Chuck Taylors are the most iconic shoe that nobody wears. That’s all about to change.
Yesterday Converse lit up social media by announcing their first revamp of the original Chuck Taylor shoe since its introduction in 1917. As a fan of the shoe, I spent about 20 minutes studying their website (which is pretty legit) and growing feeling that I should get a pair. Once I sized up their critical improvements to the shoe, my mind went wild with excitement.
But this isn’t a blog about shoes. This a blog about business, design, and technology. Very few of us have the privilege a being a steward of product or company that is as iconic as the Converse Chuck Taylor. But a close look at this story reveals 3 big lessons that are applicable to all businesses.
^ Left: the original Chuck Taylor, unchanged since 1917.
Right: The new Chuck Taylor, debuting in late July, 2015.
Lesson 1: Keep What Matters, Dump the Rest
You’re probably a little confused about this new shoe because it looks almost exactly like the old shoe: white soles, white toecap, canvas body and a white circle on the ankle. Look close, and there are subtle differences. But that’s not the story.
The real story here is about understanding your product and your market. Remember that Nike purchased Converse in 2003 for a cool $305 million. (Compare that to Facebook acquiring the 5-year-old tech company WhatsApp for $22 billion, or for 73X the acquisition price for Converse.)
So here you have Nike, the most corporate of all names in the sports shoe world, purchasing a rootsie brand like Converse. Imagine the ways they could’ve gotten this wrong:
- “Let’s keep the blocks of color, but let’s make the shoe more sporty.”
- “Let’s go with a Tom’s shoes strategy.”
- “Let’s make them more onpoint with today’s basketball shoe.”
Yes, those are all horrible ideas. The creative directors at Nike / Converse knew that the shoe is an icon.
The look is not broken, so don’t fix it.
But let’s get real about the problems with this shoe, which is basically everything else. The shoe is primitive.