Vans was started in 1966 in the city of Anaheim by Paul Van Doren and three other partners. Van Doren had previously worked in a shoe making factory which made him quite knowledgeable of the design and manufacturing processes of shoes. This new business not only manufactured shoes but sold them directly to the public. Van Doren had little retailing experience. Initially, the company was not profitable and its products were not very unique. Vans shoes as we know them were designed and produced by Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta in 1975. Slip on shoes with colorful designs were extremely innovative and hip for their time. These shoes developed into staple gear for generations of skateboarders and surfers along California’s coast.
Currently Vans distributes not only shoes but many different types of clothing and sporting gear to a wide audience. Van’s sells shoes, hoodies, T-shirts, collared shirts, board shorts, pants, jeans, as well as a number of accessories like backpacks and beanies. This audience is composed of young men, women, children and athletes.
The website created by Vans is extremely effective in creating an interactive relationship between marketer and customer. Van’s has an interactive feedback option that requests feedback from those who are shopping on their website. There is also an option that allows customers to ask questions directly to personnel at Vans. Information regarding counterculture hip bands and art is available on the website. This counterculture art and music serves as inspiration for the various designs of Vans shoes. Many of the artists and musicians not only inspire the creators of Vans shoes but wear the “off the wall” gear themselves. Vans has an excellent endorsement relationship with various famous surfers, modern abstract artists and upcoming rock bands.
Strong product differentiation sets vans apart from its competitors. On Vans website it gives you the option to create custom shoes. This allows customers to create a shoe that is truly unique yet holds the brand name and style and of the trendy vans brand. Customizated shoes are also reasonably priced.
Low to moderate prices allow for Vans products to reach not just upper and middle class households but lower income households as well. Vans offers discounts to people that purchase larger quantities of items. Currently there is a 15 off 75 or more deal that allows people that purchase more than 75 dollars worth of merchandise to get a 15 dollar discount.
Their new brand for children is called “YO GABBA GABBA”. The products displaying this brand have colorful designs such as various cartoon like faces to appeal to young elementary school aged children. The Gabba Gabba brand not only increases sales but recruits young customers to the Vans brand so when they become older they will be more likely to choose Vans Gear.
Vans has their own top of the line company skate parks that are open to Vans customers to use. At these skate parks skateboarding classes are offered for only $40. On the Beautiful Island of Oahu in Hawaii Vans sponsors pro surfing competitions regularly to promote Vans athletic gear.
The major strength of Vans is a powerful presence in pop culture. Vans are worn by famous skaters and snowboarders. Warped tour a popular teen and college music tour is also strongly associated with and supported by the vans company. Songs have been composed about vans and vans were worn in fast times at ridgement high. The van’s image is the most important aspect of the show. Most shoes work the same way as a Van’s shoe since they can be worn while skating but vans portrays an image. This image has been created from 3 decades of marketing and media exposure. Sponsoring skate nights and music festivals. Association with charitable causes like Haitian relief.
Vans uses a market segmentation strategy to target individuals that skateboard bmx, motocross and snowboard. These individuals are typically teenagers, preteens and young adults aged 13-30. Associated with a “California Like Lifestyle” of surfing, skating etc. Portray an image as they stand out with their colorful patterns.
Try to break into the adult shoe market once the counterculture kids grow up. Their lifestyles may change but they may still like the same brands. Go international as the counter culture spreads to other nations as they become more westernized. Association with various underground emerging artists from the counter-culture enhances the appeal of Vans to their Target Audience.
Vans website does not even look like a corporate website. The website looks amateur in a way. Vans backs various underground non mainstream bands which are popular among it’s customers.
Vans brand name will create a major threat in the future as the company expands. Target market is largely a counter culture group. Currently Van’s isn’t particularly large it only operates 270 retail outlet stores. As Vans expands and becomes larger it may lose the appeal it originally had as a counter culture alternative lifestyle brand. Van’s is no longer owned by the original owner it was purchased by an investment bank and currently owned by VF corporation. VF corporation also owns the wrangler and Lee jean brands.
To avoid creating a negative corporate image Vans must avoid advertising with paid actors on television and continue advertising with surfing competitions and music festivals. Vans needs to avoid appearing like a multinational faceless corporation at all cost. Vans must also avoid distributing at mainstream discount retailers like target, walmart and K-mart and continue distributing at locally owned surf and skate shops. Association with these types of establishment could be extremely detrimental. While a merchandise distribution deal with walmart or another superstore could create a tremendous amount of profits in the short run in the long run it would deteriorate the Vans brand name which is the most valuable asset of the company.
Van’s shoes popularity came about as a result of pop culture exposure in “Fast Times at Ridgement High” when the actor Jeff Spicoli wore the trademark checkerboard vans shoes and played the role of Sean Penn. The movie was located on California’s coast at a high school and the major characters where high school age. Sean Penn was a habitually marijuana smoking surfer rebel who was despised by his teachers. Sean Penn receives reward money and blows all of it on a performance by Van Halen at his birthday party. Sean Penn’s counterculture additude is still associated with Van’s til this day.
Other weaknesses- small narrow target market and a lack of market power and penetration. Van’s has extreme penetration in their target market but having such a narrow focus leaves them vulnerable to shifts in buying power of their target market. Traditionally the counterculture target market has not had great credit, income or assets. In the overall shoe market Van’s is a minor player capturing only 2% of the men’s shoe market and 3% of the women’s shoe market. The overall market penetration is 3%. This gives them the 10th best penetration out of all shoe manufacturers. Most of Van’s competitors are the same size as Vans or much larger. Nike sporting and atheletic shoes have a market penetration almost 10 times that of vans. Schechers have a market penetration twice that of Vans.