In our Brand Story Hero series, we shine a regular spotlight on different brands that we think tell their story well. Here we take a look at Allbirds, a company who claim to sell the world’s most comfortable shoes.
Founder: Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger
Year founded: 2014
Mission: “Worlds most comfortable shoe.”
Meet Tim Brown (left), co-founder of Allbirds.
He did not grow up dreaming of starting a shoe business. But in a few short years, he has built of the fastest growing shoe businesses in the world.
Born in March 1981, Tim started life as a professional footballer playing for his native New Zealand team. He also played league football, taking up his position in midfield for Newcastle Jets in Australia and Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand.
In March 2012 Tim retired from professional football and began a Master’s degree in Management in the United Kingdom.
Since his days playing football Tim always had an interest in shoes. He felt they were a category that was overdesigned and over-logoed. He saw an opportunity to make shoes out of natural materials, something which had been overlooked so far.
In 2014, he received a research grant from the New Zealand wool industry to engineer a shoe. Around the same time, Tim crossed paths with Joey Zwillinger (above right), a college roommate of his now wife and a Biotech Engineer and renewable materials expert.
Together they began developing their idea for a sustainable shoe. Together, they crafted a revolutionary wool fabric made specifically for footwear.
After developing their process and perfecting their model, Allbirds officially launched on 1 March 2016 with only just one shoe.
Tim and Joey did not just create a shoe but they also created an ongoing mantra to create better things in a better way.
Tim and Joey didn’t believe in seasonal releases and launching multiple items at once. They were confident in their shoe and their belief in the message behind it. They stood by the insights they discovered while creating the shoe.
Time magazine called the product the most comfortable shoe in the world.
A year later, Allbirds launched a second type shoe. They remain confident in their approach of creating a few products that will stand the test of time. The business is anchored on a couple of singular products and the constant improvement of these products.
Allbirds underpin this approach with three pillars, the non-negotiables of their business:
Their storytelling lessons
Keep it simple
On the Allbirds website, you can buy five different types of runner and four different types of accessories.
As Tim and Joey stated in the original belief and launch they were focused on one shoe. This has not significantly grown since then as the Allbirds team commit themselves to anchor their business with only a few products but make these products the best they can be.
Keeping it simple has allowed Allbirds to focus on what’s important to them. They focus on making the best shoe they can. Even with their success, they have not gotten distracted by logos, colours and different types of shoe.
It shows that when your focus and keep your business simple you can achieve great things.
Mother nature is their muse. They use sustainable materials from Mother Nature that they can use in new ways.
Wool, trees and sugar are their three powerhouses. They are what Allbirds use to make their products.
On Allbirds website each material has their own unique page. It describes how and why the team use it.
Also included are the other material Allbirds also uses:
Allbirds have nothing to hide. They are showing their customers exactly what their shoes and packaging are made of.
This builds trust with the customers. When you know exactly what you’re buying you trust the brand.
It also builds passion with the product. When you know what has gone into making the product you are wearing you are more connected to it.
Use your praise
Allbirds didn’t market themselves as the worlds most comfortable shoe.
When they launched in March 2016 this was bestowed on them by Time Magazine.
Instead of politely accepting this praise Allbirds have used it in their marketing, on their website and in everything they do.
They have taken praise and rightly so, have run with it and used it to their advantage.
Their brand has become synonymous with comfort. Without them meaning to or fighting for the title they have become known as the worlds most comfortable shoe.
Their storytelling tools
#1 Engaging and fun visuals
Go onto the Allbirds website and you’re met with quirky, bright and engaging visuals. It’s the same on their social media.
To everyone who wanted to buy our merino Bird Mask – today is your lucky day! We made you some limited edition Bird Masks for all of that upcoming holiday travel, including this night-colored one with cloud eyes! Get yours now here: https://t.co/VkJjv9Kyek ☁️☁️☁️ #weareallbirds pic.twitter.com/n2oTsrkZpb
— Allbirds (@Allbirds) November 1, 2018
This visuals come in all shapes and sizes, from longer videos to short gifs and still images.
They are engaging and inviting. You want to learn more about the company when you see them. They also attract attention. When scrolling they made you stop and watch.
Using visuals in this way is something all companies can do. It’s been proven that visuals help engage better with an audience. Allbirds have recognised this and have become experts at using them.
#2 “Meet your shoes”
“Meet your shoes” is a series of videos Allbirds are doing which brings the shoes directly to its roots.
The initiative is demonstrating exactly where the shoes come from and how they are made of sustainable materials. It also demonstrates how Allbirds are committed to animal welfare, as we can see from the video above, the sheep roam freely on a hillside.
Allbirds are creatively and smartly demonstrating that they are a sustainable company, committed to keeping all their materials natural. The videos are light-hearted, short and get to the point quickly. They work.
While partnering with the likes of Air New Zealand and Shake Shack to come up with new products that remain committed to their ethos Allbirds also partner with cities for their “AllbirdsAnd…” series.
The first of which was their American hometown of San Francisco.
The series is a city by city celebration of beloved local businesses that share our commitment to quality, craft and imagination.
Allbirds feature local businesses in their chosen city and promote their work.
Their work is linked to Allbirds as they share the same ethos of sustainability and connecting to nature.
Again the features are bright and engaging, pulling you in with beautiful artwork of the city being featured.
Allbirds are showing they are not just a New Zealand brand, holed up in a factory making shoes. They are an international brand with a message to share and they are committed to sharing it.