Kristin Harrer, the global CMO of Vans who stepped into the role in April 2021, has accomplished a lot in a short period. From launching the brand on Roblox to globally expanding the Vans Family loyalty program to leading the digitization of Vans’ brand experiences, she’s had a busy year. With Vans being inherently connected to subcultures and music, digitizing these experiences for its audiences has been a priority.
Harrer is particularly proud of the way Vans stepped in during the pandemic to support artists who struggled with the loss of music venues and, at times, livelihoods, and bring their projects to life. “Rather than investing a production budget on another ad campaign, we used it to commission and support 80 artists around the world, helping them with music videos, access to skateboarding, sculptures and paintings,” she said. This year, the brand has also extended the campaign, called Musicians Wanted, to support underrepresented communities and creators who are part of those communities.
“Since I started my career, I’ve wanted to change the world for girls and women through marketing,” she said. With CMOs being frequently more responsible for showing how the brand is aligned with the values of its consumers, the Vans brand has announced commitments to goals like doubling Black representation at the company and increasing the number of BIPOC employees at the director level. “I joined Vans partly because we are committed to stepping up and providing opportunities, access and creative outlets to uplift and empower women through art, music and action sports,” said Harrer.
Now the brand’s community has shifted to the metaverse and new social media platforms, making the transition one of the most important parts of Harrer’s role. “The key to our success has always been thinking mobile- and digital-first, operating with agility, and freeing up space and time to experiment and test-and-learn in new mediums and across different platforms, [in order] to stay connected to our most engaged consumer base,” she said. Vans has launched a new Vans World on Roblox under Harrer and is expanding its presence across platforms, like connected TV, OTT, and social spaces like Twitch and TikTok, to experiment and identify ways it can connect with its consumers where they’re spending their time.
Harrer said the role of the marketer has always been about connecting with the brand’s community while necessitating a deeper connection with its consumers at the same time. Her role looks into Vans’ future by coaching and supporting its marketing team to make that vision a reality, hiring those who can infuse culture into the brand strategy. “As a brand that wants to evolve alongside our fans in real-time, we embrace experimentation, test-and-learn and [conduct] never-been-done-before pilots as a way to see what resonates quickly and double down when there’s a hit. It’s fun!” she said.
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