Inside Business: The boot in front is a Land Rover
Sunday 26 May 1996
The car marque synonymous with toughness and durability is about to launch its own range of branded footwear. At first sight it may appear to be a classic case of stretching a brand too far and sceptics may be tempted to ask where the synergy between the two lies.
But David Fulker, the marketing manager, sees no anomaly and believes that the Land Rover brand is elastic enough to stretch into another product area. "The introduction of Land Rover footwear will prove very popular with our vehicle customers as well as providing the general market with an additional quality product," he says.
Land Rover's motives are obvious. It is entering a very lucrative market. Tastes are changing and industrial footwear is advancing at a rate traditionally associated with "designer" trainers. However, Mr Fulker adds that the move also "plays an important part in Land Rover's international brand protection and extension strategy".
The range of footwear will not be produced by Land Rover but under licence by specialist manufacturer Dickies UK, which supplies workwear and footwear to a number of industries. Richard Chilcott, the sales and marketing director of Dickies, says: "The Land Rover brand is instantly recognisable and has an image and a focus. It's tough, durable, rugged and fit for purpose. Those values can be successfully extended to the footwear business."
The footwear goes on sale in selected department stores and country clothing specialists at the end of this month and Land Rover intends to expand into other areas such as outdoor clothing. Mr Fulker explains: "This is the first step of a deliberate strategy for Land Rover to realise full brand potential in the lifestyle arena. We will continue together with our licensing agents, Design Rights International, to look at further opportunities to support and enhance the marque."
By moving into "lifestyle" products, Land Rover is following a route well trodden by Caterpillar. Initially associated with tractors and earthmoving equipment, the brand name now has new parlance, particularly in the youth market where Caterpillar is synonymous with streetwear and is the brand to be seen in.
Caterpillar originally extended the brand from vehicles into workwear, providing boots for the building workers who put up America's cities. However, by 1991, when the brand waslaunched into the UK, it became, like Doctor Martens before it, a fashion item.
Shubhankar Ray, creative director of the Overland Group, which licenses Caterpillar footwear in the UK, says: "The Caterpillar name has a heritage and the product performs on all technical levels - it is comfortable, lightweight and durable." He adds that in the Nineties, the youth market especially wants functional products with "relevance to the real world around them".
To get the message across, Caterpillar is running an advertising campaign in the fashion and style press featuring real building workers wearing the product in a bid to give the brand credibility and emphasise its industrial heritage. Mr Ray says: "It's a very street-oriented brand and we are building Caterpillar as a modern urban myth like Nike is building itself as a sporting myth."
Caterpillar is certainly an urban product, worn more for hanging out on street corners than scaling peaks or yomping across fields.
Land Rover says it will not be positioning itself in the same way or targeting the youth market. The brand will focus on rural rather than urban values and take on Timberland by appealing to more traditional consumers.
Mr Chilcott says: "Footwear provides the best business opportunity to establish the Land Rover brand. This in many respects is on the back of various branded items that have created awareness. This is best demonstrated by Caterpillar, which over a three-year period has created a cult image.
"But one must always be mindful that in doing business this way it will be subject to fashion peaks and troughs. We want to ensure that the Land Rover brand for footwear will become a traditional rather than fashion product."
All that remains now is for the product's consumers to ensure that they are in good enough shape to take on the challenges of the great outdoors with Land Rover - but without the wheels.
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