nike store air max Cole Haan gets a little Nike styling
COLE HAAN, the footwear and accessory company, has always produced the kind of well made leather shoe that Mother wore to the club: appropriate, but not exactly hip.
That classic approach began to change in 1999, when Cole Haan’s owner, Nike, brought in new management, and the shoemaker began to update its product line for its traditional 35 to 50 year old customer. But the company now covets younger, trendier consumers, and is incorporating Nike technology in a new shoe line called the G series Cole Haan.
The line is as different from a traditional Cole Haan loafer as a Mustang is from a Volvo. One model even has a four inch platform that uses Nike Air technology for better comfort. The footwear is also being sold at retailers that have previously shown little interest in carrying Cole Haan shoes, like Barney’s Co Op in New York and Fred Segal in Los Angeles.
The advertising, from Lloyd Company in New York, is distinctive, too. There is no copy besides ”Introducing G Series Cole Haan.” And the media plan calls for plastering construction sites with posters and buying ads in magazines geared to a downtown crowd, like Flaunt and Paper. Advertisements for Cole Haan’s classic line can be seen in magazines like The New Yorker.
But Candace Corlett, a partner with WSL Strategic Retail, a New York consulting firm, said the G series is directed at the wrong audience. She praised Cole Haan for updating its classic line, but said the company could have counted on its traditional audience to respond to the idea of cool styling and Nike technology.
”You would think that it would be enough to sell comfortable fashion to a baby boomer audience whose feet are starting to rebel after years of fashion firsts,” Ms. Corlett said. ”I just really get my back up when companies have such a solid franchise in the boomer population and don’t want to capitalize on that for everything it’s worth.”
But Michael Atmore, editorial director of the footwear group at Fairchild Publications in New York, said Cole Haan was simply looking for new markets in an industry that has been flat for years.
”It’s a battle for market share at this point,” Mr. Atmore said. ”And as a brand’s customer bases age, they need to take steps to make sure they are reaching younger customers all the time. That’s how you ensure the life of your brand.”
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Cole Haan is not planning to spend Nike like amounts on the introduction of the G series, budgeting an estimated $1 million to $2 million. But it will try to bolster those totals with guerrilla marketing tactics like ”wild postings,” which are posters pasted on construction sites, sometimes without permission. The goal is to reach potential customers in the 25 to 34 year old range, and the campaign is concentrated in seven cities: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Miami.
”In terms of a medium, wild postings are very street oriented and catch the attention of a younger audience,” explained Doug Lloyd, president of Lloyd Company. ”Our thinking is be nestled within that sort of audience.”
Each ad shows a different G series shoe and part of a woman’s leg in attire reflecting a distinctive style, like frayed jeans and a beaded ankle bracelet. A single word, like ”enlightened” or ”genius,” is superimposed on the ankle, with the letter ”g” stylized in the same typeface as the G series logo.
The approach is deliberately low key and focuses on style rather than technology, said Gordon Thompson III, Cole Haan’s executive vice president and creative director, who gave his first initial to the shoe line. He said young consumers are interested in design, having grown up in a world where high end designers create products for mass merchandisers, like Michael Graves’s housewares sold by Target.
”Technology to this group is just there,” said Mr. Thompson, who has been focused on this audience since his days at Nike when he worked on the Niketown concept. ”But in design, they know good from bad, cool from not so cool, and probably the best way to target them is to not target them at all, to just make beautiful things and understand what they expect.”
Cole Haan expects the G series shoes to have a positive effect on its main brand, which is one reason it kept the Cole Haan name on the new line, Mr. Thompson said.