How Skechers’ digital strategy competes with Nike’s

Skechers was previously known for kids’ sneakers and knock-offs of other brands’ styles, but it is emerging as a dark-horse contender in the footwear category, now close to ranking as the second-most popular brand, according to analysts’ predictions. But as Skechers moves in both lifestyle and athletic directions, it has yet to figure out its dominant brand identity.

To define an updated identity, Skechers digital strategy needs to fit a fitness category in with its traditionally young demographic, using tactics like a present but bare-minimum mobile presence and celebrity YouTube spots. Here’s how it’s playing out.

A no-app approach to mobile
Skechers’ site is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate on a smartphone screen, but that’s where Skechers’ native omnichannel presence ends. The retailer doesn’t have its own app, but according to Ben Kennedy, a digital director at Integer who used to work with Skechers, that’s a good thing. (Skechers declined to comment for the story.)

“What we educate clients on is not letting the technical tail wag the dog,” Kennedy said. “Don’t have an app if you don’t need an app, and Skechers doesn’t need an app.”

Nike, on the other hand, has a full suite of mobile apps, including a mobile sneaker shop called SNKRS and several Nike+ fitness apps, like Nike+ Running and Nike+ Training Club. But for Skechers, which launched its Performance Division line of fitness gear in 2011, the fitness tracker space isn’t appropriate.

“For Skechers to move into that space, I don’t think they have the credibility,” said Kennedy. “It doesn’t align with their audience, and Nike did it first.”

A long list of celebrity sponsors
Skechers knows which celebrities to recruit for its demographic. Back in the day, pop powerhouses Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears wore S-emblazoned sneakers. In 2014, singer and former Disney star Demi Lovato signed on with the brand, and the campaign saw results. Her 30-second YouTube ad for Skechers Sport with Memory Foam has gotten 4.5 million views since December.

In the athletic world, Skechers’ sponsors run the gamut from current stars like elite runner Meb Keflezighi who won the Boston Marathon in 2014, past stars like Joe Namath, and star racehorse California Chrome. These sponsorships lacked the intense fan base represented by Lovato.

Ruth Bernstein, co-founder and chief strategy officer at creative agency Yard (which also doesn’t work with Skechers), said that celebrities “elevate their image-driven relevance across a range of consumer segments.” However, she added that Skechers is lacking a “core idea” that its target audience is drawn to, something that Nike has built consistently over time.

Snackable blog content
Skechers’ blog promotes trends and takes closer looks at the brand’s celebrity endorsements, with content surrounding Lovato’s and Starr’s ad spots. The blog also features “takeovers” by bloggers, which have included men’s and women’s style influencers.

Kennedy pointed out that the brand doesn’t bother delving into the science and technology that goes into its footwear on the blog, in ways that Nike and Adidas do. Rather, content is short, buzzy and easily digestible.

“What aspiration will represent the unifying guiding light for all things ‘Skechers’?” said Bernstein. “This is ultimately critical for building brand equity — owning a distinct and emotional “lane” for the brand, so that digital content, celebrity partnerships and omnichannel experience all reflect a consistent and relevant voice.”

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