By Hana Yoo
Ezra Martin spends a lot of time these days thinking about a yellow boot.
In 1973, Timberland – then called Abington Shoe Company – debuted its waterproof yellow boots. In 2023, the outdoor apparel and accessories company will observe the boot’s 50th anniversary. And Martin, Timberland’s newly minted vice president of marketing, Americas, will be rolling out a new marketing strategy for the occasion.
“It’s not just about looking in the past,” Martin said. “What does the next 50 years of Timberland look like?”
Martin joined Timberland from Estée Lauder, where he held the global VP of marketing role for the Lab Series men’s skincare brand. Previously, he’s worked on brand voice campaigns, relaunches of dormant categories and go-to-market launch strategies at several companies, including footwear titans Nike and Converse.
Martin spoke with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: What’s your vision for Timberland’s digital marketing function?
EZRA MARTIN: For Timberland, digital transformation is a huge priority. With the lines becoming so blurred between physical, social, digital, even people talking Web3 and metaverse, the goal is really to meet consumers where they are, to create one seamless experience. The other part of that vision is being able to reward our most loyal consumers. We’re working on a membership program that will launch next year, and digital will sit at the heart of that.
How do you plan to bring your marketing message alive within physical store locations?
As we start to think about future store openings across our key cities, in New York, especially, we’re making sure that we have a connected experience. Where it’s not a 50 First Dates-type experience, where you’re coming in, you’ve spent money with the brand before, and we still ask you what your favorite colors are; we still don’t know that you don’t like the color black.
All those things that we’ve learned about a consumer, the idea of “know me to serve me,” we’ll look to bring into future experiences in-store so we don’t create that experience of, “Hey, I’ve been with you guys for so long, and you still don’t know what size I am.” Nobody likes that sort of experience. We’ll look to bridge the digital and physical world together.
What do you hope to accomplish in your first year?
Next year is the 50th anniversary of the iconic yellow boot, so that’s going to receive a huge spotlight. What I would love to see us do is really elevate that brand energy and hype across regions, channels, consumers, bringing the global brand DNA and purpose to life. We’ve got year-long activations in the works, so it’s not just going to be a one-and-done celebration.
One of the other things I’m looking to do: In my role, I oversee Timberland and Timberland Pro, the workwear line, so we’re really working to connect our Timberland and Timberland Pro brands across digital and physical. Because our heritage is founded on working outdoors, but we need to make sure that we’re showing up as one Timberland.
How would you describe your channel strategy?
Understanding whether someone is shopping from our DTC door or a wholesale partner door, whether they’re buying online or via social commerce – and how they ladder up and tell a coherent story – is the foundation of everything that we’re doing marketing wise.
Our “Built for the Bold” campaign, our new brand voice campaign that launched when I had just joined, was a four-prong strategy released in different phases. Our first phase was the tease phase, starting in local communities and local cities where we localized some of our communications.
What does a localized campaign look like?
For example, in New York, we launched in the Bronx outside of Yankee Stadium, just as a tease, without mentioning anything about a [footwear] line. The tease was, “Pinstripes are earned, not given,” a nod to the Yankees being in the Bronx. We had another one in Bushwick that was “Bushwick gets shit done.” “Bold looks good on you” we had in Soho because it was more fashion inspired, and we launched it during Fashion Week.
Second phase, we followed that up with announcing the line and “Built for the Bold.” The third phase, we put up the influencers who were part of the campaign. And then the fourth phase was product: talking about the products that were living inside of that campaign.
That was the channel strategy: everything from digital to out of home. We brought back wheatpasting, we brought back subway [ads] – old-school tactics combined with newer, modern marketing, like paid social.
How do you approach campaign measurement?
I’ve always felt it’s really important to set your goals at the beginning of the campaign, because every campaign has a different intention. Sometimes it’s earning revenue. Sometimes it’s increasing brand love and brand awareness. You could be launching a new social handle, and growing followers is one of the goals of the campaign. If it’s a digital campaign, having our KPIs in place to measure engagement, shares, follows, conversions (without giving away too much of our secret sauce) are pretty much the basics.
How does Timberland’s online marketing strategy change during the holiday season in Q4?
It doesn’t change as much as it is the way we position our products. I don’t know if you’d call it a recession, but the past few years have definitely been challenging for a lot of reasons. What we do is just keep our focus on what we can offer to consumers: premium boots and clothes, made responsibly.
In uncertain times, consumers flock to brands that they can depend upon. And that’s the added value that a brand like Timberland can offer, because we’ve been around for 50 years.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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