Timberland: Social media case study — Live from Member Meeting 41

Coverage of this session by Eli Benitez of SocialMedia.org. Connect with him by following him on Twitter.

3:20 — SocialMedia.org's Stephani Williams introduces Timberland's Senior Manager of Digital and Paid Media, Frank Hwang.

3:22 — Frank: Frank: This is me: I’m with Timberland, and we are our own brand, but a part of VFC. As you can see, I like to surf, and I’m in New Hampshire. Also, I’m a dad. Now, why we’re here to talk about Timberland? First some context:

“You can tell a lot about a person from their shoes and where they’ve been.” – Marilyn Monroe

3:24 —  Some more context: “Style is when they’re running you of town, and you make look like you’re leading the parade.” – William Battie

3:26 — Frank: And now about us as a brand:

  1. It started in 1973 with a boot. It was (one of) the first waterproof boots made
  2. We’re built on a heritage of adventure
  3. We're a four-season outdoor lifestyle brand
  4. We're a brand for the modern trail

3:28 — Our challenge:

We’re a boot maker, and there are many people who are passionate about our original yellow boot. But we’re also make much much more. We want to make it fun and exciting — show people our style and our quality. Also, we’re trying to make things feel a bit younger and relevant without alienating anyone. We have a broad audience and a lot of different messages.

3:29 — Frank: Our goals? Digital and mobile first, but a lot of times there are challenges to make this happen. At the same time, we have to balance strategy and reaction. How do we look at our objectives and set strategy, while responding to the business?

  1. Embrace the consumer
  2. Celebrate our heritage
  3. Tell product stories in a lifestyle context — especially through the lens of social. We wouldn’t have the engagement and following we have if not for those platforms.

3:31 — There’s the traditional content distribution model: what we’ve tried to do over the last few season is paint a new type of model. Everything is kind of connected now:


  1. Content
  2. Distribution owned
  3. paid, owned, earned
  4. Consumer
  5. Back to the content from the consumer

How we tell our stories: A balance of product and lifestyle. Woman’s stuff, Men’s stuff, Values stuff and combine. It’s all about testing.

A story: The original yellow boot: Leveraging the insight over 1.7MM people have hashtagged Timberland on Instagram this video shows how our original boot is for everyone. We then extended this into a 360 degree campaign across our entire marketing plans: digital, out of home, wholesale, retail, social…

3:33 — Frank: We had an exciting new Timberland story not just using the yellow boot story. It gives us the context of lifestyle.

3:37 — Frank: Amplify and enable the lifestyle: Celebrities don’t always do well for us on social. It’s all about the right stuff in the right place. But we like to throw test different things in our channels, but always an eye to the consumer.

3:40 — Frank: Things to remember:

  1. Think like the consumer
  2. Be authentic, for real
  3. Mix product and lifestyle
  4. Have a plan, but be willing to change


Q: I noticed that you don't us the logo on pictures.

A: On Instagram, we don’t overlay logos and text on our pictures. We want the image to be the focus. We have the copy, but we know people don’t read it, right?

Q: Are influencers why you're using generated content or not much?

A: It’s a mix influencers and user generated. But, we also mix in our brand and media stuff, and try to be careful and clear.

Q: Social is isolated and worked on it's own. What's the best practice?

A: First, is education. Then it’s making it relevant to the business – product launches, and collaborations with really cool people, but also some “real” stories. Can we set the strategy and agree on it? Yes, we hold hands and agree together, but sometimes the reality is that it can be different when it comes to the here and now.

Q: I'm fascinated by testing. Can you talk about the journey?

A: It’s not rocket science, but we use a 70/20/10 model. 70 is proven stuff. 20 is expansion areas. 10 is pure testing. Sometimes we test something, but we have the flexibility that this might suck, but then it’s okay if it has low engagement.

Q: How do you choose influencers?

A: We start with our PR team and align. We literally brief our influencers like any of our other partners. But the number-one thing is its gotta feel real.