Throughout the history of Red Wing Shoes, the company has been recognized as a high quality work wear brand in its industry. However, recently the company’s also established itself as an iconic fashion brand both nationally and internationally. I was given the opportunity to chat with the social media manager of Red Wing Shoes, Catherine Engel, and ask her a few questions regarding her role role at Red Wing and the company’s marketing strategy and business growth.Hey, Catherine. Thanks for spending some of your time with Ad Fed for this interview. Could you inform the readers what your role is at Red Wing along with your responsibilities?
I am the Social Media Manager at Red Wing Shoes. I developed and now maintain their Facebook and Twitter accounts. I am responsible for curating content, interacting with consumers and reporting insights to their marketing department.
How has social media impacted the evolution of the brand?
In 2009, I sent a proposal to the Global Marketing Manager about the potential benefits of a social media presence for the brand. At the time, Twitter had just seen a 1382% jump in unique visitors over the last year and Facebook surpassed MySpace in unique visitors. In addition, Red Wing Shoes was starting to get more exposure as their boots were appearing across many large media outlets including Vogue, The New York Times, Hypebeast, GQ and The Satorialist. Social media has been an opportunity for the brand to share this content and also reach out to their fans in a way that they had not been able to before. It is also means to glean demographic details about their fans, learn more about what products peak the interest of consumers, and listen to feedback. For example, the international following of the brand has become more apparent as people from all over the world comment and ‘Like’ all of the stories. Currently, Taiwan is the country with the second most fans of our Facebook page, after the United States, with close to 1,000 “Likes”. Furthermore, the Facebook and Twitter accounts have created a new outlet to provide additional customer service by answering questions and solving problems.What are Red Wing’s goals by using social media and what are some strategies used to get there? How has the brand’s marketing and advertising strategy influenced their social media presence?
As you may know, Red Wing Shoes does not advertise to the degree that most other shoe manufacturers do. With that said, social media was an opportunity to further the brand’s messaging and keep consumers informed about new products in a more engaging format. For example, the recent video series, made by Brew Creative in Minneapolis, utilized social media outlets to share it with people all over the world and the first one has already had over 26,000 views. An effort that I really enjoyed was sharing photos of old styles of Red Wing boots that were being considered for a re-release and hearing from our fans about whether or not they were interested. In addition, social media has allowed the brand to express it’s heritage and personality. There is always a surprising high response rate to posts about the ongoings in the town of Red Wing, including the weather. It continues the Americana image of the brand that their fans really appreciate and admire.
How has Red Wing built itself to become such a staple brand name when it comes to work wear? How has the company sustained that brand recognition and reputation for so many years?
Red Wing has been creating quality footwear for over 100 years. They have maintained the brand as their founder, Charles Beckman, envisioned by continuing to focus on the importance of quality. Moreover, they acknowledge the skilled people who take the time to make sure each pair lasts and protects. In the age of mass production, their products are still made with high standards that customers appreciate and experiences as their footwear lasts for many years. Red Wing has remained true to their strengths and they listen to what their consumers expect from their product and the brand.Red Wing has been traditionally known for its WORX brand, crafting high quality boots for the hardworking farmer, factory worker, and other occupations that require rugged but comfortable footwear. However, the brand has also made a name for itself in the fashion industry. How did that come about and where did all these fashion fans come from?
Recently, “Made in the USA” and “Americana” have become a strong trends in the fashion industry, especially for menswear. Red Wing Shoes are made in the United States and the brand’s heritage is very unique. Furthermore, I think that more people are looking for quality footwear that lasts longer, which is what Red Wing footwear provides. On another note, there has also been a movement in fashion for rugged and well worn pieces. People really enjoy working in their pairs of Red Wings and seeing how well they age.
The fashion fans began to multiply with the proliferation and growth of blogging. As I previously mentioned, the brand has been present on some of the biggest fashion blogs and regularly featured street style photographers such as Tommy Ton and Scott Schuman. These bloggers have become extremely influential in the fashion business and the boots presence on these outlets has really expanded the fanbase.
Red Wing has also gotten additional exposure as many celebrities have been spotted wearing a variety of styles. Johnny Depp, Kanye West, Adam Brody, Orlando Bloom, Drake, Stephen Dorff, The Fray and even Steve McQueen have worn the boots. As you can see, that is a very diverse group of celebrities with different looks and I think people enjoy seeing how Red Wing shoes can be worn no matter what your sense of style.
What kind of effect have these two segments had on the Red Wing brand? There’s one segment that’s all about the ruggedness and durability and there’s another segment, for example, that wears them on the streets of New York as a fashion statement. How do you sustain the reputation of one part of the brand while being able to grow the other?
Red Wing is still about purpose built work footwear. The boots that are worn as fashion are actually the same boots worn by skilled craftsman. They may be worn for different purposes, but each pair is true to the brand’s heritage. They are built with the same leather, the same soles, the same quality standards and the attention to detail that the brand has been known for over 100 years. As long as Red Wing does not compromise their standards, they can serve both markets. In truth, it is the strong work nature of the brand at their adherence to it’s standards that makes it so appealing to the fashion segment.
Fashion is an challenging industry that is always in flux as trends come and go. How is Red Wing taking steps to maintain their brand strategy, but keeping up with demand? Also, what has the brand done to acknowledge their emergence as a stylish brand with celebrities wearing their product?
The product development strategy for the fashion buyer is to bring back old styles from the company’s archives. A great recent example is their new black oxford, Style No. 101. The design was first released in the 1950s and was originally known as the postman’s shoe. Over a 1 million pairs of that very style was sold to America’s mail carriers. Now it’s back as a fashion shoe. It is made the same way with the same materials as when it was first introduced. Red Wing acknowledges the celebrities that wear the brand, but decline to pay for or solicit celebrity endorsements. We are more thrilled when they discover us, but celebrity tastes and trends are always changing. A brand like Red Wing with its rich heritage and history isn’t about fickle; it’s about authenticity.
Collaborations are pretty common in the fashion industry and it’s a great marketing strategy to create buzz and awareness. Red Wing is sold by J.Crew, it’s collaborated with Burton to create a snowboard boot, and also worked with Ronnie Fieg on special editions of their classic styles. How have these steps impacted Red Wing’s influence in the fashion industry?
Actually, the brand declines most collaborations. Red Wing will not co-brand anything. For example, The Burton boot is branded Burton. It uses Red Wing leather, but it doesn’t carry the Red Wing logo. Red Wing strives to not to dilute the brand, but we are interested in the buzz and awareness generated by these close associations. Now, J.Crew came to Red Wing interested in the brand and have an exclusive offering of our products. This has exposed more people to the shoes, especially considering the influence of Mickey Drexler, CEO of J.Crew. The special designs by Ronnie Fieg spread through the blogosphere, which again garnered additional exposure for Red Wing. All in all, Red Wing makes every effort to be true to their heritage and that is one of the reasons that people have become so passionate about the brand.Where do you see Red Wing’s Social Media strategy headed to in the next year or so? And the overall brand itself?
Currently, I am working on increasing the amount of original content on the social media accounts. This includes a possible social media campaign that enables fans to share with the brand. We have had so many people share photos of them wearing our boots and tell stores about experiences with our brand, particularly on Twitter. I am also striving to involve more people from the company in providing information for the account, particularly their international employees. The video series has shown that people are interested in all aspects of the the company and the shoes themselves. The future strategy of the social media can benefit further from showing additional personality that our fans truly appreciate.
In terms of the overall brand, Red Wing will continue to stress quality. We remain true to our high standards because that’s why people are passionate about the brand.A huge thanks to Catherine for spending her time with Ad Fed and sharing her experience on Red Wing Shoes’ marketing efforts!