Re-engineer the Future of Footwear?
Everyone and their favorite rap star knows Timberland, iconic Boston-born boot company that has been around since Truman was president.
Yet, the tree logo became so well known it lost all meaning, and you'd be as likely to see their classic yellow boot worn by a dad in the garden as a rapper on stage.
Boots, in short, were boring.
Timberland's bid for mass appeal had cost them one of the most discerning customer bases, Gen Z. An audience who preferred sneakers.
Jay Steere, head of Timberland's Innovation Department, noticed the shift. Along with his communications agency, KesselsKramer, they picked up on the insight that the audience these days don't just want the end product... they want the story behind it.
"They want to be part of that journey... even to the point of judging designs and giving opinions on the choice of material," explains Chris Barrett, strategy director at KesselsKramer. "There needed to be transparency in the making process. That's why we created the Construct:10061 sub-brand".
The idea was simple but effective. With this new brand – whose name came from the style code for the classic yellow boot – the process was the narrative. And the way designers worked together is where the magic happened.
"it's the collaboration that we liked. it's about starting a journey together and not knowing where you're going to end up"
A crack team of footwear designers, makers and researchers were assembled. Peterson Stoop (Dutch duo), Helen Kirkum (UK footwear star), Daniel Bailey (Concept Kicks) and Timberland's very own creative director, Christopher Raeburn, were all part of the mix.
"It's the collaboration that we liked. It's about starting a journey together and not knowing where you're going to end up," explained Barrett.
Over three seasons, the footwear designers came together to challenge the way boots were designed, made, and most importantly, audience tested.
The designers met in Timberland's Dominican Republic factory each season. It was a loud, stiflingly hot but exciting atmosphere. Everyone mucked in and made hundreds of concept designs. It was a week of chaos and creativity.
The team used everything from traditional hand stitching to CAD software and 3D printing. From premium leathers, to new (and then seriously experimental mycelium leather). Vibram sole units to factory cut-offs, military surplus and landfill waste to create dozens of potential new styles.
The whole process of collaboration, success and failures was captured and broadcast with full transparency on social media and, specifically, Instagram.
Then, importantly, the Construct:10061 platform invited its growing followers and fanbase their thoughts; what they would change, what they liked. Then Timberland went and made their favorites.
"The whole process of collaboration, success and failures was captured and broadcast with full transparency on social media and, specifically, Instagram"
160 shoe concepts were made and presented to the audience through 1,500 assets which took the form of video, stills, gifs and interviews.
"Ultimately, this was really about self-expression and empowered participation. We asked the audience, we listened to them, and we made the boots they loved." said Barrett.
Construct 10061 provided a platform to invite the consumer into the design process. Instagram connected the design team with the end wearer. It allowed the team to share inspirations and prototypes while receiving real-time feedback. It created a direct line of communication with the people.
Chris Raeburn summed the project up beautifully, in one of the magazines that were used to promote the platform: "If products are made really well and made with a workforce that cares, it's a really beautiful thing."