- Keds was going through a brand redefinition - formerly though of as "nurse shoes" or "those white things you wore in elementary school," hipsters had begun latching on to the shoe and changing the brand perspective. Suddenly, Keds were hip.
I led the team working with Keds on a conceptual prototype that demonstrated how they could latch on to this new-found "coolness" and engage with their community in new ways. We embraced the concept of the "zeitgeist" (the german word for 'time-spirit' more often translated as 'spirit of the age.') In the proposed experience, I suggested turning over the brand voice to be one that celebrated and empowered voice of the consumer. Let them speak for you, rather than speaking and marketing AT them. Trying to be "cool" is just so uncool - but letting the hipster voice rise up as the main marketing messages allowed Keds to take a backseat and ride the "wave of awesome." Oh dear - I promise I will never use the words "wave of awesome" again.
For the Keds user experience, we created a visual zeitgeist - a collective expression that evolves and changes in real time. This aggregate "mash-up" combines Twitter feeds mentions of Keds, recent Flickr uploads tagged with Keds, created shoe designs, uploaded outfits of users wearing Keds, featured artist collaborations, and vintage Keds advertisements to name a few. Let's be honest, there's nothing a hipster loves more than a vintage ad. This "controlled chaos" become an expression of the Keds marketing ideology "all together now" - a phrase the marketing team was widely embracing but was unsure how to represent visually.
We defined three key conceptual pillars for Keds - "Collective Creativity, Shared Experience, and Individual Style" combining to create an evocative visual story. After user research and persona creation, we strongly felt that this technique would resonate with the audience, speaking to them in their own language, and using social media tools already embedded in their lives. It elevates the brand by celebrating individual voice. Users could move "back through time" using a scrubber tool to see how the brand (and brand lovers) had changed and what different users were saying and adding to the collective voice. They could "remix" the mashup using a color tool or adding/subtracting keywords. What does "Keds + Movie" look like for example? Dirty Dancing of course. Nobody puts Baby in a corner.
Rather than glamourous and staged "hero shots" of the product with models, we created an online outfit uploader tool that encouraged users to show the world how THEY wear their Keds. This approach was authentic and evocative in its celebration of personal style.
Additonally, we proposed an online "collective shoe creator" tool to increase the voice of the community and celebrate the new shoe personalization tools Keds was offering. The tool was, in essence, a freeform graffetti experience for you and your friends. Move over Shepard Fairey. A user could create a new "collective shoe" and invite friends to join in (or join with random anonymous users.) In real time, users dragged stickers and added brush effects and color fills to the shoe, personalizing it together. At the end of the experience, anyone involved in creating the shoe could actually add it to their cart. The created designs from across the entire community were celebrated in a "shoe gallery" where users could rate other people's creations and purchase their designs as well.
As if that wasnt enough, we also proposed a "laces" iphone app that allowed people to "thread their thoughts." Users could select their lace color, their number of eyelets, and draw a picture or write words using the laces. This image could be sent to a friend, saved, and shared across a wide range of social media outlets.
Overall, the suggested user experience of each touchpoint continually reinforced the idea of celebrating and elevating the voice (and creativity) of the end user. If Keds wanted to be seen as hip and cool, I strongly believed that would come from letting the user define the brand, not telling the user what the brand was. We put the brand in their hands.