Cover Story: Working its Way Into a New Channel
A New Demographic
Carhartt is intent on changing the perception that it's a brand primarily for men. The retailer considers women to be a core part of its target audience, and has a vast selection of products for females. An upcoming print and online marketing campaign will be conveying that message to consumers.
"There's a generation of doers and DIYers now that are probably as prolific as they've been since the Rosie the Riveter days," says Ambroza, referring to the fictional character representing the American woman who worked in factories during World War II. "We're embracing those women who are artisans and tradespeople and crafts people."
Customer acquisition is evolving for Carhartt. The brand relied on recommendations from its single-store wholesale partners — who were often looked at as the expert in town — to grow its customer base in its formative years. Word-of-mouth marketing stemming from the quality products Carhartt sells has been a constant acquisition source for the retailer.
Carhartt is transitioning to a louder and larger customer acquisition and retention strategy. The brand debuted a TV commercial last October, and another TV campaign is planned for the fall. Carhartt's online acquisition efforts focus on search, both paid and organic.
Building out its international business and providing a mobile commerce option for customers are two areas where Carhartt is investing time, money and resources.
Carhartt has been selling abroad — mostly in Europe, with some distribution in Asia — for over 30 years. The competitive landscape of work wear in Europe has proven challenging, however.
"When you're talking about work wear in Europe, there are almost 200-plus brands," notes Ambroza. "It's a highly competitive marketplace. It's a long-build strategy, but it's an important place for us to be. We believe in it. The worker there needs the qualities of Carhartt too. And as with anything, when you pursue new opportunities overseas, it comes with diligence and patience."
As far as mobile is concerned, Carhartt currently has a mobile version of its website, but shoppers aren't able to transact on the site. The brand views its current mobile site as a test run. Expect that to change in the near future, however.
"We understand that for many of our customers their computer is their smartphone," says Ambroza. "So we certainly don't want to ignore that. We want to be able to provide them with something that makes sense in their lives, too."
These are the next steps for a brand that's developed a loyal customer base during its 122-year existence. Now it's about evolving to meet the changing needs of today's always-connected consumers — without sacrificing what the Carhartt brand stands for.
"The consumer who's grown up with Carhartt has seen that even as the brand has evolved over the years, the consistent Carhartt DNA has never changed," says McGeorge. "There's a commitment to quality. There are things about Carhartt that it will never compromise. The core values of Carhartt are evidenced in the product, how it stands behind its product and how it presents its brand to consumers."