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Birkenstock's Public Image in D/C's Hands

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LOS ANGELES Birkenstock USA has selected independent Duncan/Channon to handle its advertising and branding duties, the agency said.

In the past, U.S. marketing efforts on behalf of the German-made sandal brand have relied mostly on trade and retail programs, according to a D/C representative. But beginning in 2006, the agency will launch a campaign to "re-focus and revitalize" the brand via "a more consumer-focused" marketing program, the rep said.

Birkenstock USA selected D/C following an agency review, said Andy Berkenfield, partner and general manager at the San Rafael, Calif., shop. The effort is expected to cover "everything," he said. "A complete reassessment of where the brand stands, a completely integrated brand campaign."

The agency is already developing "internal articulation" and focus strategies, said Berkenfield, noting that he had six pairs of Birkenstocks in his shoe collection even before winning the account.

D/C's first publicly distributed effort for the client—most likely, a catalog—is expected to appear at February's World Shoe Association trade expo in Las Vegas; point-of-sale and consumer ad executions could break as early as spring, Berkenfield said.

Although consumers have long had a perception of the Birkenstock brand in their minds, "the company has remained largely silent in terms of marketing . . . there hasn't been an obvious public face on the brand," Berkenfield said.

Since their introduction in the U.S. in the early '70s, the soft-leather sandals have developed a cult-like following; signature styles include the double-strapped Arizonas and cloggy Bostons. The launch of what "may be Birkenstock USA's most deliberate organized brand-marketing" campaign, Berkenfield said, corresponds with the Novato, Calif.-based importer's decision to renew its focus on these and other core styles.

Birkenstock USA spent $525,000 on advertising in 2004, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The company spent $350,000 from January to September of this year. A current ad budget was not disclosed.