We’re meeting Jim Seuss, who has just started as the new CEO of Hunter Boot. He’s asked us to come to the Hunter Boot offices, which looks more like a design workshop: the air is heavy with a smell of rubber and everywhere we look, there are boots in various stages of design, but also bags and other accessories.
“Oh,” says Anouk as she inspects some of the accessories, “I didn’t know Hunter also did bags and… wow, look at those cool rubber sneakers. I like those!”
“Come on,” I say as I drag her along to Jim’s office. “Stop shopping! Let’s go and find out what they’re doing with the brand!”
“Building it, as I understood,” says Anouk as she stops off to look at some of the other designs. “You know Hunter has a long history. It was founded in 1856 in Scotland and it basically started making the rubber version of the Wellington boot, which was originally a calfskin boot. Nowadays you always think of welly boots as being made of rubber, but that was something Hunter Boot introduced.”
“Really?” I say, as I start looking at the boot collection. “I thought it was a new brand.”
“Well, I guess you could say that while the company and the product have a long history and are known for authenticity and quality, the brand itself is relatively new. That’s what makes it exciting.”
“So let’s go and see how they’re doing it then. Come on!”
As we settle into Jim’s office, Anouk says: “We’ve been looking into Hunter boots and we realized that everybody knows them, everybody has them and everybody wants more.”
Jim laughs. “That’s a nice way of putting it. We’re very lucky that there is such huge brand awareness. I think in a way you could say we are a beloved brand.”
“If you look at our customer groups, they range from the British royal family – who buy 1,000 pairs a year for all their outdoor activities – to celebrities like Ronnie Wood and Kate Moss who have made the brand their own. Kate has turned it into a fashion statement by combining the boots with shorts which has inspired others… Then at the other end of the spectrum, we have teenage girls who wear them as fashion accessories to music festivals, and then there’s everything you can imagine in between – like people who wear Hunter boots for rain protection, which is of course one of our main purposes. Today, Hunter is sold in 50 countries around the world, so we’re not exactly a start-up.”
“And why did they hire you?” I ask. “You’re a builder, a changer…”
Jim was asked for the job about six months ago, because of his strong track record.
“Exactly,” says Jim. “That’s what we need.”
“I’ve accepted the challenge of transforming the product into a brand. We want to take Hunter to the next level. Take the heritage and build a brand. Hunter is a very traditional and authentic product and the new owners think the time is ripe to transform it into a brand. It used to be very utilitarian and now it has become a fashion item. So they hired me to build the brand.”
“And what’s your first challenge?” I ask.
“We have to develop a brand strategy: where do we want to go, how do we want to position ourselves? We have to make choices, on all levels.”
“That’s a pretty massive task,” I say. “How are you going to go about it?” I ask.
“Actually, I can’t tell you much. We’re launching our new strategy in a month. Then I’ll be able to tell you all!”
“Are you working on brand extensions?” asks Anouk. “We saw some non-boot products when we entered the office.”
“Maybe,” says Jim with a mysterious smile. “All I’ll say is that if a mum buys boots for her kids, she might also want to buy them a rain coat.”
“I see where you’re going with this,” says Anouk with a smile.
“And what about communication?” I ask. “Will you target music lovers who go to festivals or will mums be the main target?”
“I’m sure you noticed that we’re a very social brand. Every consumer has their own Hunter Boot story. So social media is definitely going to play a big role.”
“Smart,” I say. “You’re not just turning Hunter Boot into brand, but immediately making it a social brand that is owned by its customers, 100% tuned into 2013! We’ll be interested to see how it goes!”
“Absolutely!” says Jim. “I’ll make sure you receive two pairs of the rubber sneakers we are releasing this season – a red and a blue pair – for your trip around the world. And I’d love you to read our new strategy as soon as it’s released. Maybe you can write a cool story about it!”
“Sure,” says Anouk. “We’re curious to hear more – keep us posted!”
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