An Old Dog Learns New Tricks: Hush Puppies Courts New Customers With Updated Styles, New Perceptions

ROCKFORD, MICH. – If the name ‘Hush Puppies’ conjures images of old-fashioned, outdated, sensibl…..Hush Puppies manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide is set to launch a stylish new fall line that goes beyond its tried and true pig-skin stalwart. New agency of record CME-KHBB/Detroit breaks a print campaign next week to convince consumers and shoe buyers to rethink their perceptions.With the help of Maggi Mercado, a New York-based shoe designer WW hired last fall, the company created four categories of contemporary shoes for adults: Casuals, Career Casuals, Originals and the Outside line. Mercado modernized the children’s line as well. WW now will offer a broader line that ever before, including men’s and women’s dress shoes, casual loafers, athletic shoes, outdoor walking shoes and of course, the traditional Hush Puppies.’Research told us that consumers have a positive feeling about the Hush Puppies name,’ said Jeff Lewis, director of marketing for The Hush Puppies Co. ‘Our challenge is to convey a lifestyle or feeling about Hush Puppies that goes beyond just one product: the brushed pigskin shoe.’Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, resigned the WW account last fall to work on U.S. Shoe Corp.’s Easy Spirit brand. Before calling an agency review, the company worked on refocusing the brand.Consequently, by the time WW talked to agencies earlier this year, it had a solid business plan, redesigned shoes, new packaging, a $5 million advertising budget and a clear idea of where it wanted to take the brand.’When we saw the product we said to ourselves, ‘We’d wear these,’ said Thomas Bernardin, CME-KHBB president.Bernardin said the new campaign, which features the tag line, ‘Hush Puppies. Shoes You Can Live In,’ was designed to take the product attributes and turn them into qualities that will improve the consumer’s life.The target is upscale adults and children and nowhere is the change in focus reflected more clearly than the media buy. Five print ads will run in August and September in GQ, Details, Men’s Journal, Glamour, Self, Outside and USA Today. Rolling Stone is on the schedule for next spring.The campaign also has an element targeting shoe retailers’ misperceptions of the brand. WW will send tear sheets of each ad and personalized letters from the editors of the publications in which they run to approximately 800 retail shoe buyers.Lewis said if sales on the new line take off as expected, WW will increase its advertising spending to include television in the spring. CME-KHBB also will handle advertising for a redesigned line of Hush Puppies clothing.Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)