Katz, a young entrepreneur who craved comfort in everything he wore, married the two categories and created a new kind of footwear—walking shoes. Called Rockports, these shoes had thick yet lightweight soles, soft uppers, and high-tech comfort liners that hugged and soothed the foot. The industry scoffed at his big idea. They didn’t believe that consumers would go for his untraditional footwear. But Bruce believed that once people knew about the shoes, they’d buy them. His problem? Few marketing resources. His pitch was simple: “They’re great for walking,” he would tell anyone who would listen. Yet walking was something for old people. Young, hip people didn’t walk. Men certainly didn’t walk. There was no cachet to walking. No walking clubs, contests, events, clothes, or badges of achievement. And certainly no “walking lifestyle.” The insight that made people care about walking was to relate it to something they did care about—health. Within three years of the launch of Rockport, all of America was abuzz with talk about walking for health and fitness. Health evangelist Rob Sweetgall walked 11,208 miles, traversing fifty states in fifty weeks, telling anyone who would listen: “Don’t smoke, eat properly and walk.” He walked alone, traveling the equivalent of a marathon a day, cushioned by three battered pairs of Rockports. With Rockport’s help, one book, a film, and thousands of articles later, millions of Americans were turned on to walking for health and fitness. Rockport had discovered the wisdom of standing for something worthwhile. The company created the Rockport Walking Institute, a Rockport Fitness Test, and the Rockport Walking Diet, all scientifically validated. They freely shared information with thousands of health and walking advocates across the country. The fitness-walking movement was born, with Rockport leading the way. In five years, Rockport increased in size 1000 percent, and earned more than $200 million in annual revenue.
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The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable (The Group of 33)
- Highlight Loc. 520-27 | Added on Wednesday, September 09, 2009, 01:53 PM
Today, brands don’t have much of a choice. They can either stand for something big and important to their consumers, or they can risk being categorized as trivial. When Avon takes on breast cancer or LensCrafters embraces the fight for sight, they are transcending brand expectations and doing something worth doing, something that allows them to make a difference. IBM’s commitment to education is bigger than anything their R&D or advertising groups can invent. These companies have deep and sincere commitments to causes they believe in, and they manage those commitments the way they’d treat any other critical business asset. In taking up worthwhile causes, brands stick their necks out for something greater and far more purposeful than their everyday work, and in return build brand relevance, organizational ethos and pride, and consumer preference and trust. And the world becomes just a little brighter and better. Stand for something or stand for nothing.

Today, brands can either stand for something big and important to their consumers, or they can risk being categorized as trivial
The era of pure conformist “dress for success” has finally waned. Thank God. It used to be you had to dress such-and-such a way to show respect and build a professional image. And while “dress for success” was the moniker of past generations, nowadays anything that’s really you, goes. Wide-scale adoption of this appropriately showed up in the inventive dot com days as shirt sleeves and jeans became the order of the day. I remember that era fondly and those box-breaking guys are still among my heros–I’m a short pants kind of guy myself.

The new banner of success: Authenticity. It sells. For example, take Saul and Bruce Katz, the father and son entrepreneurial team that craved comfort in everything they wore so they created a new footwear category they called “walking shoes.” At the time, critics scoffed at their Big Idea. They didn’t believe that consumers would go for unbusinesslike footwear.

Rockport Shoes

Called Rockports, their shoes had thick yet lightweight soles, soft uppers, and high-tech comfort liners that hugged and soothed the foot. The pitch was simple: “They’re great for walking.” Yet walking was something for old people. Young people didn’t walk. Men didn’t walk. At the time, there was simply no cachet to walking.

Within three years of Rockport’s launch, The fitness-walking movement was born with Rockport leading the way thanks in large part to Rockport fitness campaigns. The company created the Rockport Walking Institute, a Rockport Fitness Test, and even a Rockport Walking Diet. They also supported thousands of health and walking advocates across the country with free walking information.

Rockport had discovered the wisdom of standing for something worthwhile. Today, brands can either stand for something big and important to their consumers, or they can risk being categorized as trivial. Rockport is reaping the rewards of accomplishing this as in just five years, they increased in size 1000 percent, and earned more than $200 million in annual revenues.

The Rockport example was paraphrased from The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable by The Group of 33. It’s a great read. Check it out.

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