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Messaging matters: The AND 1 ToChillin
[caption id=”attachment_316" align=”alignright” width=”104" caption=”What’s in a name?”]
I was talking with an entrepreneur today about messaging and his frustration with having a great product that some customers are struggling to understand reminded me of some kicks I built.
When I was the creative director for footwear at AND 1, Ballers were walking around in soccer slides with socks on before and after games, to the mall, to the B-B-Q and to school. Not a good look, not that functional and your socks get ruined. We wanted to create a slip-on shoe that could be worn before and after games and generally enter the casual athletic market. We built the shoe you see here and called it “the slide.”Comfortable, affordable and way better looking than soccer slides with socks.
I took it up to 155th and 8th to test it. Everyone hated it. I took it to West 4th, they hated it. At playgrounds and malls across the country, everyone hated “the slide.” We tested different colors and fabrics and nothing worked. Kids said we should stick to lace-ups or make a soccer slide.
The shoe was a failed experiment until our audience helped us with the messaging.
On my last testing stop before heading back to Asia to finalize the line I was at the Northline Mall in Houston, TX and didn’t notice the kid holding The Slide until the argument started. 30ish high school kids, boys and girls, surrounded the shoes and 29 of them were laughing at the one holding the shoe. He argued with them with no success until he said, “No, stupid. It’s not to hoop-in yo, it’s to-chill-in.” The other kids were silent. Then, one by one, they agreed. In this group “the slide” was the best shoe.
I delayed my trip to Asia by a week and went back to all the other places we tested product, but this time I did not bring “The Slide” I brought the “Tochillin.” It tested off the charts and we included it to the line. Within 12 months we had a $50M Tochillin business with multiple styles and the original Tochillin Low went on to sell over a million pairs in 3 years.
The name of a product or service or how it is positioned through marketing and customer messaging can determine its success or failure. Don’t assume to know your audience, listen to the market to discover the right message. If you have an example of messaging changes that drove significant changes in consumer acceptance I would love to read it in the comments. If you own a pair of ToChillin’s, post it here or on twitter with the #todayskicks tag.