NMR Exclusive: Red Wing Shoes Interview

The Red Wing Shoes Factory in 1906

If you head over to the Red Wing Shoes YouTube channel, you will find dozens of videos shot inside the Red Wings Shoes factory. In many of the videos, you will see factory employees using tools and machines that have been around for almost a century. This is just one example of how Red Wing Shoes have built their brand around tradition. In 2009 Red Wing Shoes turned 104 years old and had virtually no reach within the social media community. But how could a brand that was rooted in the traditions of the past hope to stay afloat in the Wild West that is social media?

That very same year Catherine Engel joined Red Wing Shoes as the social media manager for the brand. With a social media strategy that combines the timelessness of Red Wing and the cutting edge of new media, Engel has put Red Wing Shoes on the social media map. Combining classic customer service techniques with the integrated communication, Red Wing Shoes continues to reach and connect with a loyal fan base. I spoke with Engel about developing successful social media campaigns, connecting with customers and staying old fashioned in a high tech world.

Engaging Customers With Social Media

Red Wing Shoes, even though built around institution, has been open to new means of marketing. “Unlike major shoe brands, you don’t see a print ad for Red Wing Shoes in a magazine. They have been very good about finding unique ways to reach their audience,” Engel told me in our interview. Now with the advent of social media, a new form of media has enhanced the brand’s marketing mix.

Red Wing Shoes in particular had a devoted group of followers, and Engel saw opportunity with social media through this.  “Their customer is very passionate about the brand. Think about if a brand has inspired you to send a note saying how their product enhanced your life. Customers regularly submit notes about the value the have gotten out of their Red Wings.” Catherine said.

Red Wing Shoes and Engel knew that customers would want to hear from and give feedback to the brand as patrons, “This is way to let your customer tell their story, and a way to communicate with them as well” said Engel.

Telling The Customer’s Story

Red Wing Shoes primary focus of social media is beyond just a sales tactic, Red Wing wants to connect with their customers and have them share their fandom. “It shows that we are not just using social media to market to you, I am not just selling to you, I appreciate that you are following us and talking about us. It’s not just me blindly posting” Engel said when discussing Red Wings connectivity promise to their clientele.

The brand also has stories to share as well; their film series on YouTube details everything Red Wing from production to history. The film series was met with great reception with over 250,000 views on YouTube without promotion beyond Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

You In Your Red Wings

A Submission From The You In Your Red Wings Campaign

To date the most successful social media campaign Red Wing Shoes has had is the You In Your Red Wings event. “We asked fans to submit photos of themselves in Red Wings and we received hundreds of submissions world wide within two days” Engel said. She then went on to tell me about the social media reach that this individual event had, “With no PR or additional push outside of Facebook and Twitter the feature received over 200,000 impressions.”

When I asked Engel if any incentive was given with the campaign, she had this to say, “What I have been most surprised and proud of with my social media work for Red Wing, is that the community has grown to be a very interactive group that are genuinely looking to engage with the brand. They are not looking for a coupon or only became a fan to participate in a promotion.”


Red Wing Shoes and Future Social Media Plans

Expect to see more film series from Red Wing Shoes, and with the success of the You In Your Red Wings event, Engel plans to bring that back as well. “We are currently producing some more films that we are very excited to share. We will have more films coming out this spring, but we are also looking to do more fan submission driven base campaigns” said Engel. Until then you, can visit Red Wing Shoes Twitter and Facebook to see what social media with a twist of tradition looks like.