Uggs made $3B last year selling the ugliest shoes they could think of. Crocs and Birkenstock did it too

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And there’s a crazy reason why people love this stuff. Here’s how ugly shoes happened.

1/ Early Days Rewind to 1995. Uggs is a niche brand that’s been around for decades. It’s limping along. But it’s about to pop into the mainstream. With some crafty product placement, Uggs jumps into the spotlight. Pamela Anderson is spotted wearing them on the set of Baywatch. Sales spike. They start getting noticed all over Hollywood. Then Oprah features Uggs on her Favourite Things list. Ugly is in. And Uggs is leading the charge. But we’re just getting started.

2/ Going Mainstream Around this time, Crocs takes off. It goes from something you’d see at a Miami boat show to the runways of Milan. Literally. Hoka and Birkenstock are making noise too. Even couture players like Birks and Givenchy are making their own versions of funky footwear. The shoes may be ugly, but the numbers are beautiful.

3/ Big Dollars All these brands are making big money. • Uggs’ parent Deckers brought in $3.1B last year • Crocs made $3.5B • Birkenstock is at $1.3B Sales are inching up every quarter. Ugly is a great business. And it’s here to stay.

4/ My Take Why did people fall in love with ugly shoes? And even if you don’t find them ugly (I don’t), you have to admit they’re different. That’s on purpose. Uggs designers routinely trash concepts that look too “normal”. Their styles must be different. It’s ugly or nothing. Period. And here’s why it works: It’s the power of the anti-brand.

For every trend, there’s a counter-trend. For every customer who loves you, there’s another who feels ignored. And the greatest communities are often built when you rally a group who feels forgotten. While Nike and Adidas were competing for cool, these guys were running in the opposite direction. Building a cult following.

Never underestimate the power of a customer community. Especially when they’re making noise from the fringes. Before you know it, the fringe will become mainstream. It’s counter-intuitive. It’s counter-culture. And it’s marketing magic.

P.S. I share business breakdowns and growth playbooks. At Influicity, we build customer communities that drive revenue. I love spotlighting brands like Uggs who show us all how it’s done.

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