Timberland Revamps Marketing, Goes After Millennials

Watch the Spot: Ad Aims to Redefine Brand

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Timberland is out to prove to millennials that it's not their parents' boot company.

A new campaign, "Best Then. Better Now," seeks to capitalize on the brand's heritage while moving in a more contemporary direction. The shift has been two years in the making -- Timberland was acquired by VF Corp. in September 2011. Since then, the company has moved to a more streamlined global structure, setting the tone for a more cohesive marketing approach.

"It's been a big change thinking of ourselves as not just a footwear brand but as a head to toe -- or toe-to-head -- lifestyle brand," said Jim Davey, vp-global marketing at Timberland. "This campaign is the first big step in relaunching the brand."

VF is expecting big things from the brand. According to industry publication Footwear News, the company plans for Timberland to grow 50% by 2017 to $2.3 billion in sales from $1.5 billion. And Steve Rendle, group president of VF's outdoor and action sports Americas division has called the brand "the next big growth story."

Ad Age: Why did the company feel it was time to take a different approach to marketing?

Mr. Davey: We spent the last two years on the road talking to consumers and understanding what it is they love about the brand, and what are the opportunities to restage or re-portray the brand. … It comes down to growth. How are we going to keep growing? …We needed to add a new sense of style.

Ad Age: How has your approach to creative and media changed, as a result?

A past print advertisement

Mr. Davey: Instead of focusing on all the specific functional features the way we used to do, now we're beginning to build a Timberland lifestyle, to portray a brand that can work in the city with stylish, classic product but still have that outdoor-proven [credibility].

Film is an important way to connect, and the rest of the campaign is highly digitally focused. We're on every social media platform -- Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, Vine -- which is a shift from where we were before. Last year it was just Facebook and a little Twitter. We also have an interactive TV spot that lets consumers take control. They can stop at points and use the mouse to control the action or dive deeper into a specific product.

Ad Age: Who has been your target customer and who is your target customer going forward?

Mr. Davey: Before it was a whole range of people. Now we're connecting with the millennial generation. How do we take the best of classic Timberland and come off in a younger, more contemporary way? The core target is 25 to 30 years old.

Ad Age: Is the millennial customer familiar with the brand or is it new to them?

Mr. Davey: A lot of the group remembers the brand from their high school years or growing up, so we're almost reintroducing them to the brand, giving them new styles, energy and stories they weren't expecting.

Ad Age: Do you need to change millennials' perception of the brand?

Mr. Davey: We need to tell a more full story for them. Right now their perceptions are good -- the outdoors, craftsmanship -- but they don't yet know us for the more contemporary looks that they could put into their lifestyle.