The whole Keen Footwear line started withn one simple design question: Can a sandal protect toes? From there, they have exploded on to the scene, with a brand that is hip, enlightened, inclusive and inspiring. Bobbie began by taking us through the values that make KEEN ‘An Enduring Brand’.
Their first key brand value: Hybrid Innovation.
Their original product, the Newport, was not a model of sustainability. But they soon began to expand their line to include an all-vegan canvas sneaker, a 100% recycled sandal and their line of Harvest Bags made from repurposed excess shoe materials and even rice bags from their factory cafeteria.
The Second KEEN Brand Value: Redefining the outdoors as ‘Any place without a ceiling’.
This enabled them to make the outdoor crowd an INCLUSIVE community, inviting everyone. Not just the one lonely explorer at the top of the mountain. On the athletic side, they take their inspiration from trainers, friends, and peers as much as athletes.
Third: The power of a brand to inspire others.
After the Tsunami disaster, Keen took all their annual advertising dollars, ($1M) ran one ad and said ‘This is the last ad you will see for a year.’ They then gave 500K to the victims, and used the other 500K to start their giving initiative – the Hybrid Care Program.
These qualities are all neatly summed up in their brand position:
Create play care. It’s a way of life. Live the Hybrid Life.
The organization then went kayaking in the San Juans in a quest to figure out how to increase awareness with younger consumers. The result:
STAND Up, Out & for Sustainability
To bring this program to life, Parisi went beyond the print ad paradigm, creating an on-line community to inspire and reward consumers for thinking green. The team created a 25-minute documentary, STAND, that featured inspirational characters and their personal initiatives to make the world a greener place. They offered $25,000 grant for sustainable ideas. And they did run a print campaign, although in a different selection of publications than the standard outdoor magazines. This selection included lifestyle title such as Dwell, Ready Made, Good, and Yoga.
Last, but not least, they started a campus tour, run by students getting paid nothing more than the chance to be interns the next year. But they did give them power, relinquishing control of the marketing, messaging and creative ideas for events to the students themselves.
The results have been nothing short of outstanding. I encourage you to explore the KEEN web site for more.
I’ll be testing their shoes for Unicycling performance in an upcoming post.
One in a series of articles on Lorne’s Sustainable Journey to the Sustainable Brands 08 Conference in Monterey CA. Click here for the full list of sessions, or here for the ‘Fear & Loathing’ road trip journals.
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