It’s often been said that if brands want to better understand their customers, they need to walk a mile in their shoes.
But two recent campaigns have done the exact opposite: brands are inviting people to walk in their shoes. Literally.
With the trend towards using product innovation in the battle for consumers’ souls, two non-footwear brands have turned to shoes as their campaign’s main advertising vehicle.
KLM’s Amsterdam Sneaker
To promote Amsterdam as a city-break destination, KLM created a very orange, limited edition ‘Amsterdam Sneaker‘. Aimed at the Nordic market, it’s perfectly in tune the AirBnB generation (most people, really) who want to experience places they visit like a local. ‘Optimised’ for Amsterdam’s cobbled streets, the shoe also includes a guide to the real Amsterdam and free access to the city’s top sights. So far limited to 150 pairs, they’ll be auctioned off and each pair will include a flight to Amsterdam, with all proceeds going to UNICEF. (Admittedly, Easyjet did something similar in 2016 with a very clever wayfinding shoe for tourists.)
Pizza Hut’s ‘Pie-Top’
Stealing a march on Dominos pizza in the tech stakes, Pizza Hut has created a shoe-based pizza delivery system. To coincide with the college basketball season, their ‘Pie-Top‘ sneaker has a special button in the tongue that, when pressed, can instantly order a pizza to wherever you are using geo-location. Each pair is handmade by the Shoe Surgeon in a limited edition of 68 – the number of teams competing in the NCAA, popularly known as ‘March Madness’. The stunt does two things brilliantly: it builds on a shared sporting moment among their younger target audience, but it also taps into the huge sneaker sub-culture populated by self-confessed, obsessive ‘Sneakerheads’ and even into the nostalgia around Reebok Pumps.
Both campaigns crystallise a lot of what we know about how media and advertising are evolving.
We’re seeing a shift towards technological and product innovation being used as a medium of brand communication – a way to go beyond simply dramatising a brand’s message by making it a reality through demonstration.
As we’ve seen with elsewhere with Dominos, Coke and Amazon, innovation is becoming a much more important means to cut through the clutter by creating something different, interesting or useful. And here we’re seeing tech and product innovation as a way to reach particular consumer groups – with KLM, 20-/30-something city-breakers, with Pizza Hut, college guys and Sneakerheads.
They also show how important it’s becoming to think of culture as a channel. Both brands built their campaigns around a shared cultural moment: city break season in northern Europe, and college basketball in the US. But both were also rooted in cultural insight. For KLM, it’s about tapping into people’s desire for authentic travel experiences and facilitating that in an interesting way. For Pizza Hut, it’s about tapping into sneaker culture and its self-admitted obsessives who drop hundreds of dollars on the latest limited edition pair of Nikes.
Scarcity plays its part, too. Our brains are wired to covet rare, shiny things and research shows that we tend to attach more value to things that are hard to get – like limited edition sneakers. Scarcity helps drive buzz and transfer that perception of value to the brand.
Above all, these campaigns are creative. We know that creative campaigns are significantly more effective at growing brands than rational ones because they are much better at driving engagement, memorability and profits.
Brands don’t have to go to the lengths these ones have in doing that. Solutions can be much simpler, but these examples show how developing a mindset around innovation and culture as a way to connect with consumers is becoming an increasingly important component of a brand strategist’s toolkit.