Brands should have enough confidence in their purpose to constantly “reframe” themselves according to how their consumers engage with it, Dr. Martens’ global brand marketing manager Janine Hearn-Odell has said.
This is key to driving brand relevance in society, she explained on a panel at Advertising Week Europe today (17 May), adding that marketers should view their relationships with consumers as a “collaboration”. For example, trends in how consumers use a product should emerge authentically, rather than being manufactured by the brand.
“That allows [consumers] to pick your brand up and build it with you,” she said.
Hearn-Odell joined Dr. Martens in January this year from outdoor brand Berghaus. Before Berghaus, she spent almost 13 years at shoe brand Vans, latterly as senior key city brand activation manager.
Reflecting on her experience at Vans, Hearn-Odell said during her first few years brand relevancy wasn’t often mentioned within the marketing team when devising campaigns. This was because the shoe brand was so closely tied to its purpose at that time, she explained.
Having worked at two shoe brands which have both traditionally been aimed at sub-cultures, she noted that it is their purposes which set them apart from each other.
“Vans is all about driving creative self-expression. It’s rooted in utility through action sports. Dr. Martens is all about breaking down barriers, and that’s what makes them so distinctive even though they sit side by side,” she said.
Last year, Dr. Martens’ then-CMO Darren Campbell told Marketing Week about the power of the brand’s connection with its consumers. He said: “Every consumer thinks they’re a CMO because everyone’s so passionate about the brand.”
Speaking beyond sub-cultures
During the panel, the point was raised that consumers are now more demanding than ever about the ethical standards they expect from brands.
Hearn-Odell made the case that it is important for brands to be challenged by consumers in order to avoid an echo-chamber. “It’s very easy to talk to yourself,” she said.
Naming Dr. Martens a “timeless” brand, Hearn-Odell said the durability of the brand is not just rooted in its long-lasting boots and shoes, but in its work to improve society and represent the sub-cultures it serves.
“I think timelessness is not just about product. It’s very much about aspiring to make a meaningful contribution to society,” she said.
Consumers also now “care more” about a brand’s foundations, Hearn-Odell added. However, it’s important the foundation of a brand, whether that be in the durability of Dr. Martens or Van’s skateboarding background, be communicated in a way that’s inclusive to all consumers, she said.
“It’s about acknowledging that people are on a different journey with your brand at different points in time,” she said.
“If you pick up that product in a sports store because you’re with your mum shopping, or you pick that product up in a skate store, you still have a right to be here and to be spoken to.”