Reconnecting with street culture to drive growth

Services: Market Immersion | Global Consumer Insight | Growth Strategy | Qualitative Segmentation | Quantitative Segmentation | Brand Strategy | Brand Positioning | Proposition Development | Global Messaging Framework

Rebellious beginnings


Since its inception in the mid-60s, the Vans brand has been integral to the skate world; the brand has traditionally stood for the rebellion and nonconformity that are integral elements of skate culture.

But in 2014, the leaders of the business were worried. Had it become a rebel without a cause?

As the brand grew and expanded, Vans’ original purpose had been diluted. “True” skaters felt that the brand was too mainstream to represent them, while mainstream buyers were still looking for a reason to connect.


Reconnecting with street culture was the key.

We conducted research in 10 countries, using a variety of methodologies to get to the heart of what connects consumers to these activities and their brands – 100s of in-home interviews and group discussions, combined with video ethnographies and passion safaris to observe action sports and street culture enthusiasts in their environment.

For Vans, creative expression is the key to inspiring a deeper brand relationship


Three “aha” moments emerged which guided strategy development

Growth without meaning is unsustainable

Vans was growing, and the company assumed the growth was driven by brand. But we determined that it was due to style trends and the shifting economy, Vans being cheaper than most high-end sneakers. People didn’t understand the brand, and styles shift, so this was a clear indication that Vans needed to focus on and tell the story of the brand

Vans was losing its anchor in performance

Nike’s SB skate line had changed the game and made performance a desirable attribute for skate shoes. They raised the bar for performance expectation, and Vans realized it needed to catch up.

In extreme sports, you can’t half-ass it

Vans was stretching beyond skate (e.g. snow, board, BMX), but there wasn’t enough focus, so the brand seemed to be just dabbling in these sports. In extreme sports, consumers don’t trust brands that dabble.


We found that creative expression was the key to inspiring a deeper brand relationship, providing inspiration for product development and marketing initiatives, and the foundations for stretching credibly into new categories.

We delivered a new set of guidelines for product architecture and stretch opportunities and worked with the brand on the launch of LXVI range of performance wear.

The result?

Brand sales up 20%