Friday, February 20, 2015

Are there enough adventurous Millennial wanna-bes out there for Sperry to rise again?

For the past 80 years Sperry has been selling Top-Sider boat shoes.  A product with limited appeal if ever there was one.  But plenty of people buy yoga clothes even though they never do yoga, so the brand could transcend its inherit limitations.

To that end, the company is launching a new campaign targeting adventurous Millennials.  According to Karen Pitts, VP of Marketing, "Odysseys" plays to the brand's essential qualities -- American, authentic and adventurous and the primal excitement water can evoke.  As part of the campaign, 80 people will be sent on journeys to create content on their adventures for Sperry. (Monllos, 2015)

Here are two of the ads

(Bell, 2015)

So what do you think?  Will these ads capture your attention?  Will the Odyssey stories, which will presumably be posted online do it?  But most importantly, will you buy Sperry's?  (Apparently they have dropped Top-sider).

Monllos, K. (2015, February 19)  Sperry Goes Back to Basics With a Campaign for Adventurous Millennials.  Retrieved February 19, 2015, from

Bell, J. (2015, February 19)  Sperry Prez Rick Blackshaw Talks New Brand Identity. Retrieved February 19, 2015, from


  1. Are there enough adventurous Millenial wanna- bes out there for Sperry…? I would say of course but I think that the “existing up till now” user has a challenging and important +1 which Sperry's Blackshaw seems to want to get away from, the fact that they would be rich. And this is based on their previous ads.

    Before reading his interview and without even knowing about the history of Sperry's campaigns, it was still easy to know it is designated for an Elite youth/ Millenial and not everyone, simply because it is a boat shoe. Not everyone would spend that much on a shoe, just for boating, or can spend any money on boating.

    But when I read Blackshaw's interview, it is clear that in this “rebranding” (his words) he wants to embrace more people than those targeted in the previous expensive boats ads. But how can he do that when it is still not so cheap, around $80, and not very attractive “boat” shoe? He calls on an adventure, many Millenials from different social classes would love that. He is launching the Odyssey’s project where 80 people will get a Sperry and an itinerary and go on their adventures, then they would tell their stories to be posted presumably online. The choice is online by itself makes Sperry approachable by masses.

    I think that the strategy is good. These ads will capture the attention and the Odyssey stories posted online will "do it" but pending the right Execution and the right Online Placement: In the execution, the cast choice is crucial, along the adventures these people will go through. Both cast and itineraries need to appeal to the mass Millenial (not exclusively rich) by reflecting diverse backgrounds, different social classes, incomes and + 1’s such as studying or working etc…And the adventures they go on need to be affordable and inspiring for everyone. Only then will it be worth to pay 80$. In the Online placement, the choice of social media or Online magazines is also similarly important.
    Ninar Keyrouz

  2. The "Odyssey Project" is aptly named, as it may be quite an adventure for Sperry to broaden their client base with this altogether tin-eared and rigid ad campaign. Michael Hart of creative shop Mono said "There's a certain section of millennials that really look at life as an opportunity,..." however it would seem that the only young adults he is speaking to are those who (can) indulge in maritime fun and frolic in rather rich surroundings.

    I don't believe Sperry has cast a wide enough net to appeal to young adults who are not either current customers of the brand or legacy customers who have seen their parents wear the brand over the years. Though Sperry's connection to the sea is an iconic element of the brand, this campaign is too focused on that aspect and too exclusionary toward adventures that have a different look and feel.

    For me, my "adventures" come in the form of my descent into the New York City subway every morning and evening and the hilarity and sometimes weirdness that ensues within, or the adventure of cobbling together money to pay for my education at the start of each semester. A lot of other young adults might be stirred by activism or other socially conscious forms of expression, especially considering all of the heady events going on in America as of late.

    This campaign is kitschy and fun, however it does "not" make me want to buy something (Sperry). I'm not going to be stirred by 80 look-alike goofy videos. Hopefully Mono will take a post-mortem and retool the effort to greater success. Time will tell.

  3. The Odyssey Campaign has its catch. Sperry brand, which is typically seen as traditional, old-fashioned, and elite, did make a step towards the broader group of millennials in my opinion. It may not have reached wide enough of the group to consider as a success from business perspective, it definitely increased the value Sperry's goodwill. Adventure out to world is definitely one of the current generation's theme, and the marketing campaign that consists of footages of real-life journeys will surely attract the millenials.

    But the question is, is that attraction directed towards the company's products or to the concept of campaign alone? I believe the latter may be more true to the larger group of the millenials. I can easily see thousands if not millions of people watching the media production, but would they think about getting a new pair of shoes? I don't think so. After all, would you wear a Sperry when you're hiking, swiming, or running as eluded by the campaign teaser? Whatever the advertisement suggests, people buy Sperry for the look, especially with its high-end price, not for its utility. Is this campaign doing anything to provide something that is a value-add to the product, such as a new design or different functionality? Ok new logo, but in most part the campaign simply creates a surreal background to display its shoes in the same niche that they populated for the last decades.

    It is still early to tell whether this campaign will embark on an uphill or not due to the follow-up mechanisms, but as it is with 80 videos of personal trips and a new logo, it won't rake in a lot of bills.

    Ahreum Lee (Vivian)

  4. Trying to capture the attention of a new audience is a very difficult task especially with an older brand that has a more limited consumer base. With their "Odyssey's Await" campaign I think Sperry will do just that. I do believe that this campaign will catch the attention of those adventurous millennials. I agree with Michael Hart when he says, "There's a certain section of millennials that looks at life as an opportunity." In this day when people are getting married and having kids later in life there is a much greater opportunity for adventure.

    As someone who likes to travel and strives for once in a lifetime experiences, I think this campaign will be very successful. Sending out those 80 millennials and bringing them back to report their adventures is a genius idea. People who like adventure and seize the opportunities for adventure are always looking to hear about the next big adventure. For Sperry, posting these experiences is great because it will attract their target audience.

    Will these ads make me buy Sperry's? Absolutely. I think that associating the brand with something like adventure will make people feel as if these shoes are part of the entire experience of whatever their adventure may be. Just looking at the ads that were posted it makes me curious and want to know more about what the people in them are doing.

    I do think that the brand is speaking to all people with a sense of adventure not just those from privileged backgrounds. When people are seeking these adventures they are looking to embrace every aspect of the adventure so even if you saved for a year to take this adventure what is another $80 dollars if it will enhance your experience.

    Again, I do think the campaign will be successful in correlating the brand with a sense of adventure. I truly believe this correlation will drive sales regardless of their previous clientele or the cost of the shoe.

  5. I already wear sperry's and I'm a millennial, however, this advertising does not make me want to buy something.

    However, there general appeal of classic americana is on point, in my opinion.

  6. I think it will get millennials' attention because the ads is made by young actors. They go to do some activities that young will do. In, addition, in the ads, the shoes show many times even though when a person swims in the ocean. I will be interested in whether this shoes waterproof. This ads refreshes the brand image which is new, energetic and young. I think I might buy one because it is also good-looking.

  7. Will I buy Sperry shoes? I'm not sure yet. But I do believe that this new campaign will create positive ROI. Sperry's campaign is targeting adventurous millennials, and in doing so they are shifting consumers to a desired relationship, listening for signals, refining their product category, adhering to the all important digital age, and expanding the general scope of their advertising umbrella.

    Shifting Consumers to a Desired Relationship: Consumers have always developed relationships with brands, and by narrowing their focus on the specific relationship Sperry wants to develop, they will be able to analyze these relationships and use them as a springboards for future success. I feel by launching this campaign Sperry is really stepping back and asking "why are relationships important?". The campaign will be perfect in gathering information about their customers, revealing feelings and expectations their target has for the brand. Buy collecting this information along with the response of the campaign, Sperry will be able to pick up on the social queues of their consumer base.

    Listening for Signals: With respect to this campaign, Sperry seems to be focussing on a brand-revamp that will build a a foundation to work off of for the future - a brand cannot be great if it's built on a faulty foundation. For this campaign to work, Sperry must understand the types of relationships currently in their portfolios. This particular campaigning, resonating with the young, vibrant, and edgy youth of today, shows that Sperry is listening/looking for the patterns of emotions and ethos of their consumers.

    Refining their Product Category: Steve Jobs prided himself on simplicity - "We need to say no to all the good ideas out there and focus on our one good idea". Sperry is starting to realize this. Historically, CPG marketers have tried to increase revenue by continual product introductions, but doing this only saturates shelf space and confuses shoppers. In this campaign, Sperry is not bringing in new product categories in efforts of resonating with their target market; they are doing just the opposite by simplifying the product selection and letting their target market resonate with the product.

    Adhering to the All-Important Digital Age: As this campaign is actively residing on Sperry's social media channels, it is crucial that Sperry's marketers are communicating with IT and digital departments in order to track their consumers content consumption preferences and digital usage habits. Although people who post on social media may not always represent a company's typical customer, patterns of emotions can suggest important groupings of relationships and trends with them. With the current following numbers: (Facebook: 1.1M, Instagram: 97.2K, Twitter: 39.1K) if done correctly, Sperry will be able to capitalize on sophisticating the digital channels that are flooding their field.

    Expanding the General Scope of their Advertising Umbrella: To be truly effective, a relationship and resonation with the brand needs to go well-beyond the advertising functions. Advertising needs to be empowered to share knowledge and insight with customers with all other customer-touching aspects of the business, from PR to sales to website design, showing Sperry customers that Sperry is responding to their wants, needs, and most importantly emotions.

    In sum, when customers demonstrate a desire for a type of relationship it's useful to the company - because it drives profitability and market share, or contributes to earnings stability - the brand needs to reciprocate...Sperry did!


  8. "From consumer perspective(as a millennial myself), I’m not only attracted by the campaign's joyful execution, but also engage with the spiritual indulging- freedom to sea adventure.

    From marketer perspective, I will see this a campaign as a correct move, that Sperry adjusts its brand positioning to fit its new target consumers. As mentioned in the interview, Sperry realized their target consumer is 13 to 34, which is younger than they had thought. Given the 80 years history of Sperry(e.g. Sperry Top-Sider was named as the official shoes of the US Navy during second world-war, the Kennedy family’s vocation nautical shoe, the Official Preppy Handbook endorses the Sperry Top-Sider Authentic Original as the footwear symbol of classic Prep style, marking a legacy of good taste.), a brand perception of old-school or classic is normal. (Even though Sperry had realized the importance of young target and held music fest tour in campus in the last few years, it’s brand personality is still mild, and the brand essence was "a passion for (enjoying) the sea”.) However, now when Sperry has a more ambitious business goal to increase its revenue by sales in huge millennial market, such brand impression is somewhat too weak or blocks its way. Stepping into younger target’s soul (especially those below 25y.o.) and find what they aspire to is crucial for Sperry to reshape emotional connection with them. Odysseys await (sea adventures waiting for you to explore) implies to excitement, fun, guts, and live to real moments, all of which young millennial value. So the new positioning rejuvenates the brand.

    In addition to the new campaign, Sperry also collaborates with outside renowned designer to release one-of-a-kind styles,
    so as to make a bold statement of being young.(

    As mobile and online are both the major media exposure and interactive media format to millennial, I think(as a don’t have solid media research data support) online media/ social media is a good choice. "

    Thanks & Best Regards,
    Mengying Li(Cosette)

  9. I am very familiar with the Sperry brand, coming from a southern university UNC Chapel Hill where Greek life was a huge part of the campus experience. Sperry’s were the shoe of choice, and while I never was a fan of the brand, clearly they are popular amongst men aged 17-24. I think this ad campaign is great as it both refreshes the brand with new “ideal consumers” and transitions the brand from boating prep, to general footwear. This ad may spark new consumer interest in the brand, but if the shoe designs do not reflect for contemporary tastes, I think it was money lost. Good campaign, bad product.