Clarks is making sweet Originals music

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Clarks is a retailer that I associate with back to school shoes and my dad – but thanks to some great fashion-led designs and some clever music-related marketing around its Originals sub-brand, it is shaking off some of those associations and becoming cool.

The retailer is preparing a social media marketing campaign that sees the brand partnering with indie band The Joy Formidable, hosting “pop-up” gigs to support the launch of its new Rock Royalty range, which has been inspired by British music legends David Bowie, The Beatles and The Specials.

Clarks Originals is inviting four “super fans” from the UK, the US, Japan and Italy to cover the band’s forthcoming tour. Reportage will then be used by the brand as content.

Fans of the band can also win tickets to exclusive “pop-up” gigs being hosted in “original” venues in Manchester, London and Bristol, and the venues will only be revealed via social media 24 hours before.

The campaign launches on 5 December with the gigs planned for late February.

I wrote last year, somewhat disparagingly, about a Clarks Originals so called “pop-up” shop that was actually just a redesign of its existing Carnaby Street store, being badly thought out and ineffective.

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At the time I wrote: “Clarks Originals is a brand that could genuinely create a pop-up brand experience with great success. However what it’s actually doing is a little less exciting.”

I stick by the comments but a year later and I’m really impressed by the direction the campaign is taking this year and how Clarks has streamlined and sharpened the Originals tie up with the music industry.

There are a lot of brands trying, and failing, to genuinely align themselves with music – Lucozade being just one that I think misses the point entirely with its music advertising that doesn’t resonate with the brand at all. Clarks, meanwhile, with its genuine association and endorsement from musicians is getting smarter about the execution of its strategy.

The cleverness of Clarks Originals’ Joy Formidable tie up is at least in part down to using the well-honed skills of Steve Proud an ex music industry A&R man turned retail marketer at Yellowdoor PR, who knows not only what the brand want to get out of the campaign, but why a band would want to be involved in it.

Knowing the band inside out, and their genuine love of the brand (singer and guitarist Ritzy performs in a pair of Clarks at almost every show), he was able to work with them and the brand to create a campaign that both are happy to be a part of.

He put it quite simply – no band wants to be an irrelevant add on to a brand’s marketing activity and an “unhappy band makes a shit campaign”. Therefore if you get a happy band, you get a great campaign.

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