Keds tries on comfort positioning

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Keds Corp. will change its step this spring, with a new brand positioning and advertising campaign.

The shoe marketer, a division of Stride Rite Corp., will break a spring campaign in April magazines to promote its new focus on casual footwear. Keds, better known for its classic white sneaker, the Champion Oxford, will expand the brand into casual footwear built for comfort in various styles and colors. The new line will be introduced at a March 7 press event in New York.

"People are going to take notice that we're not just the white sneaker with the blue label," said Terri Rawson, VP-marketing.


The Champion Oxford, which Keds has made for 85 years, has led the casual category for years but is still mainly a seasonal shoe for warm-weather wear, Ms. Rawson said. By expanding the line into other casual shoes, the marketer now can have product with year-round appeal, she said.

"We can become more fashion-relevant and try to get into a 365-days-a-year opportunity," she said.

The demographic target is still women 25 to 54 years old, with the bulk of consumers in the 35- to 42-year-old segment. But the new positioning can also help widen its appeal to consumers between 18 and 65 years of age, Ms. Rawson said.

"You can't be all things to all people, but we think we can speak to all segments," she said.


The ads feature women in a variety of settings, with the tagline "Keds every wear" to play on the all-occasion positioning. Ads will run in fashion and lifestyle magazines including Glamour, In Style, Marie Claire and Martha Stewart Living.

The campaign is the first effort for the brand from Toth Design & Advertising, Concord Mass., which won the $11 million account in July. Keds split with FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, in April 1999, saying it wanted a smaller shop closer to its Lexington, Mass., headquarters.

Unlike most apparel companies -- which traditionally break their spring campaigns in March magazines -- Keds chose to wait until the April issues so it would not get lost in the bulging March books, Ms. Rawson said.

"When you have a new message to deliver, you want it to be seen," she said.


The company chose to reposition at a time when sneaker sales are stalled and working women increasingly are taking advantage of more relaxed corporate dress codes to drop their closed-toe pumps and hose.

According to figures from consultancy NPD Group, the $3.6 billion women's athletic footwear segment was flat last year -- as was the total athletic footwear market, which held at $13.7 billion in sales. NPD also found women's casual wear, such as sweaters and casual pants, showed double-digit sales increases, while tailored clothes were flat and sales of hosiery dropped 7%.

"The entire [dressing] trend is moving to casual," Ms. Rawson said. "It's not casual Fridays anymore."

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