Vans: Skating on Air
Marketing Case Analysis
| MBA 516 | Staton
Statement of Central Issue
In the spring of 2002, the Vans brand had reached monumental success that outpaced most brands within their industry and transformed them into a $350 million business. The rapid growth of the company and increase demand created a need for a new strategy to guide the brand’s future growth plans. Van’s CEO and president, Gary Schoenfeld, felt strongly that the brand was at a crossroads and that, while they were pleased with the current success, they had not yet maxed out their potential. His question was not whether or not growth was needed, but rather how best to drive the next stage of growth. Given the unique brand and culture that the Vans brand embodied, he was interested in figuring out which product categories s to participate in and which distribution channels to be in.
Key Characteristics of the Firm and the Competitive Environment
The Vans brand began as a shoe company in the 1960’s that was geared towards the Southern California surfing and skateboarding culture. The company designed durable and affordable shoes that served an unmet need in a niche market. Being a small, local, grass roots company allowed them great flexibility to experiment with many different designs and patterns in ways that the large traditional shoe companies could not. They focused on incorporating the surf and skate lifestyle into their brand early on and were very much a part of what was seen as a subculture movement during that time. Because of their attention to customers, as well as their affordability and flexibility, Vans instantly became a favorite amongst the skate and surf communities. They had found a niche market and offered a differentiated product offering that the larger shoe manufacturers had not yet penetrated or who lacked the expertise and understanding to compete. Vans had created a loyal following and became as much part of skateboarding culture as skateboarding culture was a part of their brand. Because of this entrenchment and attachment to skateboarding and their other Core Sports, Vans became more than a shoe company by expanding their product mix to include skate parks, competitions, festivals, endorsed athletes, and now even music and film ventures. Vans was able to achieve great success by listening to their customers and spending a great deal of time evaluating their brand personality and market perceptions. Currently, they are experimenting with a few new product offerings including entertainment such as film and music, and footwear lines including sandals and outdoor wear.
The athletic footwear market had become fairly stagnant by 2002, but the market for skateboard shoes was growing rapidly and had become an estimated $800 million market. With the market for skateboard shoes outpacing the overall shoe market, Vans faced increased competition from three distinct groups of competitors. The first group of competitors was the larger companies such as Nike and Adidas who were characterized by their massive marketing and production budgets and brand recognition, but were not finding success in this market because of their mainstream image that clashed with the counterculture of Van’s Core Sports. The second group of competitors was the medium sized companies like Airwalk and Skechers that were trying to compete with Vans in various mass distribution channels but struggled with their brand perceptions. Airwalk for example was disliked for “selling out” to department stores and becoming too mainstream and Skechers was seen as possibly too fashion forward and attracted a mostly female following. The third group of competitors was the smaller skateboard specific brands such as DC and Etnies that competed directly for the loyalty of diehard skateboarders.
Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning of the Firm
The most recent success at Vans stemmed from identifying their key...
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