I have a theory. I think the Crocs phenomenon is the now defunct X-files phenomenon in disguise. Why do I say that, you might ask? Well, let’s look at the time line. The X-files lasted 9 years from 1998 up to 2002 & Crocs, started in 2002 – just as if Crocs picked up where the X-files left off. Too much of a coincidence I say! The plot thickens…… Both have their fair share of believers and the sceptics which is reminiscent of Mulder’s & Scully’s roles. Last but not least, both phenomena are driven by one basic element. Aliens. In the X-files, its the invasion of aliens amongst humankind. In Crocs, it’s of course the invasion of croc like alien-shoes amongst human hearts…….ummm… feet I mean.
It’s a unexplainable indeed. How on earth did this clunky, ‘plastic’, aesthetically challenged sandal become such a huge footwear icon????? Many believe in the Crocs being the ‘truth’ in footwear, proudly attesting to its chiropractic, orthotic powers (the latest claim is that it has diabetes relieving properties – believe it or not). Many people whose professions require them to stand the whole day i.e. nurse, painters etc have claimed that Crocs have changed their lives. And most importantly, this product is able to generate over US300 million in yearly revenues (’06) for Croc Inc. & its share price has risen from about uS6 at the beginning of 2006 to as high as US69 in Oct 07. (It has since plunged to about US29 per share @31.1.08 – but still a decent price, no?).
What drives this phenomenon.. I wonder? Echoing the tagline from the X-Files…
“The Truth is Out There”……………….
Truth No. 1 is that its application has grown by leaps & bounds. Crocs has humble beginnings. It started out as a ‘plastic’ sandal for boating because of its waterproof properties, non marking & slip resistant soles. That’s why Crocs started out with beach crocs which till today is one of its bestsellers still! However, it is worn for everything under the sun now. From hiking to shopping, from gardening to working the ubiquitous bright colours of crocs can be seen adorning the feet of millions of croc fans who scream & rave about its therapeutic abilities.
Truth No. 2 is that it appeals to the masses. Crocs are made of this light weight material called Croslite. Its supposed to be anti-bacterial, odour free, slip resistant. The original design is also well ventilated thanks to the holes on top of the shoe to promote air flow. These functional properties appeal to both young and old, in other words – the masses. See the Crocs product banner above : ‘crocs shoes are for everyone’. It’s a low maintenance, no fuss shoe which has prompted critics to say that its worn by people with a “anything goes” attitude. This is probably true given that some wearers have gone overboard to wear it for all occasions be it formal or informal ………. But, it is unfair to give the shoe a bad rap if the wearer is not able to match the propriety of their footwear to the occasion. However, it is this very mass market appeal that I feel helps maintain a healthy sales level for the company. On the back of its declining share price end of last year, some models were totally sold out during the last X’mas season. So, do not be mistaken, the drop in share price is in no way reflective of declining consumer interest. It is more likely reflective of investors perception of the stock valuation instead.
Truth no. 3 is comfort. Crocs are a walking irony. They are a fashion disaster which has bucked the trend by endearing itself to a lot of wearer’s hearts. The shoe possesses a side profile which resembles its name sake – the crocodile. In fact this is why its creators were inspired to call them Crocs. At the risk of looking cartoonish, how attractive can a pair of shoes which looks like a reptile be? The answer is COMFORT. Crocs’ success clearly shows that comfort has won the tug-of-war over aesthetics. The cushy ‘cros-lite’ material used apparently form fits itself to the contour of the wearer’s feet. This very quality has made it popular amongst people whose jobs require them to stand on their feet all day i.e. nurses, painters, gardeners, etc. Although there have been complaints by podiatrists & chiropractors that people with feet or back trouble have overrated its benefits, many have claimed that the shoe has been ‘life-changing’. The crossover from recreational use to professional use has also added another pendulum for growth. The crossover would not have been possible without the aid of ‘comfort’.
Truth no. 4 is that the brand has benefitted from both good & bad publicity. Anti Crocs websites like IhateCrocs represent a group of people who are out to ‘kill’ the brand. There have even been Croc burning ceremonies as a show of protest . There have been reports of accidents involving children wearing Crocs & escalators. There have also been reports from hospitals about added incidents of static shocks passed over from nurses wearing crocs to patients. But negative publicity is still publicity as propagated by advertisers. It attracts attention. It arouses the curiosity of people in general. In my opinion, this only serves to elevate the cult like status of Crocs. It propels the fence sitters to come out & try the shoe out – to seek the truth so to say. So to avid Crocs haters, I say to you, perhaps your actions have resulted in an opposite reaction?
Whether you are a Croc Mulder (believer) or a Croc Scully (sceptic), one cannot dispute the success of the brand. It’s strong revenue bears testimony to the strength of the brand. What can go wrong? …….
Well, the company will probably have to brace the emergence of a Cancer Man in their success story. He could come in the form of ‘a passing fad’ maybe, or in the form of a ‘new competing brand’?……. Who knows? Important thing is crocs is out to prove that they’re the ones who are understand your feet best …… And you can be sure they’re not about to entrust this responsibility to anyone else in the near future. Don’t be surprised if they pitch the following to you……..
but Crocs to take care of your feet!!!!”
p.s. The company is aware of the market challenges ahead of them. They have come up with new lines which are more aesthetically pleasing & are seeking to expand the application to include a line for ‘diabetics’…(how will that work, I wonder?).
p.p.s. BTW, I DO NOT OWN a pair of Crocs….. Fat Dragon has 2 pairs. I think that more than makes up the statistics for ‘number of crocs per household’. So you see, I’m the Mulder of the family….& Fat Dragon, the Scully. 🙂