Founded in California in 1992, sportswear brand Skechers was once focused solely on the US before expanding internationally. Eventually, it reached Asia’s shores in 2005, when it began to ramp up it marketing efforts to translate the American brand’s relevance in the region.
Marketing sat down with Vincent Leung, the Asia Pacific CEO for Skechers, to find out more about how the brand has succeeded in marketing its name to Asian consumers, particularly after opening its shutters in Singapore in 2009. It now has 16 concept stores in the market.
Think global, act local
In adopting a regional strategy to communicate the Skechers brand, Leung expounded on a simple mantra that has helped the brand propel its name more effectively in Asia Pacific: “Think global, act local.”
“We are an international brand, our brand DNA is American so we have to adopt it differently when we come to Asia.”
For example, in the US, Skechers executes different marketing strategies for various collections to cater to the large and segmented market.
Whereas in smaller Asian markets such as Singapore, Leung explained the brand pursues a more holistic approach in its marketing. For one, Skechers has to tell its brand story in a fresh manner, and work to place the “Skechers” brand into the consumers mind first.
“We can’t educate the audience the same way as we do in the States, where consumers are already familiar with the brand.”
True to its DNA, the brand continues to portray itself as a fun lifestyle brand, and conveys the message through various campaigns.
For Asian consumers, Skechers believes in a customer-first approach, that is, it communicates its brand story only after communicating with its customers and understanding their needs.
For example, capitalising on the Korean wave and the ensuing trend hitting across Asia, Skechers ramped up marketing efforts for its women’s D’lite shoes by signing on K-Pop girl band Sistar as its brand ambassador.
“Today, we see a very big Korean trend across Asia, and our D’lite shoes are making a big comeback, thanks to it being marketed in Korea – so we signed on Korean celebrities to drive the Skechers message.”
While creative visions largely come from the US, for its partnership with Sistar, the brand worked with Ogilvy in Korea for its D’lite campaign.
Singapore versus Malaysia
Aside from regional variations in its marketing strategies, Skechers revealed some interesting insights on the differences between the Singapore and Malaysian markets.
In Singapore, Skechers works with key opinion leaders (KOLs) and bloggers to promote its shoes. It partnered with Shape Run to market its brand to families. In terms of seeding, Skechers works with sports athletes, mummy bloggers and fashion influencers to promote its shoes at events. Currently, the brand has enlisted celebrities such as Vincent Ng, Hanli Hoefer, Jamie Yeo and Joscelin Yeo to propel its name even further.
“We sponsor running events and music-related events like the Sundown Festival, which we use to highlight different categories of our products,” Leung said.
While the brand seems to focus a lot on events and celebrities when it comes to marketing in Singapore, I asked Leung how marketing the brand is different in Malaysia.
He explained that while the product range is similar, Skechers tries to cater to the different tastes of its consumers. In terms of advertising, he said the brand needed to be more attuned to the local trends in Malaysia compared to Singapore.
“In Singapore, a lot of the international marketing works. In Malaysia we have to do a lot more with local KOLs. Especially when we are pushing more into the Malay market. We work a lot with local celebrities and do interviews or short campaigns in magazines to collaborate with them.”
For the Malaysia market, the brand focuses more on on-the-ground influences. For its performance line, the brand is seeding some of the top amateur runners in Malaysia to leverage the frequent run events there.
“There is so much more footprint to grab in Malaysia as well, with so many new malls coming up in the next few years. But the business model is different.”
In Malaysia, Skechers follows an authorised dealer approach, whereas in Singapore the brand grants its franchise to retailer groups. According to Leung, the barriers to entry in Malaysia are less as compared to Singapore and the business environment more entrepreneurial.
While Skechers has started e-commerce in China, it is still holding back in Singapore. Instead, it works with e-tailers such as Zalora and Taobao.
“Just through the available online platforms, we believe e-commerce has taken off well for apparel and accessories in Singapore, but for shoes, due to size and fitting issues, customers still prefer to try on and purchase from physical store set-ups.”
He asserted that having a good presence offline is key before making any plans for moving to e-commerce.
“I always dreamt of one of our panels in the store being changed into an interactive iPad-type thing so we can actually sell what we don’t sell in the stores.”
This dream, according to Leung, is something he wants to make into a reality within five years.