Nearly 12 years ago, Crocs Inc. revolutionized the casual footwear world with the introduction of its now-iconic clogs made with its unique Croslite material. The soft, comfortable nature of these clogs made them an overnight hit, and today Crocs has expanded from that one original product into multiple product lines from sandals to boots to high heels. According to Senior Director of Global Licensing Matt Lafone, the Crocs brand today encompasses more than 300 distinct styles of footwear, sold in more than 90 countries, but the company still has opportunity to grow.
As one of the most recognizable brands in footwear, Crocs has a strong presence in the casual footwear market. However, Lafone says the company sees exciting opportunities to take the Crocs brand even further in the near future. Through a carefully managed licensing program that includes working with some of the biggest names in the fashion world, Crocs is expanding its core values to become something bigger.
“We’re taking the DNA of our brand: comfort, color, fun and innovation and are applying these elements into other product categories that are natural extensions for Crocs,” Lafone says.
Crocs already has found success through this approach, as evidenced by its recent launch of a new line of products designed by “Project Runway All-Stars Season 1” winner Mondo Guerra. Lafone says the new line, introduced at Crocs’ new flagship store in New York City, experienced 90 percent sell-through in its first two weeks. Along with the company’s expanded international offerings, the Mondo Guerra line is a glimpse into the future for Crocs, one in which the brand extends to apparel, accessories and other areas.
A major component of the success Crocs has had so far with its licensing efforts is the company’s hands-on approach, Lafone explains. Rather than simply give licensees a style guide and leave them to develop products on their own, Crocs works hand-in-hand with licensees to develop robust style guides and then translate those styles into products.
Crocs works with its licensees to choose materials, develop fabrications and create distribution plans. “You don’t get that type of service and direct partnerships with huge companies,” Lafone says. “At the end of the day, we really see that as a value-add to our partners.”
Lafone says the company is reaching out to a different kind of licensee now, one that is connected to the fashion world and will help Crocs find fashion-minded consumers around the world. Inspired by the success of the Mondo Guerra line, Crocs has started working with designers such as U.K. artist Jon Burgerman and Patricia Field, an Emmy winner for her costume design work on “Sex and the City” and an Academy Award nominee for “The Devil Wears Prada.” Lafone says working with Field is a major turning point for Crocs. “She’s a fashion icon in the industry,” he says.
Crocs is working to change the perception of the brand in the United States, but the company already has achieved success with a diversified line of products in international markets. Lafone says Crocs has received great response from consumers in Japan for a line of children’s apparel, and Crocs already has beaten its guaranteed sales numbers for 2015 in Latin America.
In those and other international markets, Crocs carries its core values of comfort and quality to higher-tiered department stores, and Lafone says these elevated products are doing a lot to build brand equity in those markets. In Asia and Europe especially, the Crocs brand can be found at a number of premier urban footwear stores. Lafone says this is a testament to the strength of the brand.
“Crocs is an amazing place,” Lafone says. “Most people don’t know this, but we do about half of our business internationally.”
A New Strategy
The licensing Crocs is engaged in now is a new strategy for the company, and Lafone says it is focused on developing the right partnerships. “Crocs would happily walk away from multimillion-dollar deals if the partnership wasn’t right for the brand, the consumers and the shareholders,” he says.
“We’re excited about what’s on the horizon for Crocs,” Lafone continues. “Hopefully, we look back and realize that we’ve made something extremely special.”