Timberland Puts the Rubber to the Road

You might say Timberland has really put the rubber to the road lately — literally and figuratively. The outdoor heritage brand, owned by VF Corp., is innovating across product and marketing in a way that draws customers to its brand while (or perhaps because of) focusing on its mission to do well by doing good.

Hitting the Road with Timberland Tires
In November, Timberland announced a partnership with tire company Omni United to create a more sustainable lifecycle for rubber whereby fewer tires end up in landfills and less virgin rubber gets used in footwear, says Margaret Morey-Reuner, director of strategic partnerships and business development, Timberland. "Timberland Tires represent a new model in tire innovation: a sustainable, tire-to-shoe lifecycle" she says. The tires, made in the United States and positioned at the premium end of the market, are designed and created for superior performance and safety on the road, using a rubber formulation that is appropriate for recycling. At the end of their useful life as tires, they will take on a second life as part of the outsole of a Timberland boot or shoe, rather than ending up in landfills. (You can read about this, and other interesting footwear partnerships, in the April issue of Apparel.)

The use of recycled rubber from Timberland Tires is just the most recent in materials innovation for the company, and goes hand in hand with its goal to reduce the environmental impacts of doing business. In 2013, for example, 70 percent of all Timberland footwear shipped incorporated recycled, organic or renewable materials; the company has also given more than 128 million plastic bottles a new life through the use of recycled PET in its footwear, says Morey-Reuner.

A Journey with Hazel Highway
In other non-traditional marketing approaches for the company, last fall also saw the launch of an interesting social media campaign around its new Hazel Highway Collection, which features four classic Timberland silhouettes inspired by the original leather used in 1979 to build the first Super Boot, an iconic style for the brand.

The campaign tells the story of a journey down I-95, capturing the industrial roots and rustic heritage of the Timberland brand along the way. To get the word out to both its retail customers and end consumers, Timberland created a wide variety of social posts from which its dichotomous retailer base — ranging from outdoor to urban based retailers — could choose, says Cassie Heppner, director of North America wholesale marketing, Timberland. To facilitate the process of sharing assets, Timberland worked with Promoboxx, a brand-to-retail marketing platform that enables its clients to launch online campaigns and share directly with their retail partners.

"We created a range of targeted content for the Hazel Highway campaign, which was made available through Promoboxx's digital marketing platform," says Heppner. "Retailers who access Timberland's content through Promoboxx utilized the share functionality to select and push content out to their social channels. Whether retailers wanted to post images of the boot in an urban or rural setting, focus on the limited availability of the product, or show the detail of its leather, there were plenty of options that met their marketing needs" she said.

Another challenge for the company was reaching new audiences, as well as online followers. To do this, Timberland enabled Promoboxx's Match incentive program. The program rewards retailers for taking action within the platform (sharing the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, etc.) with local mobile ads, says Heppner. These ads, using geotargeting technology, appear on customers' phones and tablets, simultaneously promoting Hazel Highway and the nearby retailer, while driving in-store traffic.

Within less than a month of launching the program, Timberland received more than 1.3 million impressions and a .35 percent click rate, which Heppner reports is well above the industry average of about .25 percent. "We could tell retailers loved the mobile ads," said Heppner, "because when Timberland mentioned the new incentive in their emails to retailers, the email open rate reached 81 percent, blowing out our email open rates for previous campaigns.”

"By launching targeted content, as well as incentivizing retailers to share our campaign via a new local mobile channel, we succeeded not only in appealing to Timberland's broad retailer base, but also in reaching new customers and driving traffic in-store," she concluded.

Editor's Note: Read about all of our 2015 Top Innovators here

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