Timberland – Mountain Podium

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I have loved Timberland ever since I bought my first pair of their boots about 5 years ago. In that time they’ve braved rain, snow, mud, vomit, blood and pretty much anything else I’ve thrown at them and never done anything other than laugh in my face at my paltry attempts to destroy them – they are, in short, incredible. Timberland have been making equipment built for the elements for over 50 years, and it is this rich heritage that it draws upon for its new campaign, ‘Take it all on’.

Timberland - Mountain Podium

This is clearly a departure from the urban (for want of a better word) strategy that Timberland adopted in the early nineties, which stemmed from their uptake by the black and Latino youth of the American Northeast, particularly in New York and New Jersey. Rap undoubtedly had a massive reciprocal influence on their popularity, as East coast rappers have been name-checking Timberland since the early days of Wu-Tang, and using this rough and ready image as a base, Timberland expanded rapidly, forging lifelong aficionados on both sides of the Atlantic (teaming up exclusively for a time with JD Sports in the UK, which gives a small glimpse into how hard they were pushing themselves into the youth market).

Rough like Timberland wear, yeah

Me and the clan and yo the land-cruiser’s out there

Peace to all the crooks, all the niggas with bad looks

Bald heads, braids, blow this hook…

Raekwon the Chef, Da Mystery of Chessboxin’, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Over the past few years, however, this approach has faltered, and Timberland’s profits have fallen as sales have levelled off and subsequently stalled.  There may be many reasons for this decline. Firstly, it’s impossible to stay fashionable forever. Products and brands have natural lifecycles that occur over years (and often decades), and as Timberland have based themselves around the same style of core products for so long it is actually quite surprising that they have been able to stay on top for this length of time. Secondly, it seems obvious that they have neglected their active-wear roots in their product ranges over the past 10 years, preferring to produce more casual-wear to lie alongside their classic boots and chukkas. Lastly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have suffered because their goods are actually far too indestructible for their own good. I know I will buy another pair of timbs the very same day mine crack or puncture or tear, but I can’t see that happening for another good few years, at which point I’ll have had them for almost a decade. 10 years! Hoover almost went bankrupt in their early days because their vacuum cleaners often lasted over 15 years, and I’m sure the same quandary of unparalleled quality faces Timberland. However, this “problem” does have one useful side-effect: producing lifelong, incredibly loyal customers.

JD Timberland

Timberland's latest JD ad campaign

When I die fuck it I wanna go to hell

Cause I’m a piece of shit it ain’t hard to fuckin tell

It don’t make sense goin to heaven with the goody-goodies dressed in white

I like black timbs and black hoodies…

Notorious B.I.G., Suicidal Thoughts, Ready To Die

This is partly why I feel that, from a planning perspective, the ‘Take it all on’ campaign works incredibly well. By promoting Timberland once again as the choice of serious adventure seekers, Leagas Delaney are clearly attempting to shift the brand’s demographic focus, whilst at the same time knowing full well that those people who have been wearing Timberland for the past ten years will (in most cases) never fall out of love with the brand. To buy Timberland once is to become a convert, and I’m sure LD and Timberland know that they can rest easy in the knowledge that their groundwork over the past 15 years will have produced lifelong customers, as well as a hip-hop and youth legacy that should perpetuate itself. It also helps that the campaign itself continues to develop the theme of the brand as rugged and (dare I say it) manly, which are certainly part of why it was taken up by American youth in such droves in the first place.

The campaign is also clearly pushing the brand into territory currently occupied by marques such as The North Face and Berghaus, who, whilst producing extremely high quality goods, just don’t possess the style, heritage or elusive cool factor that Timberland carries in spades. If I was them I would be seriously worried about my future share of the active-wear market, especially as many new customers entering the target demographic for their goods (from about 27-40 I would guess) will have grown up with Timberland by their sides. It will certainly be interesting to see how this all pans out, but I wouldn’t bet against the firm from Boston – after all, if they can make a boot that lasts a decade, everything else seems pretty academic.

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2 Responses to “Timberland – Mountain Podium”

  1. Cynthia Says:

    Hey Phil,
    oh wow, how insightful. and you are a great writer and have good taste in music might i add. timberland has been prominent in my upbringing, because everyone around me.
    There was a lot of influence with hiphop in the nineties to do with timberland and i had some pink timbs, and i thought i was the coolest girl in the block. that sort of craze has died down now and all i see now is Ugg boots everywhere, the Australians seem to have dominated this market.in my opinion.

  2. Phil Says:

    Mac… what is wrong with you?

    For anyone out there who is choosing to listen to this idiot let it be known that he wears 1990’s Adidas tracksuit bottoms with poppers all the way down the leg and orange stripes. But don’t worry, this goes nicely with his orange shoulder bag which he stole from his local newsagents. To top it off he wears silver Nike trainers with a red tick and other assorted red bits… like Flash Gordon would wear. That is a nice combo Mac and evidence enough that you are the fashion guru that we should all be listening to. I’m surprised GQ magazine haven’t signed you up yet…

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