18. Get Chucked

This term, I have been extremely lucky to hear various intelligent speakers who are very influential throughout the idea industry. From hearing Scott Bedbury speak to our Creative Strategist class to Skyping recent UO graduate and current New Yorker Kelly Meyers, hearing their stories and thoughts on the industry has been incredibly inspiring.

Last week in my marketing class, I was blown away when David Maddocks, previous Chief Marketing Officer of Converse talked to us about how he did a complete 180 with the company, taking it from an old, irrelevant company to rebranding it at “The First School” and reincarnating it to be one of the biggest pop culture icons today.

Converse had been around for almost 100 years and needed a breath of fresh air to become relevant again. To do so, Maddocks stressed the importance that we are defined by who we are rather than what we do and that Converse is all about being an original. Unlike Nike, Converse appealed to all different kinds of audiences; music, arts, sports, fashion – you name it. To truly enforce this, it was important they did not focus on marketing towards a specific group, but rather towards everyone.

Maddocks referred to the shoes as “$40 of cool all day long” and “T-shirts for the feet” which really resonated with me. Converse are worn by a wide range of people, from The Ramones to Wiz Khalifa to the kid sitting next to me at the library right now. You can dress them up or down, but no matter what, one is able to put your their spin on the basic sneaker, which is what makes is so desirable to people from all walks of life.

In order to cultivate the brand, Maddocks told us they had to “inspire, invent, believe, explore & respect”. He created the 2006 “Get Chucked” campaign as well as “The First School” ads, that featured rapper Mos Def reading a poem while a basketball dribbles and flies around the court with no player visible behind it. They both appeal to such different audiences, but completely resonate with the consumer. And they both inspire originality.

What Maddocks did to really put Converse back on the map was truly encouraging consumer generated content. Fans made their own commercials for the shoe, conveying what the shoes really meant to them and how they played a part in their lifestyle. There were about 30 ads that aired on MTV constantly. One of my favorites was this one:

It was truly made by a group of teenagers who got together and said “Hey – let’s make a commercial of what Converse means to us.” It captures such a real moment that I don’t think a bunch of studio executives could recreate.

Probably the most influential campaign Maddocks worked with was the RED campaign. With Bono as it’s spokesperson, companies like Apple and the Gap were involved as well, creating red products to help fund AIDS relief in Africa. Instead of creating the obvious red products, Converse created limited edition sneakers that were made with authentic African cloth that has significant meaning to thousands of Africans.

I truly loved hearing from David Maddocks. I think he really represents what we have been talking about in Creative Strat all term; staying true to your brand and not forcing it to be something its not. Converse is definitely a brand we can look to when studying brand integrity. They don’t try to be something they are not and always hold true to their values. They inspire consumers to be original and are truly more than just a shoe – Converse is a lifestyle.

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