Cole Haan: William Zeitz

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Cole Haan Chairman-CEO Matthew Rubel was visiting the company's Newberry Street store in Boston when he witnessed his dream come true. The store was filled with people ranging in age from their 20s all the way up to a 75-year-old Boston Brahmin dressed in a navy blazer. On the Brahmin's feet? Cole Haan shoes that use Nike Air technology. "Cool looking shoes," Mr. Rubel said to the Brahmin. The reply: "I don't know if they're cool looking, but they work."

During the late 1990s, this scene might never have occurred. At an American Express Publishing Corp. conference this year titled "Travel & Leisure Market Watch on Investing with Impact-Energizing Your Brand," Cole Haan VP-Brand Marketing William Zeitz detailed the brand's reinvigoration. "Two and a half years ago, Cole Haan was not relevant," Mr. Zeitz said. At the heart of the turnabout: innovation and new advertising.

The use of Nike Air technology has been one of the biggest boons to Cole Haan. During a 10-week period from March through May 2001, the top-selling style across the 25 Cole Haan stores was a Nike Air-based shoe. Cole Hann sold 2,000 pairs at $200 a pair. Typically, a top-10 shoe at Cole Hann averages sales of 800 to 1,000 pairs during that time frame.

More money is going into advertising. Mr. Zeitz, former director of global advertising at Nike, says Cole Haan's ad budget in the late '90s was about the size of the ad budget for just one Nike commercial. It's tripled the marketing budget, and sales have increased. The company was bringing in about $200 million per year but the projection for 2001 is for $250 million in sales, Mr. Zeitz says, adding, "Cole Haan can be two or three times as big as it is now."

The new Cole Haan was shooting for casual American luxury and, says Mr. Rubel, "We have become what we set out to be."

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