Can a brand become too popular? If it becomes as culturally ubiquitous as Crocs clogs, yes it can.
As quickly as the bright rubber shoe rose to popularity, so too did it inspire a backlash — and a vehement one at that. Haters took their disdain for the fashion “don’t” to the Internet, lambasting it on sites like I Hate Crocs.
Winding up on the fashionista outs just in time for the steepest economic decline since the Great Depression took a toll on the footwear company, with losses of $185 million forcing a 32% workforce reduction. Crocs’ first loss came in May 2008, two months after replacing their CEO with Chrysalis’s John Duerden. Last month the Washington Post sounded a death knell for the debt-ridden brand, citing industry experts certain that Crocs can’t rebound.[more]
Duerden, who made his reputation resuscitating Reebok, admits to the Financial Times that this is “one of the toughest turnarounds” he has experienced. He came out swinging, blogging to rebut the Post’s gloomy dismissal of the brand as a “one shoe company” on its last legs.
Recognizing it miscalculated by overexpanding, and by launching misguided brand extensions like a now-discontinued clothing line and You, an upmarket women’s shoe line, Crocs plans to refocus on core products and existing customers. While the Crocs clog initially captured the attention of a wide audience, the shoe still appeals to professionals who spend a lot of time on their feet in messy situations, namely: caterers, doctors and nurses. Other items in the Crocs catalog target consumers looking for a corrective shoe.
Duerden embraces some of the brand’s stereotypes, noting optimistically, “the bottom line is, people talk about Crocs.” Accepting that Crocs won’t be the coolest shoe on the block, Duerden counters, “we want to drive the brand at people who choose to be happy, rather than right.”
With this kind of self-acceptance and honesty, the young company may yet grow into a mature, confident brand.