Episode 319
September 8, 2023

Consumer Muses & Strategic Innovation

Phillip and Brian, AKA Clarks stan, are joined live at eTail in Boston with the Chief Marketing and Digital Officer at Clarks, Tara McRae, as she shares about what she believes the future of commerce is, what makes innovation truly meaningful, and how a company can stay relevant after 200 years. And before that, the guys review a review of The Multiplayer Brand, complete with a couple of compelling pull quotes.

<iframe height="52px" width="100%" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" seamless src="https://player.simplecast.com/6d78ebb3-37b6-42b6-bb18-4c158db6f5c4?dark=false"></iframe>

Bubbling Up

  • {00:12:46} - “For a brand that's been around for nearly 200 years, we're an extremely diverse brand and we serve a very diverse audience. So for us, that can get scattered if we're not consumer-centric, if we don't have very clear consumer muses and who we're going after and how we reach those consumers.” - Tara
  • {00:17:42} - “What's amazing about our brand is we do pull more than we push within these communities, which is exciting.” - Tara
  • {00:21:50} - “Our number one goal isn't to try to force people to be omnichannel because a lifetime value is higher. It is to deliver the best brand experience that we possibly can, no matter what channel they want to come through, and really service them that way.” - Tara
  • {00:28:57} - “We're really, really focused on how do we strategically embed innovation in everybody's life. It's the same thing I talk about with diversity, equity, and inclusion. You're not going to just give it to a department and go focus on that. It's baked into everybody's job description. That's how I look at innovation.” - Tara
  • {00:32:35} - “You're actually stepping into media and having a moment in a way that doesn't make sense to the millennial. Our shoe moments are in the office or some movie, but their media moments are in Roblox and they're in Fortnite.” - Brian
  • {00:33:53} - “I wonder sometimes if we abandon opportunities or we neglect opportunities that are inherently less measurable because the current crop of talent is so trained on focusing and doubling down on things that are measurable. But the future is not measurable because it doesn't exist yet. We can't quantify it yet.” - Phillip
  • {00:46:39} “You need to be in the market touching and feeling it, chatting with consumers, and seeing trends. So market travel is extremely important to us.” - Tara

Associated Links:

Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on futurecommerce.com, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Tara: [00:00:00] We created an entire Roblox world, a Clarks world called CICAVERSE within Roblox. And we had an experience that tied our in-store, our eCommerce, our social, all of our different channels into this world.

Phillip: [00:01:33] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about the intersection of culture and commerce. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:01:39] I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:40] And T-Mobile is now Odido. Brian, the classic T-Mobile has rebranded at least in some shape or form in some areas of the world, and is now known as Odido. What do you think about that?

Brian: [00:01:57] I mean, both names are not very good. So... T-Mobile.

Phillip: [00:02:05] Odido.

Brian: [00:02:06] Odido.

Phillip: [00:02:07] Well, as you probably have become accustomed to here on Future Commerce, whatever Phillip saw right before we started recording is the subject of the beginning of the show. But unlike other storied brands, we do have a conversation a little bit later here with the CMDO, the Chief Marketing and Digital Officer of Clarks. So Tara will be joining us here in just a little bit and really excited.

Brian: [00:02:33] Going to be fun.

Phillip: [00:02:34] Yeah, Brian's a super fan. You'll hear it. He gets to be the superfan with Clarks.

Brian: [00:02:41] I've got my desert boots right here.

Phillip: [00:02:43] Brian's got him right there in front of him if you're watching on the YouTube feed. In the meantime, I do want to give a little bit of a shout-out. We haven't talked about it on the show yet, but The Multiplayer Brand by Future Commerce, our new zine, and a couple of things have happened in the last few weeks. If you haven't picked up your copy yet, you can do so at TheMultiplayerBrand.com for just $20 and that's free shipping and Continental 48. A bunch of things have happened. An amazing long-form review dropped from a very interesting...

Brian: [00:03:19] Just dropped.

Phillip: [00:03:19] Just dropped from HireFireTeam. And so FireTeam of course does a lot of meme account type of activity and agency that does work in the creator space with performance marketing. But Jess gave us a really critical review, Brian, of The Multiplayer Brand zine.

Brian: [00:03:36] Critical is a subjective word, I think. {laughter} But what I love about what Jess said is that he only understood about 30% of what we had to say, and he was kind of okay with that. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:03:50] Well, he said, you should buy it anyway.

Brian: [00:03:51] He said absolutely buy it.

Phillip: [00:03:53] Only understood 30%, but you should buy it anyway. I think what's really interesting to read and we'll link up this review, this very very long-form review of our zine in the show notes. What I was really impressed with was Jess, despite sort of couching the like "Oh this is a little too heavy. Oh the ideas are too big. Oh they're too ambitious for 70 some pages. Oh, I paid $20 for a 70 page book." What came through was that Jess really understood the content in that Jess wrote a critical piece about our piece about critique.

Brian: [00:04:38] I loved it. I loved it. He was participating in the very ideas that we outlined in the book, and that shows that he probably understood more than 30% of it. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:04:50] I'll share a couple pull quotes from it. "Every page feels like the tail end of some deep conversation that Phillip had with his team that would have been mind blowing if only you had been there. It's like being engrossed in the third act of Blade Runner 2049, and then somebody walks into the room with a "Whatcha watching?" No matter what words come out of your mouth, they're not going to get it. And neither did I for 70% of this book. I wish Phillip had taken me on the journey, brought me into the conversations, and made the critique feel participatory. It's not that I couldn't get it. I didn't want to put in the work. I don't open a 70 page book in a 92 point font to put in effort," which I think is all fair. And by the way, I freaking love this so much.

Brian: [00:05:37] Yeah. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:05:39] It wasn't all sour grapes, though.

Brian: [00:05:41] Zines ladies and gentlemen. I mean, we are inspiring...

Phillip: [00:05:48] Brian, I'm teeing you up to go off. I'm ready for your go off.

Brian: [00:05:49] Oh, no.

Phillip: [00:05:50] This is your opportunity.

Brian: [00:05:51] No, I'm not going to go off. I never go off. You know me. I think it's just that we were inspired. We're basically Marshall McLuhan-ites. And so if you feel the same way when you read The Medium is the Massage, then I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised by that.

Phillip: [00:06:12] Sorry, so to say it a different way, there's a lineage with this format.

Brian: [00:06:16] There may be a little bit a little bit of a lineage.

Phillip: [00:06:18] If you're not familiar with it, then you may be a little taken aback. That's all right. We can take some lumps.

Brian: [00:06:24] If you've read The Medium is the Massage and you felt the same way, then I'm not surprised by you feeling the way that you feel when you read our zine. That's what I'm saying.

Phillip: [00:06:33] At any rate, there were a few really killer conversations that came out of this. Jess did go on to say it wasn't all sour grapes.

Brian: [00:06:44] Thank you, Jess, for writing a review of our book.

Phillip: [00:06:50] Yeah. And I would thank Jess even further for this line. "Why would I recommend this book to everyone? Because directionally it's what the industry solely needs." He says, "Phillip," but what he means is Future Commerce. "Future Commerce has discovered that eCommerce has a soul, and those with souls are capable of being soulful. There are few other true thinkers in the space,"  and he namechecks Taylor Holiday from CTC or Common Thread Collective. Taylor being one of them. "But where the soul that Taylor found can be plotted and mapped, the soul that Future Commerce found can be sung and danced. And in an industry that is fundamentally creative and often soulless, the potential value for this level of introspective can be transformative." Looks like Jess also has a very large vocabulary, something that we got critiqued for as well. I do want to tag something on the back end.

Brian: [00:07:41] If you do want to learn more about the soul of commerce, we have a book for that. It's called Archetypes.

Phillip: [00:07:46] It's a different book. This one's more expensive. Jess is going to be very impressed. Not a single 92 point font and that 240 page book.

Brian: [00:07:53] And plenty of journey to go down there.

Phillip: [00:07:58] Brian was showing it off on the camera. Go to YouTube. YouTube.com/FutureCommerceMedia. A lot of folks kind of weighed in and shared this with me in the DMs. Didn't want to get into an argument with Jess over it, although a couple people sort of came to the defense. I understood what Jess was doing, but my favorite comment was a long-time subscriber, Gold Tetsola. I don't want to pile on to Gold here because I think Gold had a really fun point here, but basically said, "You've articulated the thoughts I've always had about Future Commerce. While they do great work, they come off as very high brow to the point where it's often alienating, sometimes even borderline pretentious." And I'm like, "Ses Moi?" Even Miss Piggy spoke French. I would say, hey, if I can come off as alienating and borderline pretentious, not bad for a kid who was homeschooled for five years. I'll take it and put it as my Twitter bio. I don't mind the label.

Brian: [00:08:57] And I won't even get into my homeschooled history.

Phillip: [00:09:01] We've come a long way, baby. Anyway, long story short, I think we are touching a nerve and it's resonating. I think some people are taking notice. I really appreciate folks diving in. If you want to know what all the hubbub is about and why we got a two star rating, that is a must buy for everybody in the eCommerce, you should check it out. TheMultiplayerBrand.com. And I'd love your critique. It doesn't have to be a 1500 word review. Any feedback that you have would be wonderful. We're working on a piece. We're going to aggregate some of that and continue the conversation. TheMultiplayerBrand.com. $20 from Future Commerce.

Brian: [00:09:37] Speaking of people who understood 100% of The Multiplayer Brand, the conversation we are about to embark on, I think was with someone who I feel like understood The Multiplayer Brand before we did, probably. It was such a fun conversation. Tara from Clarks is an incredible leader and incredible thinker, and I was totally a fan as I was sitting there talking with her.

Phillip: [00:10:08] You're fangirling right now. Just setting it up. All right. Well, you're going to get a lot of Brian fangirling in the next 25, 30 minutes. So without any further ado, we're going to go to our conversation that we had live at eTail in Boston just a week ago with the Chief Marketing and Digital Officer at Clarks, Tara McRae, as she tells us about what she believes the future of commerce is.

Brian: [00:10:42] Today we are live at eTail Boston. So excited to be here. Thank you so much, the eTail Group, for having us be a part of this show. We love the eTail events. We've been doing them for years and years and we're going to continue to do them maybe into infinity.

Phillip: [00:10:59] Maybe eighth time at this event?

Brian: [00:11:00] Something like that.

Phillip: [00:11:01] So I think this thing is older than my eldest child.

Brian: [00:11:05] It probably is. And I'm here for it. Speaking of things that have been around forever...

Phillip: [00:11:11] It's very true. This is so personal for you, by the way.

Brian: [00:11:14] Very personal. For as long as you've known me, Phillip, what shoe brand have I been most into?

Phillip: [00:11:22] Tevas. No. Clarks

Brian: [00:11:22] Clarks. Clarks. Today we have the CMDO of Clarks with us. Tara McRae, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Tara: [00:11:31] Thank you guys for having me. And I love, love, love that you are such a huge fan. You have a deep, deep passion for it. And word on the street is you're a desert boot guy.

Brian: [00:11:39] I am a desert boot guy. I've been through at least 3 or 4 pairs of desert boots.

Phillip: [00:11:44] Oh, awesome. Awesome.

Brian: [00:11:45] And I think I've got two at home right now.

Tara: [00:11:48] Excellent, Excellent. We'll get you some Wallabees, so you can also be a Wallabee {laughter} guy.

Brian: [00:11:51] I've come so close to buying them every time I'm like, "Can I pull these off?"

Tara: [00:11:55] We'll get you there. We'll get you there. Yeah. So you can pull them off for sure.

Brian: [00:11:58] Awesome. I am excited. I've always wanted to be a Wallabee guy and I guess I am. That's great. Well, thank you so much for being here and doing this with us as a total stan I'm geeking out, but I would love to talk to you about and I think just in the pre-show here, our minds have been just blown away by you, the storied history that you have. But also, the way that you have been incorporating your customer into the central identity of Clarks in the recent movement that you've been making, the collabs you've done, the way that you're building out the brand right now, it seems like the customer is actually having a big voice in that. Talk to us a little bit about it.

Tara: [00:12:44] Yeah, huge. And I think for a brand that's been around for nearly 200 years, we're an extremely diverse brand and we serve a very, very, very diverse audience. So for us, that can get scattered if we're not consumer-centric, if we don't have very, very clear consumer muses and who we're going after and how we reach those consumers. So over the past handful of years, we've done an insane amount of research on the consumer: market sizing, market intelligence, feeding that in. And we've truly, for the first time that I've been at the brand, truly become consumer-centric. And the consumer absolutely has a voice in it. And the great thing is we have many passionate consumers like yourself, so they're very, very vocal and we listen to them for sure. We absolutely listen to them, which is really exciting.

Brian: [00:13:31] It's so exciting. It reminds me of a trend that we recently released in our Visions report that we do every year. And this year it was so much more than a report. It was a whole transmedia experience with digital and print and all of the above. And one of those things that we cover in the zine that we released for this idea of The Multiplayer Brand where brands now have to contend with the power and the voice of the customer has now and the collective voices of their customers as they come together. And it's almost this Foucaultian sort of power dynamic between the brand and the customers themselves. And the discourse is what sort of drives that. And it sounds to me like discourse is the thing that you're wide open to both fostering and learning from and being a part of.

Tara: [00:14:26] Yeah, absolutely. It's funny you say that. We talk a lot about when I first started in marketing, it was one-way dialog. That's what you did. You built creative campaigns, storytelling, and exciting, and you pushed it out. You bought a media plan, you pushed it out to the consumer. And if things sold, great. Now instant, instantaneous and you get the feedback, to your point, and you get it loud and you get it in group as well. So for me, I love that because you can get instantaneous, you can optimize throughout the journey, but it's really exciting that the consumer has such a voice in it. And I will say, yes, of course, there are times that you see things bubbling up, but for us we've used it in a powerful way to help us create and to look at things differently. In the pre-show, I was talking to you about trends as well. We started including a second pair of laces on our shoes and we had them tied in there with the intent of if you wanted to swap out the laces and next thing you know, we see all over social that people are wearing them as a style hanging from the shoe. And it was like, this is a cool trend. So we leaned into that.

Brian: [00:15:31] Right. You didn't even plan for that.

Tara: [00:15:32] No, absolutely not.

Brian: [00:15:34] That's so cool.

Tara: [00:15:34] Yeah. And trends. And I think what's amazing about our brand is it lends itself to be created and customized by the consumer. They make it their own, which is really exciting for us.

Phillip: [00:15:44] Products are a canvas now and I can't believe the types of brands that understand this. And it's very often these generational brands that have become cultural brands, because not only have they endured every market cycle, every trend that's ever existed, they're usually not the trend-heavy "it" thing. It's usually a product that is beloved, but not something that people... They're not all Brian Lange, right? They're not something that people tend to think of as being creators of culture. But you are creators of culture.

Tara: [00:16:26] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:16:26] Talk to us a little bit about first of all, your role and how you bring that perspective into the brand and how their history informs you and what you're learning here at your stage in your career.

Tara: [00:16:39] Yeah. And I think you nailed the Clarks brand. I mean, you're not around for 200 years without just being culturally relevant. And I'm very, very comfortable being a little bit behind the scenes as a brand. And what's been interesting about the brand is it's really been all of these subcultures that have made the brand what it is. If you think about an icon like the Wallabee and how that really, really, really started to bubble up, especially in the 80s and 90s through hip hop culture in New York, that all stemmed from Jamaica, which has been a massive, massive fan. And the brand bubbled up there. And then there were major artists that were traveling there and brought that culture into New York. They made it. We didn't say, "Hey, let's take the Wallabee, Let's go down to Jamaica. Let's go target music and let's go target hip hop and rap culture and music culture and stylize within streetwear." They adopted it and they made that the shoe. And I think that's what's amazing about our brand is we do pull more than we push within these communities, which is exciting. And then how my role at Clarks relates to everything. So Chief Marketing and Digital Officer, so I oversee everything brand and marketing, creative-wise, globally all the way through our digital commerce. In today's day and age, it really is one cycle. So rather than creating on one side from a marketing and lobbing it over the fence to the commercial team, that then connects with the consumer, we pull the whole strategy from end to end the consumer journey altogether.

Phillip: [00:18:16] And because the consumer doesn't think of anything like a journey, they're the main character. They're living their life.

Tara: [00:18:22] They are.

Phillip: [00:18:23] And what you just said is the duality of what we often talk about is that, well, brands also think they're the main character and customers are characters in their journey. And I think that there's a truth that sits somewhere between the two because brands need customers, and customer needs brand.

Tara: [00:18:42] Yup.

Phillip: [00:18:42] When you're thinking about this role of digital, let's talk a little bit about how you have this unfair advantage of a lot of physical retail, right?

Tara: [00:18:53] Yep, we do.

Phillip: [00:18:54] And so having physical retail gives you this really close connection with your customer. Is that a very different customer to the digital customer? And how are you contending with the fact that the digital customer could be anywhere, doing anything at any time without your ability to really control their environment and their context in the way that you might do in a physical retail store?

Tara: [00:19:15] Yeah. That's a great question. We do have a large percentage of crossover. So multi-channel shoppers, which is great. Multi-channel in our own brick and mortar, our own eCommerce, but also wholesale. So we have amazing wholesale partners all over the world as well. So we know that we have a core group of consumers that love the brand product, trust it, believe in the quality, and everything, and they shop multiple. But then there are segments that are exclusive to the brick-and-mortar channel or the eCommerce channel. And we have a lot of different initiatives that that pull that in. But I think a lot of the technologies that we're putting into the business that we haven't had for many years, we're investing heavily in digital and heavily actually in the store experience too because we can't let that get stale. It's all about it's really theater to sell shoes, which is exciting. So we're pulling all of that together and making major investments. I think we'll have within 18 months we'll have a much, much better view on the consumers and how we pull all the consumers together. But we've been flying blind in some areas over the past handful of years and really understanding the consumer. So it's exciting for us to really have a lot of that data coming into the business.

Phillip: [00:20:25] So I want to pull these two ideas together because often the way that we think about eCommerce is sort of apocryphal. We tell a story in reverse to what actually happened, and I think often we think to ourselves we can train our best digital customer to go in-store and become omni or vice versa. While that might be a goal that a brand has, I would love your perspective on whether you feel like you can train all customers to be like your VIPs or if that's something that's ultimately up to the customer to decide, and you have to just be ready for it when it happens.

Tara: [00:21:05] Yeah, I mean, the philosophy that we take is to ensure that wherever that consumer wants to buy, they have the best brand experience. We're not there yet at all, but we have consumers, the younger consumers, who want to buy through social. That's how they want to buy. And we want to make sure that that journey is seamless. We have consumers that only want to buy through eCommerce, and we have consumers that want to sit and get fit. So they want the sit-and-fit experience in the store. I'm not going to force any of these people to try to be omnichannel if that's what they want. I want to deliver the best experience. Once they're in your ecosphere, then you can potentially bring them into other channels and obviously their higher lifetime value, which is really exciting. But for us, our number one goal isn't to try to force people to be omnichannel because a lifetime value is higher. It is to deliver the best brand experience that we possibly can, no matter what channel they want to come through, and really service them that way.

Brian: [00:23:02] I think it's essential because we've been talking about this the past couple of days. The real focus, I think, and benefit of giving the best possible customer experience, no matter what channel you land in, is that that first experience is going to change the whole trajectory.

Tara: [00:23:26] 100%. First impression.

Brian: [00:23:28] Right. Right. And we were just talking with Mandi Moshay, who's the Director of eCommerce over at Honeylove. She was telling us teaching us about how the most likely next purchase that a customer makes is the very same product they bought the first time.

Phillip: [00:23:47] Brian, you are that person.

Brian: [00:23:48] 100%.

Tara: [00:23:49] For years.

Brian: [00:23:50] I am that person.

Phillip: [00:23:51] Yeah.

Tara: [00:23:52] Absolutely.

Phillip: [00:23:52] Someone's like actually having to threaten to gift something to you to make you change your behavior.

Tara: [00:23:57] And the word of mouth is huge.

Brian: [00:23:59] That's where I was headed.

Tara: [00:24:00] The word of mouth, and in a prior brand that I worked at was that was it. It was word of mouth that really more than anything else. Nowadays, word of mouth is social because everybody shares maybe a little too much sometimes online, but that is enormous. So somebody like you, you have a great experience. Or on the flip side, you have a bad experience that's ten times worse. We don't want that at all. So 100% agree.

Brian: [00:24:24] Totally. And then when you go share that referral to get back to the earlier part of the conversation, what you're actually doing is sharing your reality of Clarks with someone else and sort of imparting that worldview to them of the brand. And so what you're actually doing is expanding that sort of viewpoint. My view of Clarks is not the same as Phillip's view of Clarks, but if I share my view of Clarks with him, it might actually get a little closer together. And what you start to see is people build these little pockets like you were talking about as they refer. And that starts with the first purchase.

Tara: [00:24:59] Yes, I agree.

Phillip: [00:25:00] Can we shift gears a bit? You're here at eTail. Let's talk a bit about your talk, your session, your perspective, and what is it that you're sort of on the stump about right now and how Clarks can help other brands to learn from and do digital better. I'm assuming it's digital is what we're talking about.

Tara: [00:25:23] So my talk this morning was about innovation. And a lot of people think about innovation as this big, lofty word that you spend millions and millions and millions of pounds or millions of dollars on. And there's a group called the Innovation Group, and they do everything. And my whole talk was about we don't have a separate innovation group. Innovation is baked into our approach and we approach innovation in three different buckets. So there's innovation at its core which is creating something new, a new idea, a process improvement. Really doing something differently. And we have small innovation, which everybody does baked into day to day. And that to me isn't a budgetary thing that is looking at something and how do you make it better? So paid social was mediocre. We didn't want paid social to be mediocre. What can we do to make it better? We looked at it and we swapped up our total creative approach to paid social and the customization and personalization aspect. That was great. So that was an example. Then we look at mid-size innovation, and that is typically calculated risks, doing something pretty big differently. And the example that I used was in the UK, we have a sizable kids business, we have great market share over there and every year we were doing a great back to school line and then we do a creative campaign and then we'd have a media buy and it was formulaic and the direction of the business for back to school wasn't going in the direction we wanted it to. So we knew we needed to do something differently. We needed to change it up, not tweak it, but change it up. So we took a calculated risk and we did all of this consumer research and insight, understanding how consumers are interacting with brands and whatnot. And through that, Roblox is something that kept bubbling up with the kids. And I have two young kids at home, so, you know, research party of two. Roblox was the the hot topic of conversation especially in a post-pandemic world. And so I networked, got hooked up with an agency that actually knew what they were doing in Roblox because we didn't, met with them and we created an entire Roblox world, a Clarks world called CICAVERSE within Roblox. And we had an experience that tied our in-store, our eCommerce, our social, and all of our different channels into this world. We had some of our consumers integrated into the development of it, which is exciting and some of our influencers, and that was a major change. So that became the creative campaign as well as the media buy per se, and we found great success. We're back for year two within that, but that was a calculated risk. That was innovation, big innovation. And then I look at huge innovation, which tends to be a multi year roadmap, major, major, major CapEx investment. You're talking about board approval and change management in the org and doing things totally differently. And for us right now, that is we're doing a total replatform of our eCommerce platform, which we haven't done in many, many, too many years. We're doing all of our POS in-store POS so that there can be that connection, which as you know we have many stores. So that's a huge undertaking. So all of our technology that we engage with the consumer today will be completely new and innovative technology moving forward. That's major and you do 1 or 2 of those, maybe three a year, if you've got 20 major innovations investment there, I don't think that they're going to be successful. So for us, that's how we look at innovation. And I know and we don't have the luxury of saying, "Hey, here's our overall budget, let's put 20% aside, and let's just go and do some crazy innovative ideas and see what happens." We don't have that luxury. So we're really, really focused on how do we strategically embed innovation in everybody's life. It's the same thing I talk about with diversity, equity, and inclusion. You're not going to just give it to a department and go focus on that. It's baked into everybody's job description. That's how I look at innovation.

Phillip: [00:29:14] Oh, so, so much to unpack there. We have I often look at other, I look outside of commerce to understand how ideas permeate a culture. And one thing that has blown my mind is watching my elementary-age children a few years ago and they're both in middle school now, but in third grade in Florida public schools, of all places, they get media literacy training starting in third grade. And part of that curricula is focused on being able to spot misleading clickbait headlines, being able to spot sensational sort of stories, being able to level critique as to the motive of what the intent of the author may want to you to feel and why they may want you to feel that way. And this kind of education changes not what is happening in our culture right now, it's changing what will happen in our culture 20 years from now. So we're future-proofing another generation that will be armed with a better understanding of the world we live in and equipped to deal with it. Hopefully, even if we live in Florida and I mean, Palm Beach is its own little weird place. But anyway, that's a whole other separate conversation. What you are doing and what many others are doing in the brand space by playing, we won't say the M word, but playing in these digital spaces where children are already congregating, is you're future-proofing your already future-proofed brand for 200 years. The how they perceive your brand in a new channel and you're also making the investment right now to how your current customers perceive your brand in those channels too. You have to do both.

Tara: [00:31:10] Yes. That is exactly yet another reason why we've done stuff like Roblox. 100%. And connecting with the kids and becoming culturally relevant. To your point, my young kids as well, especially during the pandemic, Roblox became their everything.

Phillip: [00:31:27] That's right.

Tara: [00:31:27] That was their playdates because you couldn't get in person. That was their social media. That was their gaming time. That was their entertainment. That was their everything.

Phillip: [00:31:35] It's their first commerce experience.

Tara: [00:31:36] So they don't I mean, and if you have young kids as well you know, they don't communicate through traditional channels like we do. You know, they use platforms like Roblox and obviously Snapchat and stuff like that. That's how they communicate to each other. Like texting to them is archaic. Email, I think my daughter who is 12, going on 13 checks her email like every three months.

Phillip: [00:32:00] For school.

Tara: [00:32:00] For school absolutely right. That's not something that's... So you know building the brand and baking the brand into these relevant channels absolutely. It's their everything.

Brian: [00:32:11] Yeah, media is YouTube and it's shorts. It's TikTok, it's whatever you let your kids use.

Phillip: [00:32:20] They're watching like gaming content on those platforms.

Brian: [00:32:23] They are watching gaming content.

Tara: [00:32:25] That's exactly what my son is doing.

Brian: [00:32:26] Totally. So their media moments are different than millennial media moments. So I think about different shoe moments...

Tara: [00:32:33] So different.

Brian: [00:32:34] And what you're doing is you're actually stepping into media and having a moment in a way that doesn't make sense to the millennial. Our shoe moments are in the office or some movie, but their media moments are in Roblox and they're in Fortnite.

Tara: [00:32:53] Absolutely. Yeah. And I think too is what I love about this is it's such a creation space as well. Like all of these places, it's all about creation. Whether you talk about TikTok, which is about creation and entertainment. Roblox, and obviously the gaming aspect of it as well, but creation and entertainment. So it's a completely different form of connecting with the consumer through marketing channels, which is so exciting because when I first started out in marketing, I don't want to age myself, but 20 years ago there were just clear marketing channels and you built campaigns and you put the funnel through those marketing channels. Now there's so much. It's so exciting. I mean, the pace of change and innovation that's happening in our industry is crazy. The hardest part is weeding through all of it.

Phillip: [00:33:38] Is that just your intuition? Everyone wants to say you've got a D in your title. So data is a thing everyone cares about.

Brian: [00:33:47] It's Digital, not Data.

Phillip: [00:33:48] I know that. But you can't have digital without data.

Tara: [00:33:51] That's true.

Phillip: [00:33:52] I wonder sometimes if we abandon opportunities or we neglect opportunities that are inherently less measurable because the current crop of talent is so trained on focusing and doubling down on things that are measurable. But the future is not measurable because it doesn't exist yet. We can't quantify it yet. So I'd love to think a little bit about how that duality of the intuition.

Brian: [00:34:20] I want to add on to that a little bit too. I think that inherently skews us towards digital thinking because my kids were introduced to Clarks by me. And that's not something that anyone anywhere has ever tracked.

Tara: [00:34:34] Is that cool for them?

Brian: [00:34:35] Yeah, they think...

Speaker4: [00:34:36] Are they at the age where they think that's good, that's great?

Brian: [00:34:39] Yeah, I have four kids.

Phillip: [00:34:40] He's a rad dad.

Brian: [00:34:41] So back to Phillip's question, but I did want to end that with like, I think what that skewing is towards is digital.

Tara: [00:34:48] Yeah, well, I think too the digital channels by which we're connecting with the consumer are highly, highly measurable. So as you talked about.

Phillip: [00:35:01] For now.

Tara: [00:35:01] Well yeah, exactly right. Exactly right. Whether it's email or social, all of those things is great. And not to go back to the old funnel conversation, but that is lower down the funnel. What's making the brand relevant that people are thinking about, "Oh, I should look at the Clarks brand?" And a lot of those things are not extremely measurable. And that's where I think that whole brand approach and reinventing the brand. So for example, if we partner with an ambassador or a celebrity or somebody that's not instantaneously like, "Oh, we did this program, we sold X amount of shoes," that correlation is really, really hard. But over time, over time, you can see that your brand relevance... Because we do a lot of like brand barometer studies and all of that. So we'll look at different metrics that we know that you can't instantaneously measure that to see that impact. And some of that, yes, I'm a huge, huge fan of data and insights and market intelligence. So all of that. But some of it is knowing culture, is being a consumer yourself, is networking. I am a huge consumer. I do spend too much money online and in-store and other brands. I love brands, I love fashion, I love all of that. So it's just being in the industry too, and seeing what others are doing and how consumers are reacting to it.

Phillip: [00:36:56] Are you allowed to talk publicly about your December event or is that a thing that you don't talk about publicly?

Tara: [00:37:51] We can talk about it, yeah. Yeah. We haven't introduced a lot of the detail on it, but...

Phillip: [00:37:54] No, that's okay because we'll be down there too. So we have hundreds of people that come to our events at these cultural events like an Art Basel. And obviously, we did Archetypes last year. This year... You said the word. This year we're talking about Muses. And so I'd love to... You kind of wove that into some of your speech earlier. I'd love to hear a little bit about maybe with that as the context, what are you doing at Art Basel? How do you think about making investments like that? And how do you turn those into moments for the brand? And then sort of get legs out of it too, because that's something that a lot of our listeners are trying to do for themselves right now. And I'd really love to hear that from you.

Tara: [00:38:36] Yeah, I think for us, Art Basel is so exciting and I talked a lot about the fact that our brand and our shoes are canvases for people to create, whether it's how they style their outfit or if they physically adapt the shoes and create different things. We've had so many amazing partners that we've worked with and people that we haven't worked with that have come forth with brilliant designs and customization of our product. So this year at Art Basel, we're going to be pulling that world together at Art Basel. I mean, as somebody you guys know because you're down there and you experience down there, there's nowhere better than I've experienced to pull in such amazing creativity. And it's not people think about Art Basel, oh, that must be for artists in that world. No, I mean, some of the most amazing brands from all around the world come there because it's all about creation and storytelling and theater and some of the best creative minds in one place. So it doesn't matter what industry you're in, you can benefit from that. So yeah, we're bringing... I won't get into too much detail quite yet, but we're bringing this world of customization and bringing that to life at Art Basel. We did a program there last year and it was a lot more successful than we actually thought it was going to be. We knew we would find success, but it far exceeded our expectations, and everybody that we were partnering with and everybody we knew was down there because they wanted to be inspired as well.

Phillip: [00:40:00] And I think that it really is about that. When you make that sort of an investment because it's a lot of investment. It's a distraction for someone. The team has to work on it. You have to bring it to life.

Tara: [00:40:13] It's not easy.

Phillip: [00:40:14] It's not enough to just put on the event. We've also learned you have to capture the event so it can be shared somewhere.

Tara: [00:40:20] Sure do.

Phillip: [00:40:20] Events are great.

Tara: [00:40:21] Sure do.

Phillip: [00:40:22] Earned media is also great too.

Tara: [00:40:25] Oh yeah. There it goes from a couple hundred people to a couple of million people.

Phillip: [00:40:28] That's right.

Tara: [00:40:29] Yeah, totally.

Phillip: [00:40:29] So how do you get legs out of something like that? Where does the activation at Basel wind up after it's all said and done? What do you learn from it and how do you get legs out of it?

Tara: [00:40:41] There are many different ways that we benefit from something like an activation at Art Basel. So we'll bring in influencers and press to experience what we're doing, which then that's where you go from a couple hundred people that can experience something awesome to millions of people. A lot of our wholesale partners, like some of the best, coolest sneaker and shoe boutiques in the world are there because it's all about the creation and the fashion influence there. So we'll partner with them while we're down there as well, which is fantastic for the brand. And then the consumer. We talk a lot about industry people, but consumers love Art Basel, and for us, that's showing our brand in such a unique environment to these massively influential consumers that are out there. So yeah, so we take typically any event that we do to your point, we'll capture, we'll get the right people there that will then vocalize their experience with the brand and what they experience there as well. So to get eyeballs on it, to help evolve that perception, and to become culturally relevant as a brand. So I'm a big fan of events, and experiential things. It's like the store environment. Yes, marketing and digital officer. So everybody thinks it's like I'm all about digital. I care just as much, if not more, about the physical, in-person, in-store event experience as well, because they're so meaningful.

Phillip: [00:42:09] I just want to keep beating this for a second. We typically stay out of tactics, but are there things that you employ that sort of take that moment and repurpose it for other campaigns or put it into or use it for voice of customer, guide, product feedback, or marketing. Give us a little bit about the does it drive paid acquisition in the future. I just want to hear a little bit about some of those.

Tara: [00:42:35] It could. Definitely it could. A lot of the times we'll use these major events and activations to launch something new, so we'll use it as a launch pad. So if there's a collaboration or a new shoe technology. We just brought on a guest creative director. Martine Rose. Unbelievable, unbelievable woman out of the UK. And so we'll use one of these event activations to launch stories like that. So for us it is about that. It's also do we get consumer feedback? Absolutely. Because a lot of these activations obviously are shoes are front and center. So we'll get a lot of that feedback too. But then our wholesale partners as well, who are the voice and the representation of the consumer are extremely vocal too.

Brian: [00:43:20] It's so interesting too. It's such a specific type of consumer that's there, and it's the one that's ready to absorb something new like that. And I think about how this flows down all the way down to your old website you still have that you're replacing.

Tara: [00:43:37] Yes. The new one is coming soon.

Brian: [00:43:37] The impact that has on what ends up sort of being on there, the nuts and bolts and the basics of just selling to the broad market, what happens at Art Basel has a downstream impact that hits people.

Phillip: [00:43:59] All culture works that way.

Brian: [00:44:02] I know I realize I'm just talking about the Devil Wears Prada scene. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:44:07] It's cerulean, Brian.

Brian: [00:44:08] Yeah, exactly. But it's just incredible to me. Do you have any insight into how some of those initial, bleeding edge-type moments end up working their way into the average every day?

Phillip: [00:44:25] To the outlet. How long does it take?

Tara: [00:44:27] Yeah exactly. Yeah. I mean I think some of them are instantaneous, but I think some of them take a long time. And how I see it even benefiting the consumer even more is the impact that it has on the internal team. So somebody like Martine Rose, who is I wouldn't say on the cutting edge, she's developing the fashion trends. Amazing. Her working with our internal team, who's creating all of the other shoes that are out there, her influence on that flows all the way through to the consumer as well. So yes, there's the instant benefit to the consumer with somebody like Martine Rose and her vision and what she's creating with the Clarks brand to the consumer, which is influential, but then how it trickles down throughout our organization and then comes out in other different forms. That to me is one of the most exciting parts.

Brian: [00:45:16] Do you find that that's speeding up that whole cycle?

Tara: [00:45:18] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So much faster. Even like trends, I mean, which used to take years to get down. Trends happen so much faster these days.

Phillip: [00:45:29] And I am so thankful for your time. This has been really awesome.

Tara: [00:45:34] Oh thank you guys. This has been fun for sure.

Phillip: [00:45:36] When you're thinking about trend cycles are compressing, how do you stay in front of it? What do you do to stay in front of that? Because you can certainly miss I mean, anyone could miss. Yeah. What does your foresight team look like?

Tara: [00:45:52] I mean, there's the D word, the data, the insights, all of that. Great. Check. We definitely look at all of that. Networking. I talked about that on the main stage today. I have so many friends at so many other brands where I didn't used to. Now, I mean, the competitive brands, we all connect and share information to see what's happening. But we as a team being within the fashion sphere, within footwear, we're shopping markets. We look at our global teams all around the world to bubble up those trends that they're seeing in market because one could be happening in Tokyo, Japan. So we start to see a trend bubbling up which then could infiltrate throughout the rest. So we're looking at those constantly. Traveling, seeing things in person because there's only so much that can come through in data and in a report. You need to be in the market touching and feeling it, chatting with consumers, and seeing trends. So market travel is extremely important to us.

Brian: [00:46:47] I think that's so true. It's really hard to see passion through digital sometimes. And being in person completely changes... It changes everything. You can see who actually cares and who's just doing things for show. That's important.

Tara: [00:47:02] Yeah, I agree.

Phillip: [00:47:04] What an amazing conversation. I know we were kind of all over the place, but you can tell how much we really love this type of thought because we're so inspired by brands like you. I know Brian in particular.

Tara: [00:47:19] {laughter} I love that.

Brian: [00:47:20] I'm like losing my mind right now.

Phillip: [00:47:21] He's loving this right now. Yeah.

Tara: [00:47:24] I'm going to make you a Wallabee guy.

Brian: [00:47:25] Yeah. All right. I'm in.

Phillip: [00:47:26] You have been very generous with your time. Thank you so much.

Tara: [00:47:28] No, thank you, guys.

Phillip: [00:47:29] And we hope to we'll continue to bring content from eTail here and hope to see you at Art Basel.

Tara: [00:47:36] Thank you.

Recent episodes

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.