Crocs: Can Celebrities Save a Brand?

Were Crocs ever cool? No, I’m not being snarky (not really) … I never wore them, because they seemed to be geared toward a younger demographic, and when they debuted I was 22 and very much not interested in colorful, plastic shoes.

Crocs kitten memeWere Crocs ever cool? No, I’m not being snarky (not really) … I never wore them, because they seemed to be geared toward a younger demographic, and when they debuted I was 22 and very much not interested in colorful, plastic shoes.

Mario Batali loves them. Movie stars such as Jack Nicholson and Jennifer Garner have been photographed wearing them. So apparently they’re not just for children.

But there are definitely haters of the plastic clogs. There are blogs. There are Facebook groups. Now, both of those examples are a little older, because, well, Crocs kinda fell off the radar around 2008/2009.

According to CNN:

Crocs, the distinctive colorful clogs loved and hated in equal measure, first hit stores in 2004 and were an immediate hit. By 2007, the Colorado-based company was selling 50 million pairs a year, reaching $850 million in sales. Then it all went south. The economic collapse in 2008, combined with a saturated market, created what Crocs CEO John McCarvel described as a “perfect confluence of events.”

Since then, the shoe maker has ventured into the world of ballet flats, wedges and a faux boat shoe-looking piece of footwear (doesn’t fool me). And then there’s the reboot campaign:

As part of the latest campaign, “Come As You Are,” Crocs has worked on a “manifesto,” and with the help of celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, Yoona, John Cena and Henry Lau. But … I don’t know. Is it really going to help the weird plastic shoes?

I can applaud the positive message, but aside from TOMS, does that truly sell shoes? And yeah, TOMS are a little weird looking, but nothing like this:

Um … no. You won’t catch me in rock-bejeweled Crocs anytime soon. That said, what do you think? Is this the right move for Crocs to stay in the game, or would they better be left in the fashion history of the early 2000s?


Author: Melissa Ward

Melissa Ward is the managing editor for Target Marketing, and she has opinions! More importantly, she's a nerd for great copy and design, a disciple of authenticity, and really loves it when marketers get it right.

14 thoughts on “Crocs: Can Celebrities Save a Brand?”

  1. Crocs are a wonderful example about what happens to a niche product when it expands beyond its niche. Crocs were great beach shoes. They pretty much kept sand out. You didn’t have to take them off when you went into the water. Like a real crocodile, they were amphibious.

    Then somebody tried to turn them into fashion apparel. Big mistake. Shoes ain’t Volkswagons. “It’s ugly but it gets you there,” worked well in the 1960s for marketing some mass appeal into a little car that looked like a beetle. But people don’t want beetles on their feet.

    The moral for marketers: stick do your knitting.

  2. It must be admitted: not everyone thinks I’m cool. And perhaps it is because I’m a major Crocs fan, the soft ones not the plastic ones. They are what a shoe should be, tres comfortable. And they are indestructible.

    Cute? Fashionable? Who cares? Ultimately, it’s the product not the promotion that generates loyalty and repurchase.

    1. Do you think using celebrities was the way to go with the refresh, or do you think the marketing could have been even more effective to have brand loyalists talk about how much they love their Crocs? (I’m leaning toward option #2!)

      1. I think you are leaning the right way. One wonders how much ‘celebrities’ are being paid for their endorsement? Unpaid non-celebs like yours truly just want to share their comfortable soles and footishes with the world.

  3. I mocked Crocs, I mocked my friends who wore Crocs. Then I borrowed a pair to retrieve my beer in a beautiful creek somewhere in the hills of Virginia. Unlike my so-called “water shoes” the Crocs didn’t pinch or chafe my feet. And they FLOAT if and when they do fall off (hardly ever). I agree with people who say Crocs are missing the boat with this ad. They’re not a fashion statement, just very utilitarian silicone shoes that last a long time. (And they look adorable on small children.)

    1. I can imagine they would be a great substitute for water shoes!

      I wonder what would happen if Crocs took the approach of focusing on the utilitarian nature instead of the cute and fun?

      1. A buddy of mine who’s not a marketer, actually he’s a for-real scientist, created a tag line that conveys just how comfy casual the shoe is:
        “Crocs. The shoe for people who’ve given up.”

  4. if you ever have to spend any amount of time in a hospital setting you will notice that outside of the administrators every person is wearing Crocs. The ease of back pain while standing and the comfort are the main reasons. If a surgeon who must stand for a 4 hour surgery wears them I am all for it.

    1. Wally, that makes perfect sense! And I realize a lot of folks in the restaurant industry love them … so why not focus the marketing on the dependability and durability of the shoes? It’s not bright, shiny and fun, but not all marketing needs to be.

      1. Melissa, I agree 100%. When they became popular they really did not control their brand. They got distracted by the shiny object that is the fashion industry. They gained some traction and then followed it. They made the mistake of entering and actually trying to compete in that oh so fickle world. You can actually see the exact opposite in the stiletto heel. (as a male huge fan but the pain in looking sexy is hard for females and I am sorry) If they did disregard that industry and focused on healthcare and restaurants basically emphasizing those benefits I am sure they could own that space. I don’t know their goals though. They have some very positive qualities and they fail to stress them. Fashionable and sexy just are not one of the qualities. If they can admit that their business could flourish. But many times ego and greed get in the way.

  5. I understand this is an opinion column, but the theme seems to be, unless Melissa Ward thinks a product is “cool,” it’s therefore unacceptable.

    1. Hi Gary, thanks for commenting! And yes, this is “Sass Marketing” … so I tend to go the sassy route. I’ve also found that when I write posts (or film videos for “What Were They Thinking?”) that celebrate something really interesting, the conversation ends there. Because I’m sure most people are thinking, “Yep, that is great.”

      But sharing a critical opinion gets folks talking, and to be honest, this comment thread for today’s post has been great! I’ve heard from a number of people who love their Crocs and their utility, and it makes me wonder what kind of campaign THAT could have created!

      The only thing that’s unacceptable is lazy marketing (and I don’t consider this campaign lazy … I just don’t know how effective it will be).

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