Can Crocs Make a Comeback?

Here's a good lesson in brand extension.

Admitting that it had “spread itself ‘too thin'” by venturing into other areas of fashion, Crocs is trying to make a comeback by going back to basics. And by basics, we’re talking about the hideous colorful plastic-like shoes that everyone seemed to be wearing about 10 years ago.

“Its stock has lost over four-fifths of its value since a record high of $75 a share in 2007,” reports MarketWatch, noting that the stock price has rebounded 13 percent for the year so far and even got a $200 million investment from Blackstone. The company says it has scaled back the number of stores it operates, cut jobs and will focus on the U.S., Japan, China, Korea, Germany and the U.K.

Almost a year ago, we suggested that Crocs would benefit by facing down an ugly truth: it’s shoes are an eyesore. In some ways, it appears that Crocs has done just that. Rather than fixing its gaze on being fashionable, it’s focused on what the customer wants, which is the shoe that Crocs is known for.

Birkenstock has notably made a point of keeping its eyes on the prize. No matter how many times people call their sandals ugly, they stick with them. And every year, you see countless people walking around in those flat unbecoming sandals. They even make their way to high-end catwalks every now and again.

Crocs, like Birkenstocks, isn’t a fashion brand. It’s a comfort brand. People wear them on the job because they stand a lot and the shoes keep their feet from hurting. Children wear them because you can step in all manner of stuff and just wash them off and keep going. Gardeners and boat aficionados wear them for the same reason. And for people who don’t care what they wear, they’re a funky alternative to dad shoes and socks.

A brand extension is most successful when it builds upon the existing reputation and attributes of the product. Leather boots and ballet flats have very little to do with why Crocs became popular in the first place. But the original clogs, in all their utility, fill a niche that the market is craving. And they do so in a way that’s unique to Crocs, rising above the competition in its own way. That’s a brand virtue that shouldn’t be sold short.

Unfortunately, now that Crocs seems to realize that, it might mean we’re going to see a bunch of people rocking these clogs again in the not-so-distant future.

Image via Shutterstock