I’ve been poking around the Keen Footwear website tonight in advance of a visit to their Portland HQ next month with fellow MBA classmates affiliated with the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. I found this video on the company’s You Tube Channel and was initially surprised that Ford Motor Company was one of the sites chosen for Keen’s Project ReBoot Campaign. What in the world is this environmentally minded company doing partnering with gas-guzzling pickups?
Then I told myself to dig deeper.
These two companies actually have a lot in common:
- Domestic manufacturing. Keen’s Portland manufacturing facility has taken CEO James Curleigh all the way to the White House. The Ford F150 is manufactured in Dearborn, MI.
- Target Markets. Ford F150s and Keen’s line of utility footwear probably appeal to the same kind of people. If we believe the video, those people are hardworking, blue collar, salt-of-the-earth Americans. The kind Mick Jagger drinks to.
- Function vs. Form? Ford F150s and KeenUtility footwear are designed to work. While Keen and the Ford employees in this video might have us believe their products are a thing of beauty, let’s face it, these aren’t Tesla Roadsters or Louboutins we’re looking at.
So, while perhaps not immediately obvious, Keen’s end result is a clever brand association which highlights desired aspects of the particular line as part of its strategy to gain a foothold (har har) in an existing market the company is new to. And, don’t you know those third-shift Ford F150 line workers were bummed when they heard everyone on the first shift got new shoes!
Sustainable Business Practices
University of Oregon
MBA Candidate 2012