🥾 How to make $7B selling ugly shoes

🥾 The World’s Ugliest Shoe

Would you pay $300 for a pair of Crocs?


Well, what if they looked like a bucket from KFC?

Still no?

In 2008, 99% of investors would have agreed with you, calling Crocs a “fad” and a “dying product.”

And in 2010, the NY Times listed Crocs on their 50 worst inventions list

But 14 years later, Crocs is still going strong with 12% growth year over year.

This is the Story of Crocs, and how 3 marketing geniuses turned the ‘world's ugliest shoe’ into a $7B brand.

  • 🐊 #ihatecrocs

  • 🎨 The Art Of Selling Ugly

  • 💰 The $50 Upsell

Read Time: 4 min 11 sec

🐊 #ihatecrocs

When Crocs first opened its doors, it was a functional shoe for boaters.

The 1st Croc showcased at the 2002 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show

But the 3 founders (Scott Seamans, Lyndon Hanson, and George Boedeckerwere) quickly found that boaters in need of new shoes were not a large market.

For its first 3 years, Crocs barely made a profit.

So in 2005, Crocs expanded their market to everyone who works on their feet…

Boaters, kitchen staff, health care workers…

Once they made the switch, Croc’s sales shot up to $108M in 2005 and up to $800M in 2007.

But 2008 was not a good year for Crocs.

Crocs had just seen its best year yet in 2007 with a stock price high of $75.

But after a few scandals, overstocking, and the 2008 financial crisis…

Crocs was nothing more than a penny stock.

Between 2008 and 2009, Crocs lost over $185M trying to gain back some of their previous market share.

And to make matters worse…

The #ihatecrocs hashtag was going viral on social media.

The internet was split into two groups - those who hated Crocs (#ihatecrocs) vs those who owned 2+ pairs.

But, it was this controversy that allowed the 3 founders to change their selling angle yet again to drive sales…

“We are very confident being ugly. We love that the brand is polarizing. We have been ugly since 2002 and we have no intent to change that.” - Crocs CMO

Instead of trying to sell Crocs as the must-have shoe with unparalleled functionality…

The 3 founders leveraged the ‘ugly’ hate to sell Crocs as a viral fashion trend.

And it’s this marketing strategy that became Crocs’ lifeline and made them the $7B brand they are today…

Or as Crocs puts it, “selling the ugly.”

More on this

  • The Croc King - The guy who broke the world record for the largest collection of Crocs with 2,690 pairs (5 min)

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🎨 The Art Of Selling Ugly

It all started with Balenciaga…

Crocs paired with Balencia and released the Balenciaga Clogs for $800.

Then came the Balenciaga HardCrocs Sandals for $1,190…

Since then, Crocs has partnered with internet personalities and brands to create limited-edition clogs.

Here are a few of the top editions:

Post Malone Barbed Wire Clogs ($850)

The pair comes with six Jibbitz charms, including Post Malone’s “Stay Away” tattoo, his Posty Co logo, an eyeball, and a saw blade.

The collection sold out within 2 hours.

The KFC Clogs ($300)

“These shoes are what fried chicken footwear dreams are made of" - KFC CMO

Originally sold for $300, Crocs partnered with KFC to create (in my opinion) the ugliest Crocs yet.

They sold out in 29 minutes. 

The Easter PEEPS Clogs ($39.99)

Today, the PEEP Jibbitz sells on eBay for no less than $70.

(And it’s $100 if all PEEPS are the same color!)

It’s the perfect strategy for Crocs…

Take a hot topic → Make it as ugly as possible so people talk about it → More sales without changing their signature shoe

More on this:

💰The $50 Upsell

Under Armour sells 426 types of tennis shoes…

Nike sells over 1700…

But Crocs has only 17 - 12 of which were added in the last few years. 

On one end, this makes Crocs extremely easy to scale…

It’s the same mold, give or take a few colors. 

However, Crocs could not expect to make billions from the same ‘ugly’ shoe.

So, Crocs bought Jibbitz in 2006, “The Pizza topping for Crocs.”

They’re tiny Crocs plugins that personalize your Crocs.

Jibbitz do three things very well:

  1. Helps personalize a uniform shoe

  2. Is a very effective upsell

  3. Makes Crocs even uglier, driving more attention

Jibbitz usually costs anywhere from $5-$50. Over 12% of people who buy Crocs buy at least 1 Jibbitz.

(In 2006, $2 million worth of Jibbitz were sold each month. That number has only increased in the last 18 years)

And just like there are luxury Crocs…

Designer Jibbitz sell anywhere from $30 to $100.

So not only has Crocs found their multi-billion dollar upsell, but they’ve managed to build personalization into a scalable model.

More on this:

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