Shoes, hotels and growing your brand sideways

Jen and I were in Melbourne a couple of weekends back. After a day of pounding the pavement in boots that were definitely form over function, Jen decided that a pair of new (comfortable) boots would be a smart investment.  

I couldn't fault her self-serving logic, but where to start? There's definitely no shortage of shoe shops in Melbourne. Surprisingly, the answer presented itself shortly as we walked passed the Camper store. 

Neither of us have owned a pair of Camper shoes before, but earlier in the year we stayed at the newly opened Casa Camper hotel in Barcelona. At the time I remember us briefly questioning what on earth shoes and hotels had in common, and how and why a relatively niche shoe brand had crossed into the hotel industry. Despite the seemingly odd connection, the hotel was a great experience. And it was this positive association that enticed us off the street to take a look. 

Few men would put shoe shopping for their partner in the 'enjoyable' category, but this was actually pretty close. The staff were friendly and helpful. The range was small yet considered. And they had a pair of boots that were simple yet stylish, well made, and extremely comfortable. The price wasn't cheap, but we were more than happy to pay it because they were exactly what we were looking for.

Oddly, after leaving the store we realised we'd had almost exactly the same experience buying Camper shoes as we had staying at the Casa Camper hotel. 

So, I'm ashamed to admit that despite being in Melbourne, on a weekend, the talk turned to branding. 

Firstly, who buys a pair of Camper shoes? And what do they have in common with the type of person who stays at a Casa Camper hotel?

  • they're fashion conscious (and looking for something different)

  • they're also focussed on comfort and quality

  • they're lifestyle focused

  • they enjoy travel

And what experiences does Camper (the brand) offer to hotel patrons and buyers of Camper shoes?

  • form and function (or beauty and performance to quote the Camper ethos)

  • creativity and a unique alternative

  • comfort and quality

  • lifestyle focus

  • a friendly and personable experience

So, their message matches their market perfectly. And most interestingly, their market and message remains the same across both distinctly different services/products.

Camper could have tried to expand by attracting new markets (businessmen or athletes for example). But this would have been at the expense of diluting their brand values and alienating their existing market.  

They could have added more shoe models. But this would likely have raised manufacturing costs and added too much choice, resulting in lost sales. 

They're not trying to grow by offering more of the same, or more products to more people. They're not trying to be everything to everyone (and in turn being nothing to nobody).  

Instead they've looked at the type of people who already love their brand - their core following who really connect with their unique message. They've identified that these people are fashion conscious but also comfort focused. They're travellers. Then they've identified a gap in another industry (in this case hotels) for these people, and filled the void. Two very different industries but the same market and message. Genius!

So, what's this mean for the rest of us? Maybe we need to approach growth sideways. Rather than thinking about more - what other unique areas can we deliver our existing message to our market in?