention they seek. In an economy where disruption has become the new normal, they immediately strike a chord. On top of that, they set themselves apart from the rest by being relatable. They tell their story to whoever is willing to listen. And within their smaller companies, they have a much easier time giving you a peak behind the curtain. They can show you their values and the people behind the product in a way, a monolith like Adidas could never achieve.
Remember what Millenials are looking for: a new, different and authentic experience. In markets with little technological developments, new and authentic is already different enough. And that's exactly what Thursday Boots and Paul Evans offer.
What are their Branding Strategies?
As every brand is aware, you align your strategy with your desired customer and in this case, that is the millennial.. Hello Social Media!
Connecting to the customers on an emotional and relatable level is one of the best investments a brand can make. Investing in an emotion or experience rather than an abstract concept increases their brand recognition substantially. Owing to their relatively intimate size, building and maintaining customer relationships is relatively easier and they are absolutely making the most of it.
At the end of the day, I think for brands like these, it all comes down to building trust, being more relatable and more authentic than the rest.