In fact, for most British people, Dr. Martens need no introduction since the brand has already become a British icon. Dr. Martens is known as a British footwear brand; however, they also make other ranges of products like clothes, bags and shoes protection. The air-cushion sole and yellow stitching is famous features of Dr. Martens shoes. (Employment Wikipedia, 2012)
For so many years, Dr. Martens has linked with youth subculture, Brit-pop and rock music. Thus, Dr. Martens is no longer a fashion brand. It has become an essential element in the different lifestyle.
This report will divide into two main parts. First is the discussion about the subculture involved with Dr. Martens in UK and China and compare the marketing activities in those two countries. Second part will tend to find out the motivation and core value of UK customers toward Dr. Martens, then tries to in depth to understand its influence on the marketing activities of Dr. Martens. In order to narrow the scope of this report, the analyze of the first part will focus on China market, and the second part will focus on UK market
Origin of Dr. Martens (Streething, 2012)
2. History of Dr. Martens
The origin of Dr. Martens can trace back to 1945 during The World War II, when a German army doctor Klaus Märtens injured his ankle, and he could not wear his army boot because it was terribly uncomfortable. In order to recovered from injury, he decided to remade his army boot with more soft leather and tyres. After the war, Märtens started to produce his first pair of shoes with leather which took from a local shop and air-cushioned soles. (Employment Wikipedia, 2012)
At first, Märtens’s shoes did not selling very well until he met his old friend Dr. Herbert Funck in Munich 1947, Frank liked the shoes design very much, and they started to plan business on this shoes in Germany. With the comfortable wearing experience, the shoes were becoming immensely popular among the German housewives. (Employment Wikipedia, 2012)
With the company growth, Frank and Märtens considered pushing the shoes into the international market. Not long after a footwear manufacturer from England called R. Griggs Group Ltd. bought the right to produce Dr. Märtens products in UK. To adjust the local market, they changed the brand name to Dr. Martens, redesigned the heel to feet British customer, and used yellow welt stitch on the shoes. They also further developed the sole of the shoes by adding the two-toned design. Then created a logo for the distinctive Air-cushioned soles—– AirWair.
AirWair Logo (Logo Database, 2012)
On 1 April 1960, the product line at the Grigg’s factory had produced their first Dr. Martens boot, which named by the date of its produce, 1460. This classic eight holes boots in wine red color is still the best-selling product of Dr. Martens. (Roach, 2003) After it rolled off, Dr. Martens 1460 linked the brand to several culture elements and subculture groups.
Dr. Martens 1460 (GF1,2012)
For the first few years after Dr. Martens launched in England; their product were treated as working men’s boots such as postmen and police. The situation changed until 1966, when a British rock music guitarist named Pete Townshend became popular in England. Townshend always wore Dr. Martens boots and then made them fashionable, he said Dr. Martens boot were more suitable for his style than other shoes. With the air-cushioned soles, he could easily jump around on stage while playing the guitar, and it could remind him of the working class in which he had grown up. ( Manzoor, 2010) From that time Dr. Martens boot started to become a symbol of rock music and British youth culture.
Pete Townshend with Dr. Martens (Shimmer, 2011)
In 1970s with the wide range of musical movement, Dr. Martens has become the uniform of the amount of subcultures, include skinheads, goths and glam rockers. Skinhead, which developed from the British junior working-class, were the biggest fans of Dr. Martens. Another notable subculture Punk broke in 1976, which its members also wear Dr. Martens boots. The next part of this assignment will give the further discussion on this two subcultures.
At the beginning of 1980s, Dr. Martens found themselves in an embarrassing position since ‘sneakers’ culture became prevalent throughout the world. From 80s to 90s, sneaker became a crazy thunder that impacted on every corner of Dr. Martens’ market. Rock stars, movie stars, teenagers, athletes, commuters, at times, it seemed everyone has started to wear trainers (especially in US, where average 2.5 pairs per person) (Roach, 2003). In 90s, since the awareness of sports star like Michael Jordan, a pair of white basketball boots or running shoes seemed became the essential fashionable item, even though some of them might be more expensive than a pair of Dr. Martens 1460. Unfortunately, the design and material of Dr. Martens boots made it too heavy to wear for sports.
To compete with sports brand like Nike and Reebok, Dr. Martens even launched their sports shoes line called AirWair Sport, but it did not last long. 1988 is a historic year for Dr. Martens, the brand started to export their product to other countries. By 1993, the boots became popular in America because of the contribution of subcultures. Also in 1990s, with the explode of the shoe industry, more color and style were available among Dr. Martens. Thank to the revival of older style, shoes were more likely a lifestyle product, but not just a functional thing on people’s feet. As the result, older brands like Dr. Martens and Clarks could survive trough the fierce competition.
From 1999 to 2006 Dr. Martens international revenue fell from $412 million to $127 million. Under that pressure, in the April 1st of 2003 the brand moved all their production line to China and Thailand; they also shut down 2 stores in UK and fired a large amount employees.
Nowadays, with the successful restructure, this old brand with more than 50 years history has back to growth—They are the eighth fastest-growing British company in 2012. Within 5 decades of its history, more than 100 million pairs of Dr. Martens shoes have been sold. Nowadays, the company offered 250 different models of footwears. They opened 14 new Dr. Martens stores in the UK, the US and Hong Kong between 2009 and 2011, and also launched a line of clothing during 2011. (Employment Wikipedia, 2012)
PoloT- shirts from Dr. Martens (Streething, 2012)
3.Culture and Subculture
There are too many definitions of culture; my favorite one is ‘Culture is a complex universe, including knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs, and any capabilities and habits a member of society can obtain’ (Taylor, 1987). No matter how to defined culture, it is always a critical factor to influence consumer’s behavior, and then determine the marketing activities of organizations. As a part of culture, subculture always links to consumer’s desire and attitude. Within a subculture group, consumer can be easily identified, segmented and then influenced. (Chang, 2005). Furthermore, each subculture group may have their own perception or loyalty toward particular brand.
Back to the Dr. Martens, in its long history, the brand has linked to so many subcultures. Nowadays although some of them are no longer prevalent; there are still two subcultures relate to Dr. Martens closely and tremendously popular among the whole world which are punk and skinhead.
As mentioned before, skinhead formed in 1960s from the British young working-class. It is a typical youth subculture in Britain which based on fashion wear, music and lifestyle. The members of skinhead can be easily identified by their short hair cut and dressing style; they always wear shirts from a brand like Fred Perry and Ben Sherman with Harrington or Denim jacket on the top. For the trousers and footwear, they treat indigo rolled up jeans(normally from Levi’s, Lee and Wrangler) and Dr. Martens boot as their uniforms. For music taste, the early skinheads were well known by their crazy in reggae music. At that time, people could find many skinhead kids dancing to the same reggae song in a British club. Then in 70s with the wide spread of punk style, skinheads started to be involved by hard-core and rock music.
Early Skinheads (Profound, 2012)
In the 1960s, which was the gold years of skinhead, they could be found in everywhere of the England, after that, it even spread to the other countries of the world like Russia, America and Australia. Hence, the spread of skinhead can be seen as a promotion of Dr. Martens. For people who had a skinhead friend in the 60s-70s, Dr. Martens should be familiar. Compare with the early stage, today’s skinheads have many different; they may do not have the short hair or bare head; they may be linked with some of racism and political issues, even someone may treat them as a part of gay culture. But still Dr. Martens boots are essential items and symbol of skinhead.
Talk about punk style, it will remind of the exaggerated long straight hair, leather bike jacket, tight jeans and punk rock. In fact, despite this, punk culture can also be found in art, literature, movie even dance. In brief, punk is a lifestyle which based on individual freedom and anti-establishment view. (Employment Wikipedia, 2012).
Punk emerged in 1970s; the most valuable heritage of punk was the music, the rise of punk style achieved numerous great music bands from a different decade, which include The Sex Pistol in 70s, Joy Division in 80s and Green day in 90s. This unique musicians made punk known by people all around the world, and with the rebel aggressive thought, punk were extremely popular among youth.
Punks with Dr. Martens and DIY clothes (Thai, 2011)
The unique of punk’s spirit filtered into fashions as well as music. Punks advocated in anti-loose, anti-bright color and DIY fashion. They always wore tight jeans, homemade t-shirts, leather jackets with particular slogans and logo. They used safety pins, metal studs and heavy chains as jewelry. In the early stage, there were limited punk fashion available in UK, only little clothing shop in London offered punk items, and in the other place there were no such outlets. (Roach, 2003). Fortunately, there was one punk items that available on a large scale and in a very rational price—the Dr. Martens boots. The tight jeans of punks made it particular suitable. Perhaps, the style of punk can be fixed with much other footwear, such as Converse All star, Biker boots and Combat boots. But the priceless of Dr. Martens made more youth punks accepted it as their uniform. And the success of Dr. Martens among punks could be easily saw on many customized 1460 boots. The unique design of punks provide Dr. Martens with artistic image.
3.3. Compare with UK and China
In the UK market, thanks to the widespread of subcultures and long history, Dr. Martens has a unusually high awareness and reputation. Because of the weather and fashion trend, British love to wearing boots, this give Dr. Martens an excellent opportunity to grow their market. The company own more than hundred stores and an online shop in UK and almost every British men know Dr. Martens. The customers of Dr. Martens coverage many age level (not only youth). To satisfied the requirement of subcultures, Dr. Martens launched several special items, include studded 1460 boots, studded belts, and studded oxford bags.
By contrast, although there also have skinhead and punk subcultures in China, the awareness are much lower than UK, and Dr. Martens is only known by limited customers (mostly are the teenagers who interested in British culture, high street fashion or rock music). Hence, in order to reduce the risk, Dr. Martens only opened one store in Beijing. To coverage more population, Dr. Martens sign with a fashion retailer from Hong Kong—C.P.U. However, C.P.U. sales many footwear from different brands. Compare with UK store, only the limited Dr. Martens products are available in C.P.U. store, which means, except classic model consumers cannot see other products of Dr. Martens in there. Another problem is that Dr. Martens’ shoes are putted in a same shelf with many their main competitors like Red wings and Nike. This are not conducive to build the brand awareness in China.
Chinese Skinheads (HAOYUNLINGYIN, 2011)
For most Chinese youth, Sneakers are still there first choice, and they do not know what Dr. Martens is. However, consumers can hardly find Dr. Martens ads in China. To change this situation, Dr. Martens needs to pay much more resources on promotions; the details include: * Use advertisement on television channel and the Internet. * Open more Dr. Martens store. (Not C.P.U. stores)
* Find an endorsement celebrity who has high awareness in China. * Launch more product model in China market (since most of Dr. Martens products are made in China; this might be easy to achieve).
4. Motivation and Core Values
Motivation stands for the processes or forces which driven consumer to purchase particular product. In other words, it is the processes that reduce customers’ tension when they have utilitarian or hedonic needs. (Solomon, 2011)
‘A Value is a belief that some condition is preferable to its opposite and Core Value refers to several values share in the particular culture.’ (Solomon, 2011)
For British consumers, the core values are different between male and female. Comfort is still the primary factor considered by men; they tend to buy the shoes that can be worn both at home, in the office and the pub. For the women, they tend to buy shoes that can make them more attractive. Thus, the fashion elements especially high heels are considered more by women when choosing footwear. According to research by MSN in 2011, each British woman own 39 pairs of shoes in average, one in ten of them believe “the higher the heel, the better”. Nearly half of them agree that it worth to pay more money for a pair of shoes which can make them more charming. (Employment Euromoniter, 2012)
Based on previous research and values above, the motivations which drive the UK customer to purchase Dr. Martens shoes can be described in three points: * Function: It is no doubt that Dr. Martens shoes are stable, heat resistant and waterproof, and with the distinctive Air-Cushioned sole, it can also provide users with comfortable wearing experiences(match with the male’s core value). Since the cold winter and rainy weather in the UK, this factor can be significant.
* Fashion: Dr. Martens product has extremely high appearance rate in the fashion industry. Their shoes can be found in fashion week, fashion magazine, and social media. Furthermore, There are several fashion models like wearing Dr. Martens shoes. For instance, Agyness Deyn—the endorsement of Dr. Martens. She act in several Dr. Martens’ advertisements and also design a limited product series for Dr. Martens. To build the fashionable image, Dr. Martens continuous expand their product line, from brogues, casual shoes to high heels.(Fit with the female’s core value). With those strategies on the product and promotion, Dr. Martens is wide accepted as a fashion footwear now.
Dr. Martens’ fashion week (Streething, 2011)
* Music & Subculture: As mentioned in the first part, music & subculture have a significant relationship with Dr. Martens within more than five decades. Lots of British musician wear Dr. Martens boots on the stage, activities or television shows. Famous Bands such as The Blur and The Who led Dr. Martens boots to become the essential items for rock music fans.(Not only in UK but also in all around the world). As the promotion strategies, Dr. Martens have an alliance with some music bands include The Raveonettes and The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, this bands produced music tracks and videos for Dr. Martens’ campaign, which customers can download from Dr. Martens official website. In addition, to build the connection between the brand and music, Dr. Martens used to released album compilation, sponsor music festival, and hold the campaign to memorize the dead rock stars like Kurt Cobain and Sid Vicious.(Thomas, 2010) Thus, if consumers are going to a music festival in UK, they may see so many Dr. Martens boots. Because to British music fans, wearing Dr. Martens is their faith.
The Blur with Dr. Martens (CLASH, 2010)
On the other hand, there still have some risk in UK market: some customer think that since Dr. Martens move their most factories into Asia; the quality of their products are no longer high enough than before. Thus for the prospect, Dr. Martens needs to maintain their brand image in UK. They may pay much more attention to PR strategies such as advertisements and session campaign. They also need to standardized their product line in Asia to ensure the quality.
Agyness Deyn act in Dr. Martens’ Campaign (Streething, 2011)
The Raveonettes act in Dr. Martens’ advertisement (Streething, 2010)
As a traditional footwear manufacturer, Dr. Martens is tremendously successful. To the international market, because of impact from music and subcultures, Dr. Martens is not only a footwear brand, but also a symbol of England. In the Asia market, particularly in China, Japan and Korea, since more and more customers are influenced by western culture, Dr. Martens have a lot of potential to have aggressive expansion. In fact, the brand name itself must be the most powerful competitive advantage of Dr. Martens.
Dr. Martens ‘Broken in’ Collection (Streething, 2011)
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