Superbrands case studies: Timberland

Originally published in 'Consumer Superbrands Volume VI', July 2004. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by an independent judging panel.

Case study provided by Superbrands.

We all know the power of a global Superbrand, but nowhere is that influence felt more keenly than in the fashion industry. The trend towards more casual dressing has particularly favoured the sports and leisure orientated Superbrands that are the true engines of growth in the market. It is a hugely valuable market, with sports brand sales worth approximately 15% of the UK's £34 billion total clothing and footwear market in 2000 (Source: KeyNote).

The fashion industry is in constant flux, with brands constantly extending from traditional areas of speciality. For example, many fashion brands have extended into eyewear, including Timberland, hailing from areas as diverse as outdoor boots and kidswear.

In such a brand-conscious market, the power of the brand can carry manufacturers across numerous category boundaries. Timberland is now increasing its focus on the Metro Men, and the Women's Apparel market.

The objective is to add to the Timberland brand with a younger, metro consumer, using the heritage of the brand as a leverage tool. The strategy has proven very successful, with Timberland now not only known for its rugged outdoor gear, but also as a trailblazer of inner city urban cool.

In just over 30 years, Timberland has turned itself from a small bootmaker into a US$1.2 billion global lifestyle brand.

It all began with Timberland's wheat coloured Classic Boot which defined a new footwear category and inspiring a host of imitators. This kudos of being the 'genuine article' has inevitably boosted the reputation of Timberland as an 'outdoor classic' and helped it establish credibility across its wider clothing and footwear range.

Like all true classics, Timberland's reputation is built on a legacy of innovation and outstanding quality. In 1965, in a footwear industry first, brothers Sidney and Herman Swartz tackled the problem of leaky workboots by utilising injection moulding technology to fuse rubber lug outsoles to waterproof leather uppers, resulting in guaranteed waterproof leather workboots. This revolutionary new boot was branded Timberland, and a legacy was born.

Other trail-blazing product innovations by the company include the 1978 creation of the rugged casual footwear category. Timberland combined a boat shoe upper with a rugged lug boot sole to create a new style of shoe, which has become another modern classic.

In 1988, Timberland created a lightweight leather hiker boot called the Euro Hiker. In its first year, the Euro Hiker flew off the shelves, and a new outdoor footwear category called 'day hiking' was established. Timberland has also brought creative solutions to clothing, with innovations like premium leather jackets made from Timberland's exclusive, silicon-impregnated waterproof leathers. These products continue to be icons in the industry today.

Timberland has also applied its ethos of innovations to the way it conducts business. In addition to making quality products, Timberland believes that it also has a responsibility to help effect positive change in the communities where its employees and consumers work and live.

All around the world, Timberland demonstrates a deep commitment to 'doing well and doing good' through its Path of Service programme. Encouraged to pull on their own boots and make their difference, Timberland employees are granted 40 hours of paid time off to do community service every year. Over the past eleven years, this has yielded more than 230,000 hours of service around the globe.

The company also stages a global annual community service event, called 'Serv-a-palooza', in which employees, consumers and the company's partners, take part in a host of projects, all over the world.

For one day in 2003, 4,500 Timberland employees, business partners and consumers participated in the company's sixth annual Serv-a-palooza. This one-of-a-kind community service event generated more than 31,000 hours of community service at 150 service events in 21 countries - all in one day.

Recent projects undertaken during the event include: the transformation of a youth recreation centre in Philadelphia; deepening a bird nesting area and upgrading local community parks in Malaysia; renovating classrooms for South African school kids and restoring the grounds of an old people's home in the UK.

Timberland can trace its origins back to 1952, to New England in the US. That was the year that Nathan Swartz bought a 50% interest in the Abingdon Shoe Company, a Massachusetts-based outfit manufacturing 'own label' shoes for leading US footwear brands.

By 1955, Swartz had bought the remaining interest in the business and was joined by his two sons. Swartz and sons made their first boots under the 'Timberland' name in 1973. Thanks to the revolutionary injection moulding technique they had introduced eight years earlier, they were guaranteed waterproof and were an instant hit.

As its leather boots and shoes appeared on the market, the brand became well known and, in 1978 the business changed its name to The Timberland Company. In 1980 Timberland footwear was launched in Italy, its first foray into the international market.

In 1986, the first Timberland store opened in Newport, Rhode Island, in the eastern US. Two years later, Timberland introduced the HydroTech boat shoe as well as their first men's sportswear collection. Timberland came to the UK in the 1980s through distributor partnerships, but a subsidiary of the business was set up in 1989. In 1991, Jeffery Swartz, the grandson of founder Nathan, was named as Chief Operating Officer. Timberland began trading on the New York stock exchange under the symbol TBL and in the following year became the founding national sponsor of City Year, making its first US$1 million investment.

In 1996, a new line of women's dress casual footwear was introduced, as was a multipurpose outdoor line of performance footwear. Kids' footwear was also launched and new licensing agreements signed for gloves, travel gear, eyewear, socks and legwear. In 1998 Jeffery Swartz became Timberland's president and in the same year revenues hit US$862.2 million.

The Timberland Company designs, engineers and markets premium quality footwear, clothing and accessories under the Timberland brand name and the Timberland PRO series sub-brand. Timberland products for men, women and children include premium boots, casual shoes, hiking boots and boat shoes, as well as outdoor-inspired clothing and accessories built to withstand the elements. The Timberland PRO series is engineered to meet the demands of the professional worker.

Timberland's products are sold primarily through Timberland stores, other specialty stores, better grade department stores, concept shops and shoe stores throughout the world. Consolidated revenue in 2002 totaled US$1.2 billion.

As Timberland grows into a total lifestyle brand, it increasingly licenses its brand name out to reputable manufacturers of accessories. This range has increased over the years, with the introduction of watches, luggage and backpacks, children's clothing and eyewear.

Recent developments
As it looks towards growing and refining its womenswear business in Europe Timberland recently opened a London-based International Design Centre. It handles women's and men's clothing design for Europe, and will soon expand into footwear.

The IDC is home to a dedicated team of designers with the aim of bringing European styling and fit to the Timberland range of men's and women's clothing.

Timberland has also appointed a specialist as its women's wear director.

Up until now, the US has been responsible for the design of men's clothing and men's and women's footwear. The aim is to make women's wear more feminine and to create a more fully integrated collection.

In the UK, Timberland's footwear range has been enhanced with the innovative technology of the Smart Comfort System, designed to work with the foot as it moves.

At the foundation of the Smart Comfort System is a revolutionary sole that contracts and expands with every step, which helps feet feel comfortable all day long.

In Autumn 2003, Timberland began developing the Smart Comfort system beyond its casual shoes, incorporating it into boots and performance hikers, as well as the Timberland PRO line of footwear for work professionals.

As it expands its range of branded accessories, Timberland has developed a new range of eyewear, signing a contract with Marcolin, S.p.A of Italy to develop, manufacture and distribute Timberland eyewear around the world.

Marcolin launched the new Timberland sunglasses and ophthalmic frames in March 2004, coinciding with Vision Expo East in New York. Working closely with Timberland, Marcolin will be responsible for strategy, design, manufacturing, and worldwide distribution.

Timberland also recently launched a new collection of packs and travel gear, representing the first line created by another new licensing partner TRG Accessories.

The range comprises daypacks, duffels, travel bags, briefcases, and travel accessories for outdoor adventures as well as everyday use.

In 2004, Timberland doubled the impact of its Serv-a-palooza annual event through increased support from business partners, community organisations and consumers.

Service events will take place in 21 countries, benefiting local schools, parks, camps, community centres and social service organisations.

Timberland promotes its brand through zan integrated product offering, based on: 'Don't Wear It. Use It', that encourages consumers to utilise the hi-tech products to their full. Advertising is centralised through Timberland's US Head Office, and subsidiaries and distributors worldwide ensure that it reaches each individual market's target consumer. The year 2003 was an important promotional opportunity for Timberland, as the brand celebrated its 30th anniversary.

The company focused its anniversary promotions on the heavy-duty classic leather boot, whose endless fashionable style and practicality has become increasingly popular in the last few years. The anniversary reflected the founding message that Timberland wants to bring across to the public, putting emphasis on its products and core values.

Timberland's brand ethos is captured in its Seek Out(tm) brand advertising platform, which encourages individuals to seek out transformation of self, whether it be through outdoor experiences or community engagement.

Brand values
The Timberland brand is infused with an ethos of healthy living. It harnesses the power of the outdoors and helps make it accessible to consumers by developing a full range of premium footwear, clothing and accessories. This passion for the outdoors and the knowledge that the outdoors has a transformational power to challenge and give people a new perspective on the world has helped Timberland grow from a mere bootmaker into a global lifestyle brand.

Ever since Timberland developed the first guaranteed waterproof boot, the company has been committed to quality, durability, authenticity, value and performance, and to delivering the experience of 'the great outdoors' to its customers. The central pillar of Timberland's long-term strategy is to provide value and innovation to consumers throughout its entire product offering.

A commitment to 'good business' is another vital part of the Timberland brand.

The company's core belief is that business can and should be a force for positive change.

It sees this 'business of business' being about responsibility, engagement, partnership and positive change.

While many companies call it corporate social responsibility, Timberland talks about 'doing well and doing good', and is committed to strengthening communities through service and sustaining the environment by minimising the company's impact on it.

Things you didn't know about Timberland
A pair of Timberland Classic Boots are sold every minute around the world.
To date, Timberland employees have served more than 250,000 community service hours, helping to strengthen hundreds of communities across the world.
In 2004,Timberland volunteers will complete the equivalent of more than 3.5 years of 24-hours-a-day, seven days-a-week community service in a single day.
Fortune Magazine ranked Timberland 50th in its influential '100 Best Companies to Work For' survey. The company's commitment to community was singled out by the magazine as a factor of distinction.
In 1983 Timberland began field-testing products in the Iditarod sled dog race in the US.

(c) 2004 Superbrands Ltd

You have

[DAYS_LEFT] Days left

of your free trial

Subscribe now

Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now