Port shoe firm seeks to broaden appeal with TV campaign

Allen Edmonds launches commercials that features Baker Mayfield, other notables as part of marketing effort that highlights company’s local roots
Ozaukee Press staff

Allen Edmonds has launched its first-ever national TV advertising campaign as part of a larger marketing effort designed to make its high-end men’s dress shoes appeal to younger customers and highlight its long history in Port Washington.    

“We’re featuring real people with large followings wearing real shoes,” Malcolm Robinson, president of the shoe company, said. “We had been advertising to a finite audience and needed to broaden our reach and create more brand awareness in order for our brand to continue to grow.”

The “Real Shoes” storytelling campaign features male business entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, artists and adventurers. The celebrities include Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, artist Logan Maxwell Hagege and singer Nick Hinman of the band Palm Springteen.

There are five commercials that range in length from 30 seconds to one minute. Robinson said the commercials were created in-house.

The first commercial aired on ESPN Sept. 20 when the Browns played the New York Jets. Coincidentally, Mayfield came off the bench to lead his team to a come-from-behind victory.

“Ironically, it happened the same day Baker Mayfield went on the football field. We ran our ads during halftime and we didn’t anticipate he would be playing. We just felt he represented the brand,” Robinson said.

Outside of television, Allen Edmonds has created a multi-faceted advertising campaign with new branding across its platforms including stores, ecommerce, packaging, catalogs, digital advertising and social media.

Robinson said the company wants to attract younger generations to the brand by focusing on the 35 to 44 age range.

“We’re getting younger,” he said, adding that 44% of new business comes from customers younger than 44. “We had to widen our audience because as the audience ages, it falls off once they become fixed income.

“We want young, affluent men who are on their way and can afford better quality shoes within their budget.”

Robinson said consumer data reveals younger customers are buying fewer single-use products and investing in quality items.

 “Their closets are smaller, their houses are smaller,” he said. “They’re spending more money on experiences and they don’t want a lot of disposable stuff filling up their house.”

He said the market for high-quality footwear is growing after the athletic-sneaker culture became popular several years ago.

“Before, we noticed everything was so relaxed that people were flying to business trips in sweatpants and sneakers,” he said. “Now, there is definitely a dress-up thing going on again.”

At the same time as the promotional marketing came out, Allen Edmonds launched its Artisans of Freedom product line. Its theme is inspired by the brand’s American heritage of craftsmen, Robinson said.

Allen Edmonds is collaborating with other brands to offer apparel items, bags and accessories. They include eyewear from Alan J, fabrics from American Woolen, denim from Civilianaire, outerwear from Cockpit USA, bags from Korchmar, shirts from Gitman Bros., suits from Southwick Clothes, watches from Weiss and socks from Wigwam Mills in Sheboygan.

“Long term, we’re looking to open Allen Edmonds stores telling the story about this great American brand and all the collaborations we’re doing,” Robinson said, noting a percentage of sales will go toward scholarships for internships in craftsmanship industries.

“We want to help develop the next generation of American craftsmen,” Robinson said.

Robinson said the promotional plans for Allen Edmonds began when the company was bought by St. Louis-based footwear company Caleres Inc. in December 2016.

Allen Edmonds had been owned by several private-equity firms over the last 20 years. Robinson said that might be why the company never had a TV commercial campaign before.

“Private-equity guys don’t spend a dime on anything that doesn’t have an immediate payback,” he said. “We bought this business to get it out of the short-term mentality and make long-term investments to build it over time. It’s our design to keep it as an American luxury brand.”

The company is also highlighting its roots by including Port Washington on its packaging and branding.

“It’s all about authenticity and authority, and it’s certainly much more authoritative if you tell everyone where you’re specifically from,” Robinson said. “All of our packaging says ‘Allen Edmonds Port Washington.’ Hopefully, it helps with tourism.”

Founded in Belgium in 1922, Allen Edmonds moved its headquarters to 201 E. Seven Hills Rd., Port Washington, after a fire destroyed its original factory.

“It’s been a Wisconsin brand for almost 100 years,” Robinson said. “It’s great that it’s been able to survive all the competitive pressures and grow. It’s a testament to all the generations that have been running it.”

The company has 79 stores, and Robinson plans to update them with new branding in the next few years. This year, six have been renovated.

Robinson said it is too early to tell if the ads have increased sales, but the company is planning to produce more commercials in spring.

“The TV campaign is part of our long-term strategy, and we’re taking a long-term approach to it,” he said. “We’ll do some more iterations for spring that are more seasonally appropriate. You can’t run football ads after the football season.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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