May 15, 2020 Larry Gulko

CEO Lounge: Scott Uzzell

President & CEO of Converse

Scott Uzzell Photo

“Every relevant category can be considered crowded. I believe strongly that authentic brands with elevated, meaningful, purpose-driven storytelling can break-through the ‘marketing noise’.”
~ Scott Uzzell,
President & CEO of Converse

LG: What was the defining moment that took your personal journey in the beverage industry at Coca Cola to the helm at Converse footwear? Share with us some of the challenges you’ve experienced.

SU: I loved leading the Coca-Cola VC/Futurist Group, focused on high-growth beverage brands. However, when I was offered the opportunity to work with a highly creative team of professionals in the sport/lifestyle space on a brand with as rich a legacy as Converse, I jumped at the opportunity. I remember wearing Converse as kid and it is a brand that is still loved today in my household.

LG: The Converse brand appears to be reinventing itself after years of being recognized as one of the best-selling footwear brands. What’s your strategy and vision to take the brand to the next level?

SU: At Converse, our mission is to Be a Canvas for Youth Progress across Sport, Culture and Creativity.  In the long-term, our vision is to build on our long legacy of youth and creativity, underpinned by sport. This platform is modern, contemporary, and fits with what we believe today’s youth wants from our Brand. We’ll aim to connect with youth in the unique communities they play in: creative culture (be it art, music or style), Basketball (both on and off the court), and Skate.  All three areas connect deeply with our Brand.

LG: Converse is it a crowded market segment – how are you breaking through the ‘marketing noise’ to build consumer demand and loyalty?

SU: Every relevant category can be considered crowded. But, I believe strongly that authentic brands with elevated, meaningful, purpose-drive storytelling can break-through. Converse continues to break-through by honoring our history, but taking it to new places through modern product expressions. We respect our past, but don’t rest on it.  We continue to push the brand forward in new ways that connect with today’s youth.

LG: Discuss some of the industry trends, the drivers of these trends, and how they’re impacting your branding strategy.

SU: Two key trends stand out in particular:

  • Consumers want brands with character and authenticity.  They want the comfort of products they love, but with modern design and innovation.
  • Brands that have a purpose and are connected to the values of their audiences.

For us, this informs our strategy in a number of ways.  We’re connecting with youth, where they and on their terms, whether that’s an elevated focus on digital storytelling or frictionless shopping.  We’re driving new expressions of our beloved products through meaningful collaborations.  And we’re being clear about the values that we and our consumers care about.  For example, sustainability is becoming more and more integral to the way we do business.

LG: Talk to us about Converse Renew – your new cotton recycling process to manufacture footwear?

SU: Converse Renew is our ongoing initiative to develop new, innovative, and more sustainable ways of creating our products. We strongly believe that, as a 110-year-old company, we have a responsibility to continually push the limits of what and how we can create to ensure that individuals are able to creatively express themselves with our products for the next 110 years (and beyond). We’ve always been committed to making our shoes better and more efficiently, but through Renew, we are exploring new methods of make that both lessen our environmental impact and make smart use of existing materials, like recycled textiles, plastics, and our own leftover canvas.

LG: Tell us about the original creation and evolution of the iconic Converse All Star brand.

SU: Converse was founded in 1908 as a rubber company.  We didn’t actually start making footwear until 1917 with the introduction of the Non-Skid, a shoe that would lead to the eventual introduction of the Chuck Taylor All Star, the original basketball shoe.  Since that time, Converse has been deeply entrenched in popular culture.  We were adopted by a broad range of cultures and communities, from basketball to skate to music to film and art.  Converse has always been there. Always a part of the lives of pioneers and rebels. We’ve always been a witness to youth movements. We’ve maintained that connection by consistently being wherever our consumers are, supporting their goals and needs with our products and our brand, and not being afraid to follow our own path.

LG: Successful brand partnerships are the ones that strategically drive value creation that is bigger, better, and more meaningful than what each brand could create organically. How do you identify ideal partnerships in terms of culture, shared vision, and opportunity?

SU: First, brands need to have a confident view of who they serve.  Second, brands need to understand the values of the consumers they serve. Partnerships should fit into this connected eco-system of storytelling, values, community, purpose, and expression. We seek out partners and collaborators that embody the Converse spirit, reflect our values and enable us to go to places together that we would have not been able to reach individually.

LG: What one piece of advice would you give your 25-year old self?

SU: I would tell my 25-year-old self to let your profession follow your passion and you will never work a day in your life. When your profession matches your passion you are curious, determined, confident, and always live on the offense.

, , ,