APG-U.S. Account Planning Awards: Comfort Zone

Agency: Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners
Client: Rockport
As aging boomers rebel against the idea of comfortable shoes, Rockport reinvents itself.
When Rockport and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners joined forces, it was clear that the brand had a singular defining equity: comfort. Since 1971, Rockport has demonstrated unwavering dedication to engineering comfortable shoes, resulting in more than 50 design patents and a phenomenally loyal, if aging, group of users. To reach younger baby-boomer men, we needed to displace their preference for sneakers that delivered comfort and style.
Qualitative research and trend analysis uncovered several insights. Boomers associated a need for comfortable shoes with aging and passivity: podiatrists, mall walkers and math teachers. On a deeper level, being “comfortable” was boring, symbolizing acceptance, political correctness and becoming “my father,” a very uncool idea to boomers. They still identified with the optimism and sociocultural revolution of their coming of age. Their belief that “anything is possible” remains a self-defining value. Dated associations of comfort represented a dangerous conflict for the brand.
The real challenge emerged: to reinvent comfort itself, imbuing it with relevant values, thereby contemporizing the brand. But how do you activate comfort? How do you make it cool?
Reflection on the consumer, the culture and the brand revealed our path. Rockport loyalists were psychographically distinct. Unlike fashion brand users, they were unconcerned with using brands as badges of social acceptance and extremely comfortable with themselves. They refused to compromise comfort for style.
Rockport also had an inspiring heritage of users who shared this emotional comfort: Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, presidents Carter through Clinton, Colin Powell, Peter Gabriel, Frank Gehry and Sting. These change makers embody boomer values by challenging the status quo. They are on a quest to achieve personal comfort by their own definition. They deliberately make themselves uncomfortable to force a reappraisal of “comfort” on a personal and societal level. They are unwilling to compromise pursuit of emotional comfort, a truly inspiring idea.
Given these insights, we identified abundant cultural evidence for the pursuit of emotional comfort: self-help strategies, feng shui, yoga, alternative medicines and religions. People are actively seeking comfort on every level: physical, emotional and spiritual. This is a search for lasting inner comfort, not the transience of creature comforts. Our strategy activated the core Rockport equity of comfort by challenging the consumer: If you compromise your comfort, you compromise yourself.
In developing advertising, the creatives arrived at a highly original perspective on the strategy. They wanted advertising to challenge consumers by highlighting people who are truly comfortable with themselves, exposing something that might make the viewer uncomfortable. To do this, they invented a rallying cry: “Uncompromise.” We launched an integrated communications plan featuring print and TV advertising behind the umbrella: “Be comfortable. Uncompromise. Start with your feet.”
Since the launch, the brand has continued to inspire consumers to re-evaluate comfort. We have also seen significant increases in awareness and first-time ownership. As the greatest compliment to the agency, Rockport is implementing the campaign globally, challenging everyone–how comfortable are you?
CLIENT: Rockport
Angel Martinez, President & CEO
Linda Lewi, SVP, Global Brand Marketing
Krista Glow, Advertising Man.
AGENCY: Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners
Rosemarie Ryan, President & Partner
Bill Oberlander, Exec. Creative Dir., Partner
Kerry Benson, VP, Account Planner
Richard Kirshenbaum, Co-chairman
Leslie A. Stone, Sr. Brand Planner
Richard Yelland, Sr. Copywriter
Jennifer Solow, Creative Dir., KPB West