Remember when you used to see Made in the U.S.A. on, you know, things you bought? Most “All-American” brands these days would rather you not know that their stuff isn’t actually made here anymore. Schwinn bicycles? Manufactured in China. Lionel train engines? Sorry, kid. These days, they steam out of a factory in South Korea. Indeed, a small surge of thrill awaits the jaded consumer who discovers that the American brand he likes still comes from the lower 48. Feel a marketing lesson coming on?
The Red Wing Shoe Company obviously has. The 106-year-old cobbler has just produced a series of short films (via Brew Creative, Minneapolis) that take viewers on virtual tours of its factory, tannery, and repair department—all of which are still doing business in the wilds of Minnesota. You can find the films on Facebook, YouTube, or on the company Web site. Who’d want to sit and watch some guy sewing a boot together? You’d be surprised: Red Wing’s repair video alone snared 40,000 YouTube views in its first couple of days.
Granted, there’s no overt flag-waving going on in these three-minute brand documentaries. According to Brew Creative co-owner Michelle Fitzgerald, the videos’ primary aim was to emphasize quality. “People have this fascination with artisanal, hand-crafted products,” she said. “You just don’t see cobblers fixing shoes anymore.”
No, you don’t—but the fact that the cobblers, in this case, are an honest-looking bunch of Midwesterners who haven’t lost their jobs to outsourcing is clearly an important thematic subtext in this marketing plan. Viewers get to meet Shirley Sommerfield, who’s worked in Red Wing’s leather cutting department for 40 years. They’ll hear from plant manager Roy Smith, who tells you: “We’ve had—and have—four generations of shoemakers in our factories.”
Well, NAFTA be damned. If a U.S. brand’s actually going to endure the expense of making its products by hand, in the United States, it only makes sense to get some marketing mileage out of the fact. In Red Wing’s case, these boots aren’t only made for walking, they’re made in Minnesota.