Wolverine is taking brand names such as Caterpillar, Coleman and, most recently, Harley-Davidson and turning them into runaway trendy must-have shoes and boots.
"This isn't just a matter of slapping a brand name on a pair of shoes," says Michael Donabauer, 50, VP-marketing and strategic planning, Wolverine Footwear Group. "We delve deeply into what are the core values and positioning of the brand, and how we can we best translate those core values into appropriate designs."
In the four years since Wolverine began its licensing strategy of branding, its revenues have increased 19% compounded annually and earnings have increased 38%. The company is projecting sales of the new Harley-Davidson footwear line will be in $30 million globally this year, while Caterpillar footwear is projected to have $250 million in sales worldwide.
A key element behind the licensed footwear successes is the point-of-sale merchandising that brings out the essence of each brand, says Mr. Donabauer. Fashion buzz generated by editorial placements and celebrity endorsements also helps.
"We're working on Jay Leno and Cher to wear the Harley-Davidsons," he says.
Word-of-mouth helps supplement modest marketing budgets, typically about 5% to 6% of sales.
"Our philosphy is we are brand builders," says Mr. Donabauer. "We are the guardian of the brands that we have the opportunity to work with, and we're going to do everything we can to be in sync with their strategy and