When it comes to marketing, nothing sells like the truth. In fact, a product that offers proven value, an authentic heritage, and genuine consumer appeal practically sells itself.
In such fortunate instances, all that a marketing approach has to do is to successfully deliver the message of authenticity and value clearly to the target audience. In doing so, smart marketers get out of the way, and let the product do the talking.
The Red Wing Shoe Company, of Red Wing, Minnesota is such a company. For over a hundred years, it has thrived by making high-quality, extremely durable and handsome work boots.
To say that Red Wing Shoes takes its heritage seriously would be an understatement. Mindful of its reputation, the company still uses the same hand-crafted techniques and old-style industrial equipment — some of the machines date back to the company’s founding — to keep making the quality shoes its customers expect.
On the other hand, Red Wing’s marketing approach is very much in the 21st century, while remaining true to the brand’s heritage. Think of it as a “modern in the background, classic in the foreground” marketing strategy and you’ll get the gist.
The proof: Visit redwingshoes.com, and you’ll see plenty of black-and-white historical images plus plain-spoken slogans such as “Work is Our Work” and “Hand crafted, purpose-built boots made with pride.” Or watch any of the company’s many corporate videos on the site, and you’ll experience the same message. The visuals — a mix of real employees patiently and expertly hand-crafting boots supplemented by heartfelt worker interviews — hearken back to a time when the quality of a person’s handiwork defined who they were.
What makes this seemingly quaint message so modern is Red Wing’s canny understanding of its brand target. “We are building brand awareness where the young working guys are,” explained Maurice McClurg, Red Wing’s marketing manager. “These are guys who view themselves as modern craftsmen: They don’t relate to the term ‘blue collar’ at all. So our message is all about quality products being built by craftspeople just like them. That’s a message that really resonates with this audience.”
Rendering Reality to Video
Currently, Red Wing Shoes has two different styles of short videos online. (More are in production.)
The first are its Video Series. There are currently eight of these available on the site. Topics covered include The Factory (an inside look at how Red Wing Shoes are lovingly made by hand using antique machines), S.B. Foot Tannery (yes, all that shoe leather has to come from somewhere), and The Puritan Stitch Machine (an 80-year-old sewing machine that is still used to triple-stitch Red Wing boots).
There’s a fun piece on The Big Boot (the world’s largest boot as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records; Red Wing Style 877, size 6381/2 D), another on Shoe Repair (Red Wing boots are often rebuilt for their devoted owners), and a short documentary on the Crazy Horse Memorial being carved out of South Dakota’s Black Hills.
Meant as a Native American rebuttal to nearby Mount Rushmore, the much-larger statue of Crazy Horse was started in 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. Today his son and four workers are continuing the work.
“The Crazy Horse sculptors’ dedication to doing the work right, without rushing, and with the goals of craftsmanship and quality foremost in their thoughts, ties in directly with our brand,” McClurg said. “We don’t focus on Red Wing boots in the shots. We just want our viewers to identify the sculptors’ ethos with our own.”
The second series is Red Wing’s Technology Videos. These four videos cover the nitty-gritty of what makes its products special, such as its use of ForceShield Impact Resistant Technology, DynaForce comfortable insoles, and the BOA closure system for snug, precise lace-ups.
As for the videos’ look? All Red Wing shorts use a subtle moving camera, in-close yet carefully-paced style reminiscent of famed filmmaker Ken Burns. You only notice the craft when you pay attention to the production values. Otherwise, the videos just glide by.
“There’s no rocking guitars, fast-moving titles, or anything else that gets in the way of the story,” said McClurg. “There’s a quiet factual feel to our videos; one that gives a sense of being honest and authentic. They are produced to be mini-documentaries that people will share, not screaming one-sided commercials that irritate viewers.”
Like any modern online marketer, Red Wing is careful to get its videos into all the right channels.
“Besides our website, we post them on our YouTube channel, push them to our Facebook page, and tweet about them on Twitter,” said McClurg. “Frankly, we do whatever we can to get them noticed on social media, while staying true to our marketing style. With any luck, their factual approach and high production values motivate people to post them elsewhere; to even make them viral if we’re lucky.”
So has Red Wing’s online video campaign made a difference? Based on traffic, the answer is yes. “We typically see a 20 to 30 percent increase in website visits within two days of releasing a new video,” McClurg said. “There is a clear linkage: Our videos drive website traffic, which builds interest in the brand and, ultimately, helps drive sales stores that sell Red Wing Shoes.”
Red Wing Shoes is clear proof that an established company can succeed using online marketing. Its success lies in identifying the people it wants to reach and the values that these customers care about, the honest promotion of the company’s history and products that lines up with these values, and a high-end production style that meets broadcast TV documentary standards.
Taken as a whole, Red Wing understands what its brand is about, and how to communicate this brand to the people it wants to reach. The simplicity and authenticity of the messages it has created not only reflects well on the brand, but inspires confidence and curiosity in the target viewer. The result is substantially boosted website traffic and sales, which is what online marketing is meant to do.