Hittin’ the Tracks, Converse-Style

March 6, 2013

What comes to mind when you hear the brand name “Converse?”

Converse Rubber Tracks Logo

You’re likely to think “sneakers,” “Chuck Taylors,” “basketball,” and even “Nike.” But for many, the word “music” isn’t necessarily top-of-mind. The company doesn’t incorporate music into its marketing, so it’s not surprising that it wouldn’t be associated with the brand.

Why, then, would the sneaker company invest in a 5,200 square foot, state-of-the-art recording studio, with award-winning engineers, and offer recording time to aspiring musicians… free of charge?

Converse CMO Geoff Cottrill tells PJA Radio’s The Unconventionals, “Most brands borrow equity from a musician… to make their brand look a certain way to a certain demographic… to look cool.” Instead, Converse found greater value in celebrating its consumer rather than celebrating itself.

Converse built Rubber Tracks, the Brooklyn, NY-based studio, to give emerging musicians the opportunity to record their music, no strings attached. “For what it costs to run three to four weeks of heavy TV [advertising] in the U.S., a good heavy campaign one time for a month, we could… run a studio for a number of years.”

If you think the intent is to make bands famous and tie the Converse name to them, it’s not. Cottrill emphasizes that they’re not making empty promises. “We’ve been really focused on making sure we keep our feet on the ground and that we don’t get into the music business because that’s not our business.”

The team at Converse wanted to become useful to its Converse Rubber Tracks Studiobiggest proponents by helping those who might not otherwise have been able to afford studio time elsewhere. They channeled their focus from creating a marketing message to turning the experience itself into the message. Doing so enabled them to build more meaningful relationships, and life-long memories for its core consumers—creative individuals. Cottrill notes, “The interactions that they have with you are what they carry.”
The return? Brand advocates.

According to Cottrill, Converse’s Facebook page has grown tremendously over the past few years because they haven’t tried to hook and bait people. In the past year alone, Converse “Likes” have gone from 25 million to over 35.5 million, more than twice as much as Adidas (11 million), and well more than Puma (8.8 million) and New Balance (454,661).

Directly linking these numbers to sales and ROI isn’t scientific. But in a 2012 study conducted by Razorfish, Econsultancy, and Social Media Today, over 34% of Facebook Fans consider the brand when shopping for a product or service. Likewise, about 34% recommend the brand to their family and friends. Jennifer Rooney, Forbes CMO Network editor, eloquently states, “As companies acknowledge the breakdown in brand ownership driven by social media, they are wont to give as a way to get, to let go as a way to hold on.” Brand affinity and relationships are of utmost importance to Converse, a company that sees immense value in giving back to its community and becoming relevant to individuals, whether they don Converse sneakers or not.

“Virtually everyone that’s come [into the studio]… is posting on Instagram, on Facebook, talking to their social media network, their fan base, about this great experience that they’ve had,” explains Cottrill. Converse never asks anyone to “Like” a page. It simply adds content and value to the conversations. And Fans consistently respond favorably towards the brand. According to its Facebook page, Converse has close to 200,000 Fans “talking about this.” Adidas has about 117,750. “We couldn’t be any more pleased with the results. Again I go back to the relationships that we’re creating there.”

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