Why did Timberland, the I Gotta Have It urban youth brand of the 1990s, seem to have lost appeal? Why was product that was specifically designed with the urban youth sensibility in mind, not flying off the shelves as Timberland executives had anticipated? Did the brand really understand how youth discovered and adopted trends or were too many assumptions being made at corporate headquarters? What were the best ways to market Timberland?

Project 2050 assembled discussion groups of trendsetters and early adopters in five key markets to spark dialogue and learn:
– Where style leaders drew their fashion cues from
– Perceptions of the Timberland brand
– A critique of urban and woman's inspired product
– Trend adoption
– Marketing and advertising opportunities

We found that urban youth felt that they had discovered the brand – like most of the brands they preferred – all on their own. It was appealing because it offered something they needed, functionality, durability and quality that would enable them to navigate the tough and gritty city streets. And, Even a kid from Iowa thought that there was something inspirational about big city style.

Timberland, although it was a work boot and commonly worn in the suburbs, had became a symbol of New York City. Urban youth nationwide had started wearing "Timbs". Then, the trend trickled back from the streets to the suburbs creating a nationwide phenomenon. But once Timberland started targeting the inner city with "urban-inspired" product, young people described the brand as losing sight of itself. New product didn't feel durable or quality driven at all; the brand tried too hard to be urban and cool. Timberland needed to "step up" their product design, and our "Influencers Network" suggested that the brand look to the product attributes that had attracted urban youth in the first place: function, durability and quality.

Our selected focus groups were also familiar and impressed with Timberland's appreciation for the outdoors and considered it to be a socially conscious brand. Project 2050 helped Timberland weave in their existing theme of social consciousness into their advertising and ensure strategic placement in various media touch points that appeal to urban youth.