(UPDATE 7/27: Turns out that industry bible, Communications Arts, is also talking about D/C’s new Birkenstock campaign today. Just sayin’.)
Nothing to do with illegal immigration or majestic cacti. This Arizona happens to be Birkenstock‘s famous two-strap sandal, and, last month, due to bold new print work from those fab fetishists at D/C, it completely (if temporarily) sold out. For perhaps the first time in its 236-year history, the venerable German footwear maker had to scramble to replenish inventory on its signature product. First indications that the campaign would be a winner came last Spring when it also helped to drive one of the biggest ever sell-ins for the brand’s women’s fashion shoes.
For women, this new campaign celebrates the fashion side of Birkenstock. For men, it’s about the outdoor lifestyle. But all the new ads use striking photo/illustration collages to encapsulate each sandal’s unique personality (sure, shoes have personalities — ask Burke Andrews) and then to tell a deeper Birkenstock story — about respect for nature and the healthy life. The illustrator was Amy Guip. The women’s ads are running in Marie Claire, ReadyMade, Budget Travel and other fashion and active-living magazines. The men’s ads can be found in, among other pubs, Men’s Journal.
See all six below and visit Flickr for full-size images.
Wikipedia says “a term used in American English for a casual athletic shoe”; while Dictionary.com (from my iPhone) defines it as “a high or low shoe, usually of fabric such as canvas, with a rubber or synthetic sole.” Um, I’m feeling like I can drive a bus through those definitions. Maybe I’m better off asking what isn’t a sneaker. Anyway, whatever the true definition is, I’m going to talk about sneakers, ’cause my latest pair of shoes is what I call sneakers.
They aren’t the trendy, classic sneakers. I’m not really a fan of classic sneaks. I’ve never been able to sport the Top Sider, Chuck Taylor, or Jack Purcell with any conviction. And I never thought they were even remotely comfortable. Their thin waffle soles made me feel like I was walking on a real waffle – spongy and soggy with zero support. Back in the day I did love me some Stan Smiths though, and they were classics. Went through six or eight pairs as a kid. I loved the look and they were cushy and comfortable. I especially loved their weird sole pattern, like someone cut a thin slice off a wad of rubbery spaghetti noodles and glued all the little bits to the bottom of the shoe. They gripped like crazy and left the coolest print in the playground sand. Pretty sure you can still get them. But white sneakers on a guy in his 40s is a sign you still live with your mother.
The major party candidates blab about bringing America together, but now there is a footwear company that literally walks it like those guys talk it.
What began as a fun mini-campaign touting Birkenstock’s presence at the WSA trade show was so well-received it has been expanded into a national consumer print and online campaign. Judging by the flood of email feedback, the campaign is instantly gaining traction, especially as presidential marketing slips into negative mode.
While a political theme — even if it’s non-partisan and tongue-in-cheek — may seem unexpected, Birkenstock has long been assigned political connotations (e.g., the reporter’s shorthand for committed progressives, “Birkenstock-wearing liberals”). At the same time, research shows the brand is overwhelmingly associated with good feelings, which tend to start in a consumer’s previously aching feet but rapidly travel to his or her overall mood.
So perhaps it was not so far-fetched for Birkenstock’s campaign managers at Duncan/Channon to bring politics and positivity back together on behalf of this perennial candidate for your comfortable, casual choice of sandals. But, of course, we invite all Americans to vote with their feet.
Graphis magazine, it was announced today, will be honoring D/C’s healthy feet campaign, created for agency-of-record client Birkenstock, with a gold award in its highly competitive 2009 advertising annual. Founded in Zurich in 1944, Graphis is one of the world’s most respected, influential and long-running publications devoted to graphic arts. Founded in Germany in 1774, Birkenstock is one of the world’s most respected, influential and long-running makers of footwear. Founded in San Francisco in 1990, Duncan/Channon is long-running.