This past fall, social think tank Remodista held their Women2Watch in Retail Disruption 2016 Awards Show (it was so fun!) The Women2Watch are “an influential group of thinkers experimenting in online brick-and-mortar retail, solving problems in operations, CRM, marketing, commerce, IoT, supply chain, logistics, and globalization.” This year there were six 2016 Innovation Award Winners, and we’re going to introduce you to each of them.
First, we’d like to introduce you to Emily Culp, who is the CMO at Keds. We caught up with her to learn more about where is she now and her journey to get here.
First off, give us the run-down on Keds. Not everybody knows how deep the legacy runs.
In 1916, Keds was founded as a brand dedicated to providing footwear to let ladies go where they wanted to go and do what they wanted to do. We take pride in our sole dedication to our female consumers. Whether it’s through the designs of our shoes or the marketing and storytelling we put behind our products, everything we do connects back to our consumers.
100 years later, we stay true to our heritage while also continuing to innovate. We are dedicated to bringing fresh eyes to the brand by collaborating with influential ladies, designers and companies to delight our consumers. We’ve continued to anticipate and react to our consumers’ needs throughout the years but have also consistently provided her with our iconic designs like the Champion.
“Female empowerment” has become a part of the overall Keds brand. What’s the story behind the story?
Being one of the first brands to provide women with accessible, fashionable footwear, Keds was founded on the idea of female empowerment. The concept of empowerment is rooted in the brand’s heritage and it is something we are proud to celebrate through our platform, “Ladies First Since 1916.” Powerful and iconic women including Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie O, Yoko Ono and Baby in Dirty Dancing have worn and celebrated the brand. Having created sneakers to empower women gives us unbelievable credibility with our ladies.
Tell us about your journey to get to the Women2Watch Awards.
I joined Keds last July as chief marketing officer, where I’m responsible for driving strategic development and execution of global marketing initiatives including retail development, omnichannel marketing, digital, public relations and content.
Prior to joining Keds, I led the digital and online marketing teams at Rebecca Minkoff. In partnership with eBay, I spearheaded the creation of the “connected store” concept for Rebecca Minkoff’s New York City flagship, which included beacons, RFID technology and interactive mirror. I’ve also held leadership roles at Clinique and Unilever, along with my agency experiences at Ogilvy, Digitas and Arnold.
When I started in the digital space 20 years ago, “digital” was just becoming a relevant area in marketing. I consider my career path a reverse funnel; I started in a specific area (digital) but then began to build a diverse set of experiences. I’ve learned that you can never plan out exactly where your career is headed. It’s crucial to be flexible and embrace smart risk. This mentality has led me to some of the most rewarding work experiences.
How is your company contributing to the future of retail?
I believe one of the biggest contributions Keds is making to the future of retail is by demonstrating how a brand can remain relevant to its consumers for 100 years. Whether it’s embracing new technologies and product evolutions or navigating the challenging retail landscape, Keds has evolved in order to endure years of change. Many brands have come and gone during our brand’s lifespan and I attribute our staying power to our ability to adapt to change and honor our heritage while remaining maniacally focused on our modern consumer.
What can we expect from you next?
At Keds we acknowledge our rich history in female empowerment and fashion. We will continue to celebrate “firsts” and we will do so through fashion collaborations, new product innovations and partnerships with present-day leading ladies.
We are mobile first because we’re aware that this is where our consumer is. We must be maniacally focused on this channel in order to reach and engage with her. Mobile and digital first marketing is the key to our current strategy and is one of the most significant changes we have made to our strategy over the recent years.
In terms of product, our design team is committed to introducing new silhouettes and innovative material executions to each collection. We have several new silhouettes to introduce in SP17 and we’ve received strong feedback. Collaborations are also a way we love to delight our consumers and you can expect to see a few collaboration collections come down the pipeline in the near future.
Finally, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth internationally and we expect that trend to continue. Next year we will be expanding our presence in Asia with mono-brand retail locations and we anticipate that expansion will only continue to grow.
Do you have any advice for female entrepreneurs?
My advice boils down to a few focused ideas:
- Surround yourself with people who are smart, hard-working and beyond passionate about your brand, and who are of high-integrity and have a killer work ethic.
- Be very curious and continue to embrace that you can learn from every chair.
- Always remember to thank your team, boss, family etc. for their support and honest guidance.
- Build a small but diverse group of advisors who you can reach out to as a support system.
- Be collaborative with other departments. At Keds, we are all part of a symbiotic ecosystem (Marketing, Product, Finance, Sales, etc.). When we work together we all succeed.
Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables. Images from Keds.