Creative Roundtable: Chuck E Change

ConverseConverse overhauls its home, inviting a crowd

Who wears Converse? Who doesn't? Take a look around, and you'll see everyone from 10-year-old Girl Scouts to 18-year-old punks to 50-year-old advertising agency CCOs rockin' Converse's legendary Chucks. Acknowledging the brand's wide appeal, Converse chief marketing officer Geoff Cottrill says the common denominator among Converse devotees is that they are individualists.

With that in mind, Converse teamed up with R/GA to create a new that would speak to, well, everyone who has claimed Converse as their own, displaying "the diversity of our product while telling timely, relevant brand stories," Cottrill explains.

In addition to selling the latest Converse styles (everything from a special The Who Union Jack edition to classic Jack Purcells), the latest incarnation of allows sneaker shoppers to truly separate themselves from the pack by designing their own custom kicks. The site also provides branded content in the form of video, with offerings ranging from a 3-D skateboarding video to the music video for "All Summer," which finds Kid Cudi, Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast and Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij cavorting about with big paper heads on their shoulders. (The delightfully quirky clip, produced by creative collective Psyop, came out of Anomaly's "Three Artists. One Song." campaign for Converse.)

But is this enough? Is truly the place to get your kicks? To find out, OMMA turned to two digital creatives - TBWA Worldwide's David Lee and Bartle Bogle Hegarty's Seth Weisfeld - as well as Complex lifestyle editor and sneaker kingpin Bradley Carbone.

What do you think of the homepage?
Weisfeld: It draws me in, and I'm a sucker for the filter by color [wheel]-it appeals to visually oriented people, and I probably fall into that category.
Carbone: My initial reaction was that it looked a little all over the place, but I very quickly realized that it was well designed and intuitive. It's fairly easy to navigate, and there are a lot of ways to access content. You don't have to go in too deep to find things, and you're very quickly switching between products and seeing that you might even like products from different categories.
Lee: It's definitely fresh. It feels like they found a visual vernacular.

Clearly, the goal here is to get people to leave the site having purchased a pair of sneakers. How do you like the design-your-own-Converse feature?
That was the highlight of the experience for me. I actually tried to create my own, and it was very seamless. It took you step-by-step, and you didn't feel lost, whereas a lot of times on Nike ID it just gets a little confusing as to what the next step is. I think R/GA - [having created Nike ID] they're the masters of this shoe customization tool - took some of what they learned from Nike ID and tried to port some of that experience over but make it more bespoke for Converse, and they did a great job with that.
Carbone: The format is well done and might pull in people who weren't necessarily looking to buy something.
Weisfeld: It's pretty robust and refined from a user experience perspective. It was really clear about what pieces could be customized and how many steps it would take to complete the process, so I was pretty impressed with it.

When it comes to content, video is king on this site. Do you find the selections appealing?
The music video with the oversized paper heads ["All Summer"] - that is a good piece, and the 3-D skateboarding video is pretty cool.
Carbone: Yeah, I thought the skate stuff was cool. Anyone can come to this site and feel comfortable and quickly get to the type of content that fits them so that it feels like the brand is their brand, and that's important. Lee: I do think some of it was interesting. I'm not sure about the whole 3-D skateboarding video - that was a little bit tricks-y for me. But, overall, it's good.

Would you like to see more social and community features built into this site, or is it best to have that going on elsewhere?
The share your customized sneaker on Facebook or Twitter or through a blog post was the only social feature I saw integrated within the site, and the whole social shopping experience is something that a lot of brands are trying to achieve, but I'm just not sure people want to share exactly what they're buying even within their close circle of friends.
Weisfeld: Pushing too much of a social integration into the site is not really necessary with this brand. They're already so steeped in the culture that I don't feel like they need that presence on their dotcom. Facebook is a better venue for that.

Is the new a success?
Well, I bought a pair of shoes from it. I thought it would be good to really experience the customized shopping experience first-hand, and I ended up with a design I couldn't resist. Actually, as I'm browsing the site while we're talking, I'm seeing a couple of other things I could potentially purchase. I should stop doing this.
Carbone: I think so. It balances showing the product with creating a fun environment, and it also introduces the consumer to a lot of different elements of the brand quickly but without being cluttered or confusing.
Lee: It's a very elegantly designed website, and the online customization feature is executed very well. The only real major negative I have to say - and that's partly because [my employer TBWA] is Apple's agency - is I don't think the right solution was to build the website in Flash. We're not really using Flash for our Web sites anymore. We want to make sure that every experience we do works on all screens and all devices, and what you're getting if you visit from an iPad or an iPhone - or an Android phone, for that matter - is a missing Flash plug-in page.

Given that reality, why would a site like this be built in Flash?
I have to assume that using Flash was a calculated choice based on their consumer target and audience. But more likely it's that R/GA has invested a great deal in their now tried and true shoe-customization platform, and it would have been too costly to port that over to HTML. Visiting the site from a mobile device or tablet does offer some e-commerce options but none of the additional content from the main site and no product customization. As more and more time is spent online via our phones and devices, it would be great to see major brands begin to provide the same level of functionality and content on all of the available platforms.

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