The Rise of Crocs Brand in the Footwear Industry

The Crocs brand has seen a remarkable resurgence in recent years, going from a struggling company in the late 2000s to one of the fastest growing brands in 2022. Crocs’ signature foam clogs have found a new audience with both high-end collaborations and continued popularity among medical workers and others looking for comfortable, casual shoes.

A Humble Start

Crocs was founded in 2002 as a boating shoe company, debuting their signature clog design that year. The lightweight, slip-resistant, and ventilated clogs were initially aimed at boaters, restaurant workers, and others who spent all day on their feet.

The company went public in 2006 and saw sales surge to over $800 million by 2007. However, the 2008 recession hit Crocs hard, with the company losing over $200 million in sales and their stock trading as low as $1 per share. This is the time when the rise of Crocs brand started.

Refocusing on the Core Clog

In 2014, Andrew Rees joined Crocs as President and took over as CEO in 2017. Rees focused on returning to Crocs’ core clog business after the company had expanded into clothing, boots, and other products.

Key moves included:

  • Cutting the retail store fleet from 600+ down to around 370 currently.
  • Launching high-profile collaborations with designers and brands.
  • Focusing marketing on the signature clog silhouette.

Fashion Collaborations

Crocs began collaborating with high-end fashion brands and designers in 2017, helping to rehabilitate its image and reach new audiences. Some notable partnerships include:

  • Balenciaga
  • Salehe Bembury
  • Chinatown Market
  • Bad Bunny
  • Post Malone

The Salehe Bembury Pollex Clog collab generated massive hype, with units selling out in just 35 seconds. Crocs now has over 60 active collaborations and sees these limited-edition models as critical for generating buzz.

Global Growth

Domestically, Crocs has reached $2.7 billion in sales as of 2022. But the brand also sees major potential internationally, where it currently has just one-third of the US penetration.

Some key facts about Crocs’ global growth:

  • International sales make up 38% of revenue for the core Crocs brand.
  • Asia Pacific and Europe account for around 20% of sales each.
  • China remains an untapped market, representing only 5% of sales.

Comfort First

The key to Croc’s success has been the comfort-first focus enabled by its signature foam resin material. As Rees summarized:

“We believe in making everyone comfortable in their shoes because when you’re comfortable, you can do anything.”

By honing in on maximum comfort and casual wear, Crocs has ridden larger fashion trends shifting toward athletic leisure and work-from-home apparel.

The $50 price point for its classic clog also positions Crocs as an affordable luxury item — something fashionable that nearly everyone can purchase.

Driving Digital Sales

A key part of Crocs’ growth strategy has been expanding its digital and ecommerce capabilities. The company has invested significantly in its online infrastructure and partnerships.

Some key facts about Crocs’ digital sales growth:

  • Digital channels now represent 37% of total sales
  • Company ecommerce sites and third-party online retailers like Amazon are major sales drivers
  • Strong social media engagement and online marketing attract younger demographics

By meeting customers online, Crocs makes purchasing frictionless while also collecting valuable customer data for further personalization. As online sales continue rising across retail, Crocs is well positioned through its robust digital operations.

Unique Brand Community

Another factor in Crocs’ popularity is the brand community the company has built. Wearing Crocs’ divisive clogs can signal to be part of the Crocs fan club.

Crocs has fostered community through:

  • Jibbitz charms allow customization and self-expression
  • Comfort positioning as a rallying cry – “Come As You Are”
  • Active social media engagement and memes celebrating Crocs

The company has turned detractors into advocates by embracing the culture around Crocs. Communities united by passions like gaming, pets, and travel have coalesced around the iconic clog.

By leaning into its polarizing image, Crocs creates a sense of shared identity and ownership among its fans. And that brand community becomes its strongest marketing asset.

Sustainability Initiatives

As part of its brand revitalization, Crocs has also focused more on sustainability initiatives:

  • Launched goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030
  • Partnered with clean energy providers to offset carbon impacts
  • Increased use of recycled Croslite material in clogs and sandals
  • Started reusable packaging program in 90+ Crocs retail stores
  • Joined UN Global Compact sustainability organizations

Though the company has faced criticism over its petroleum-based Croslite material, it is taking steps to reduce environmental impact. These efforts help appeal to eco-conscious consumers and investors.

Morale & Culture

Crocs works to promote an engaging, collaborative company culture:

  • Fun office environments with open layouts and brightly colored spaces
  • Quirky company events like “Croctober” internal parties
  • Strong corporate philanthropy supporting community organizations
  • Employee Resource Groups that build inclusion

By focusing on culture, Crocs aims to attract and retain top creative talent even amid a tight labor market. The company’s emphasis on diversity and employee experience has led to high ratings on workplace review sites.

Celebrity Endorsements

In addition to designer collaborations, Crocs has partnered with musicians, athletes, and other celebrities to boost its public image:

  • Musicians – Justin Bieber, Post Malone, Bad Bunny
  • Athletes – John McEnroe, Russell Westbrook, Gracie Gold
  • Actors – Jack Harlow, Awkwafina, Drew Barrymore

These high-profile endorsers, especially among younger demographics, give Crocs credibility beyond just comfort. The brand gains relevancy in pop culture by associating with trendsetting celebrities across entertainment and sports.

Battling the Haters

Despite its recent success, Crocs still has its share of vocal detractors and “anti-fans.” The clogs’ divisive look and association with comfort over style have fueled plenty of social media hate.

Crocs has taken some creative approaches to battling the haters:

  • Partnering with celebrities and influencers to make the shoes “cool”
  • Leaning into the ugly aesthetic with meme campaigns
  • Reaching out to critics to change perceptions
  • Offering free Crocs donations when people share anger online

But negativity comes with the territory of being a disruptive brand. The company channels it as a rallying cry for supporters to join its inclusive comfort revolution.

Key lessons Crocs demonstrates in handling haters:

  • Don’t take it personally. Focus energy on those who love your brand rather than trying to please everyone.
  • Embrace your quirks. Let your fan base celebrate what makes you unique rather than conforming to critics.
  • Have conviction. Stick to your brand vision and values vs. following passing trends or outliers.
  • Be generous. Kill the haters with kindness and maybe win some over through goodwill.
  • Focus on momentum. Keep growing your community of supporters – their passion drowns out negativity.

Crocs proves brands don’t need universal appeal to be successful. By fully committing to its comfort-first ethos, Crocs accepted some people would dislike them. But that focus and self-acceptance are key to finally finding its fans.

The haters may never go away. But Crocs shows brands can chart their own course regardless of naysayers.

Crocs Keeps Stepping Forward

Crocs has undergone a remarkable transformation from a company on the brink of failure to a top footwear brand commanding premium prices and hypebeast collaborations. How did it accomplish this incredible turnaround?

Focusing on fundamentals. By paring down to its core clog business, Crocs leaned into what it does best – comfortable, casual, affordable shoes.

Embracing collaborations. Partnerships with designers and celebrities brought buzz and expanded Crocs’ audience.

Targeting growth markets. There is still massive potential overseas, especially in China and other developing regions.

Customization. Jibbitz charms let customers personalize their Crocs and have become a lucrative revenue stream.

Comfort first. Crocs understood the larger trends toward athletic leisurewear and work-from-home comfort before other brands.

Crocs likely won’t rest on its laurels. With robust sales growth continuing, we can expect more new styles, collabs, and global expansion in the future.

The classic clog company’s comeback story remains one of the most impressive in recent fashion history. By getting back to basics and aligning with cultural shifts, Crocs transformed itself from a meme to a serious footwear contender.

It proves brands can’t be counted out if they understand their strengths and place in the market. For Crocs, the future looks bright – or at least brightly colored with plenty of Jibbitz attached. The company overcame the haters by embracing what made it unique and owning its identity of casual comfort. Also, Crocsbazaar is the best blog to learn about Crocs!

Where Crocs goes next on its journey remains exciting to watch. But its revival offers key lessons for brands struggling to find their footing in an ever-changing retail landscape.

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