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This spot is one of a series of independently produced films that Converse has solicited and is promoting. As with the Coca-Cola films (short Coke ads seen in movie theatres), these are films created as mini-ads for the brand by brand lovers (and hungry independent film makers, one would think). This spot, submitted by Carey Lagoe from Capetown, South Africa features three teenagers (Yanga, Masi and Mnina) and is titled “Pantsula.” The three teens groove to music and show of both their moves and their differently colored high-top Converse sneakers.
When challenging giants like Nike, Reebok and Adidas you have to think differently. Merely having a slogan and a basketball star will not get you noticed when giant, excellent marketing companies shout their messages from the rooftops with $100mm+ campaigns. What Converse is doing with this spot and with its film competition in general is smart and it works because it fits very well with way the brand is positioned.
Converse can’t be about performance, women or even a specific sport. Those brand positions are all taken by the majors. However, Converse does have authenticity in its brand arsenal (reinforced by the flagship Converse Hightops which seem to have been worn by kids since the sixteenth century or so) and a decidedly non-athletic appeal. So the positioning, captured brilliantly in this spot, puts Converse as the fashion choice for authentic, active, real teens. This also serves to carve out a different niche from Skechers, which is a pure fashion brand.
Things to notice in this spot include the crisp use of colors, the manner in which the movement of the actors adds directly to the energy of the brand and the unusual soundtrack.
As a whole, what Converse has done here is to take a page from Malcolm Gladwell and, more recently, Douglas Atkin (The Culting of Brands) and allow brand enthusiasts to participate in the brand in a meaningful way. In addition to appreciating the spot, we imagine the thrill for a first-time director from South Africa to land a commercial on U.S. television.
A word of caution for those who might literally seek to copy this strategy. It works in this case because Converse has strong equity in authenticity and because the impromptu, rough edge of these indie spots fits the position and target of the brand.
There is a fine line to tread here and Converse must attend to it carefully. This competition and the concept of supporting user created spots works only as long as the brand lovers put enough energy into these spots to yield a mix broad enough for Converse to select on-strategy ads to air. If the richness of the submitted material wanes, Converse must ruthlessly shut this competition down or risk hurting the brand.
Branding Bottom Line:
Converse listens and the kids rock.