Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Unringing the belle: Skechers return to nursing

One great way to kick-start your recovery from recession if you've got a popular brand is to go for brand extension. Just like the Californian entrepreneur back in the 1970s who saw the potential of movie classic Jaws as a marketing icon for his Jaws Sandwich Bar ("If you liked the movie, you'll love the sandwich"), today's brand owners do much the same thing -- but usually rather more subtly, and with their own brand rather than someone else's. That's what footwear firm Skechers is doing, moving from the leisure-y market to the supply of funky-but-functional apparel for the nursing profession (for more, see Businesswire here):
"The SKECHERS collection will feature a younger, more flattering fit than traditional medical apparel. Through innovative silhouettes, prints and fabrications, the line will utilize ready-to-wear trends in basics like scrubs, pants, jackets and tees. Branded designer accents will include SKECHERS logo buttons, flag labels, jacquard ribbons, and zipper pulls. The SKECHERS medical apparel line will be available in a wide range of sizes".
This is not Skechers' first flirtation with the nursing industry, Fashionista recalls. If you go back five years, the brand was involved in a bit of a damage limitation exercise after its saucy "naughty nurse" advertising campaign attracted the wrath of Nursing Advocacy. The advertisement on the right, featuring Christina Aguilera, had to be pulled after Skechers conceded that it denigrated nurses. In a subsequent letter to the company following the decision to pull the advertisement, Nursing Advocacy wrote:
"Unfortunately, just ceasing publication of this ad cannot undo the damage already done, or "unring the bell." In our view, the ad has imprinted a negative image of nursing on those who saw it, potentially including health care decision-makers and career seekers, at a time of critical shortage. Persons who associate nursing with sex are unlikely to see it as worthy of being their career or of receiving significant public or private resources. They are unlikely to realize, for instance, that many thousands of nurses with doctoral-level education in nursing work on the cutting edge of health care research. Nor are they likely to realize that nurses save or improve countless lives every day through their difficult, highly-skilled work. It is imperative for global health that we not only halt this kind of damage to the nursing image, but also start reversing the damage by helping to create a more positive image".
But five years is a very, very long time in the marketplace ...