Iconic men’s brand Johnston & Murphy is turning its attention to the ladies this fall. The Nashville, Tenn.-based company is launching an aggressive consumer marketing campaign designed to create increased awareness for its women’s footwear and accessories collection.
Behind the new creative, set to bow in October, is Yard, a strategic image-making agency. The firm has tailored a series of print and digital ads marketing Johnston & Murphy as dual-gender rather than men’s-specific. In addition, the brand is set to run its first women’s-specific print ad to run in Marie Claire.
“It took us several years to learn about the women’s business and understand the consumer,” said Jason Dasal, SVP of marketing, about the collection that bowed in Johnston & Murphy stores in fall ’08, followed by a wholesale launch in fall ’13. “We’ve had nice reaction to the product, but in order to accelerate growth, the next step was generating awareness.”
The campaign, which features a series of lifestyle ads that include both men and women, incorporates the tagline “Now & Always,” a reference to the brand’s simultaneous rich heritage and modern sensibility. According to Yard founder Stephen Niedzwiecki, “Now & Always,” will be utilized as a new mission, vision and set of values to be carried out externally through its product, catalog, retail experience and website.
In its first year at wholesale, the women’s line has been picked up by high-profile independents that include Arthur Beren in San Francisco, Jildor Shoes in Cedarhurst, N.Y., and Harrys Shoes in New York. According to Dasal, initial distribution has focused on women’s-focused independents offering a high level of service.
While the brand has worldwide recognition, Dasal said it has not relied on its history in men’s to sell it women’s line. In fact, he noted, “It’s been easier in [retailers] where we haven’t had men’s,” said Dasal. “There’s not as much baggage where [consumers think] we’re a men’s-only brand.” Women, he said, are typically open to purchasing new brands.
Although women’s is a new frontier for Johnston & Murphy, Dasal said in the long term, it could equal the men’s business. “This consumer campaign is the first step toward building awareness,” he explained. “For a long time, brands were specific to one product category. [Others] paved the way [for Johnston & Murphy], and now it’s acceptable to expand out of [one’s] core category.”