Harvard Case Study – Vans: Skating on Air
Brief Description: Vans is best known for selling footwear and apparel to skateboarders, surfers, and other alternative sports athletes. In April 2002, Gary Schoenfeld, the CEO, is facing a number of challenges. With respect to footwear, he must decide what to do about two product lines that are struggling–the outdoor line of hiking shoes and the women’s collection. More broadly, Vans is currently embarking on a number of new ventures, some of with which the company has little experience. For example, Vans is in the process of promoting a full-length movie, creating its own record label, and working with video-game developers to develop games based on its sporting events.
Teaching Purpose: Marketing strategies – this case traces the up-and-down history of a niche fashion brand in a market in which consumers are notoriously fickle. In recent years, the CEO appears to have revived the brand; however, it is unclear whether the company is in danger of losing its hardcore customer base as it ventures into the consumer mainstream. Case analysis allows for an examination of how a brand can evolve over time, as well as a discussion of the conflict that can arise when the growth and popularity of a brand affects its perception of authenticity among its most loyal customers requiring significant strategic marketing adjustments over time.
- Examine hostile branding marketing as another form of non-traditional marketing strategy
- Examine and review the myriad effects of the product life cycle concept applied strategically to both product, brand, and industry knowledge
Setting: California; shoes/apparel; $350 million revenues; 1,700 employees; 2003
Preparation & Analysis:
In preparation for for this week’s class discussion go online, research and take down a few notes on a strategic marketing concept called “hostile branding.” Keeping the hostile branding concept in mind, read the Vans case and prepare for a class discussion of the case by completing the following individual assignment.
Individual Assignment: There are a number of challenging issues for discussion in this case. Prepare some possible answers to the following questions:
- What was Van’s competitive advantage during its early days (1960s and 1970s)? What was Van’s value proposition to its customers? How has Van’s value proposition changed over time?
- Based upon the concept of hostile brands studied, what in your mind would be an appropriate growth strategy for Vans based upon the information given in the case keeping in mind:
- Which product categories should Vans participate in?
- What distribution channels?
- What promotional strategies / programs would you recommend in order to sustain growth?
- Is there a growth “ceiling” for this brand or is there no limit to Van’s growth potential?
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