Talk about one of the most successful brands of recent history – in my opinion, the ugly boot brand “UGG” was one of the most brilliantly positioned brands of the last decade. Just recently, I had the chance to visit an outlet center in Palm Springs and was amazed to see these long and never-ending queues outside an UGG store. Unsurprisingly, this is a very familiar picture in most of the UGG stores across the country.
This is indeed a marketer’s dream come true. Consumers waiting for hours to get a glimpse of what you have to offer. UGG does not even heavily advertise or use other traditional media channels, that most brands are wastefully spending millions of dollars on. Therefore, this brand represents an ideal example for marketers who are desperately trying to grab market share by running around like headless chickens, and trying out every possible marketing strategy till they get it right (if ever).
But how did UGG achieve this envious success? I think 3 strategies have played a major role:
1. No pushing or pitching: The brand found its way to the US market through a young Australian surfer Brian Smith in the late 70′s. He promoted this ugly looking sheepskin boots to surfers in California and grabbed their attention with this extremely comfortable all-season boots. The only marketing tool he deployed at the time was “personal selling”. He sold 48 pairs of boots in his first year of business by just talking to those trendsetter surfers. The rest is history. UGG did not pour multi-million dollars into advertising campaigns to promote the brand. They intentionally avoided constant pushing and pitching to the end-user. With the power of personnel selling, its founder created the initial demand and than by all the right pricing and distribution strategies, the brand was successfully positioned as a high quality, high fashion and exclusive footwear in the minds of the consumers.
2. Celebrity Factor: Celebrities played a major role in the brand’s overall success and the WOM it enjoyed. Surfers in California are like local celebrities and the things they wear have influenced numerous fashion trends for so many years. The surfing culture in California, combined with the enormous influential power of the movie and music industries and their stars, make this place a great terrain for igniting any kind of fashion trend. The founder’s decision to come to California and marketing directly to surfers was a very smart decision, which also led to several celebrities picking up the trend and further promoting it.
3. Limited Supply: Exclusive distribution through their own stores which are very limited in number and through few other high-end stores signal the exclusivity of the brand, and reinforces its “hard to obtain” brand image. Consumers feel very privileged to be able to get a pair of UGG boots. Production wise, the number of SKUs manufactured are also tightly controlled and limited to certain quantities. As a result, finding certain styles becomes even more difficult if not impossible for consumers, again strongly contributing to the exclusivity factor.
In my opinion, aforementioned strategies were essential in defining UGG’s current success and will be critical in maintaining their premium and exclusive positioning. Fashion has always been a risky industry to be in because of the rapid changes in tastes and trends. However, so far UGG has been consistent about the quality of its offerings and what the brand stands for in the minds and hearts of the consumers. It is adapting to changing fashion trends by including more fashionable styles into its existing line of products. Also leveraging its strong brand name by launching complementary new product lines such as apparel and slippers, while keeping the brand’s core essence unchanged.