Move Over Stuart Weitzman: How a Shoe’s Story Can Benefit Your Brand

From the desk of Christine Efken

For years, I have proclaimed that the only thing worse than a bad hair day is a bad shoe day. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are many days when the shoes I wear simply provide utility, covering my feet so that when I step on less-than-ideal surfaces (you know the really mushy, sticky or gravelly ones), I am none the wiser. Yet, there are also many days when a shoe can transform my attitude from the dingy housekeeper to the fabulous Cinderella in the mere 5-seconds it takes to slide on that magical slipper.

The right shoe provides one with protection, comfort and confidence. Yes, these happen to be the same emotions that my mom provided to me when I was a child. But shoes provide so much more than just this properties. I challenge you to think about the shoes you are wearing right now, and ponder what they are doing for you. What’s the emotional-end benefit you are getting—or perhaps not getting from your shoes at this moment in time?

To this end, I’ve taken this obsession and found that shoes make for ideal projective or ideation exercises to help get below the surface and find additional insights across a variety of categories.

Whether conducting an in-person or online group discussion, consider having participants ponder…

  • If the product or service was a shoe, what type of shoe would it be—construction boot, flip flop, slipper, athlete’s cleats, baby’s bootie, loafer, stiletto, etc. Why? What are the images, associations, beneficial properties of each?
  • After reviewing an array of shoes and boots, what are the properties or features of each that could be applied to the business situation at hand—Could your customer service challenges benefit from added warmth (from a fuzzy slipper), more rigid policies (from the rubber gripped soles of construction boots), or should it stand taller or out perform others in your industry (thank you stilettos and marathoner’s running shoes)?
  • Or, how about a little shoe deprivation study?   To more fully understand your busy mom or working-woman-consumer segment, what if you were to deprive these women of their favorite shoes for an extended period of time? What happens? How is her mood, confidence, self image and self esteem impacted? What does she now use to fulfill that need?   How could your product do the same for her?

Stuart Weitzman’s brand statement is “Mildly obsessed with shoes.”   And while I have never conducted research for this brand, I do believe that I share it’s spirit, am perhaps even more than mildly obsessed,  and believe that every shoe has a story that can benefit a brand regardless of the category.