When it comes to performance footwear, components are a big deal. Footwear vendors have long used hang tags with the names and technical bona fides of their components partners to add credibility to their brand message. Components makers in turn have relied on the method to call attention to their often-invisible technology.
But who decides which tags go where — and what they say? Do customers spend the time reading the tags components manufacturers work so hard on? And in today’s eco-conscious environment, what can components makers do when brands put the kibosh on the traditional hang tag?
Product: Aegis Microbe Shield technology, an antimicrobial treatment used in linings and insoles that is odorless, colorless and retains its properties for the life of the product
Footwear brands: Merrell, New Balance, Keen
Aegis Environments is not just tough on bacteria, it’s tough on its partner brands when it comes to hang tags. According to Nathan Smith, industry manager for the Midland, Mich.-based company, all vendors must routinely demonstrate that the Microbe Shield technology is being properly applied before a hang tag can be displayed on the product. “We demand performance,” said Smith, noting that Aegis routinely monitors its clients (of which about 5 percent are footwear brands) to guarantee the proper application of its technology.
According to Smith, the hang tags can influence a purchase, as evidenced by routine calls from consumers asking about the technology’s benefits. To make it easier for people to get in touch, Aegis puts its Website on all tags. “When consumers buy something unique, they want to know what they’re buying,” said Smith. “Technology and the presentation of that technology give [brands] an edge.” By displaying hang tags, he added, consumers come to recognize the technology and repurchase products featuring it.
PrimaLoft, Albany International Corp.
Product: PrimaLoft Eco, a synthetic recycled insulation used in uppers that is water-resistant, breathable and compressible
Footwear brands: Ariat, Timberland, Patagonia
PrimaLoft is taking its performance message global when it comes to hang tags. According to Eileen Berner, sales director for the Albany, N.Y.-based company, the information on every PrimaLoft hang tag is translated into six languages. Whatever the market, the objective is always the same: “to justify why consumers are paying a certain price for this footwear,” Berner explained. “Hang tags are our way of educating the consumer and retailer.”
And the public is taking note, according to Berner. “Feedback is a great indication of the response,” she said, citing the regular traffic on PrimaLoft’s Website, which is mentioned on all hang tags. Many consumers who visit the site even request a free sample, giving them the opportunity to experience the product’s performance.
While PrimaLoft produces a number of insulations, PrimaLoft Eco is designed specifically for footwear. To carry out the technology’s eco theme, the hang tags are environmentally friendly, made of recycled paper and printed with soy-based inks, Berner said. “If you’re going to offer [recycled] insulation, make sure to have similar hang tags.”
Product: Boa lacing system, a cable- and dial-based shoelace replacement
Footwear brands: The North Face, Vasque, Specialized
According to Garett Graubins, marketing manager for Boa Technology, the hang-tag policy at the Denver-based company has been under review since day one. “[In the past], we used them to get our message out — we’re a small company, we don’t have the luxury of assuming people know who we are,” he said. However, the company learned that retailers trying to unclutter their shoe walls were snipping hang tags off displays. So while 90 percent of Boa’s clients use its tags, Graubins said, the company knew shoppers might not be seeing all the features listed on the tag until after purchase.
To adapt, Boa has taken a two-pronged approach. It has been working with its footwear partners to print its message elsewhere on the shoe — on the tongue, inside the upper, on stickers on the sole — to get the name out before sale. The other response, Graubins said, was to adapt the hang tag to be a post-sale tool. Now, the tags focus on reiterating the product features and reinforcing the branding, as well as detailing the company’s lifetime guarantee.
Product: Rubber compounds used in outsoles that provide grip, flexibility and abrasion resistance
Footwear brands: La Sportiva, Salvatore Ferragamo, Ugg
For Italian outsole maker Vibram, the hang tag has one main goal: getting people to check the company out online. “The hang tag is a useful tool to communicate to consumers, but we have dozens of high-performance rubbers, so it’s probably not the best space to communicate the details. We believe our Website is the best place,” said Lawrence Anastasi, sales and marketing manager. Despite the forward-looking marketing strategy, the company’s tags have a distinctly old-fashioned look. “We want to communicate that it’s an authentic product with long history and heritage,” Anastasi said.
Going forward, Anastasi said the company is looking at new directions for the hang tags. One idea is a call to action, such as a contest or other incentive to drive people to the Website (and give Vibram a sense of how effective its tags are in reaching its customer).
And while the hang tags are used by about 99 percent of Vibram’s footwear customers, the company does have options for those who prefer not to use them: It makes the same product information available to be printed on the box or elsewhere around the product.