Birkenstock makes moves outside the perceptual category of “comfortable and stylish quality sandals and shoes”
I discussed the Birkenstock Natural Skin Care line extension in the previous post. After sharing it on LinkedIn, I learned from Ruben Lekkerkerker that Birkenstock had already extended into sleep systems.
To recap: Birkenstock is known for its quality sandals and shoes, and Google confirms its strong positioning. Yet the company wants to be known for: sandals, shoes, socks, bags, cosmetics (creams, cleansing, oils) and belts, mattresses, frames, beds, and pillows.
Birkenstock also saw the opportunity in sleep systems and connected the world of a Shoe with Sleeping. In their words:
“Taking a great idea one step further: Just like the original BIRKENSTOCK footbed, our anatomically designed sleep systems also adapt to the shape of your body. This enables our mattresses, slatted frames and beds to support and ease the strain on the human body in an ideal manner when lying – helping you sleep as comfortably as possible. Feel refreshed from tip to toe.”
If you think this sounds like any other sleeping systems brand, then you are right – it does. Great mattresses adapt to your body and all great sleeping systems help you sleep as comfortably as possible, so you can feel refreshed when it is time to wake up…
The thinking inside the company must have something like this: we are known for our “anatomically shaped cork-latex footbed” – this is all about adapting. In which growing category can we extend this thinking? SLEEP SYSTEMS!
The question is: will consumers buy Sleep Systems from a high-quality shoe and sandal brand?
Turn it around, would people buy Shoes or Sandals from sleep systems brands like Tempur or Hästens because they have great nights of sleep?
I seriously doubt it.
The secondary problem with these many line extensions is that Birkenstock signals that they are not so serious about what the brand is known for: shoes and sandals. Shoes and sandals are now part of the many other things the brand does.
In other words: if you have to make a call on buying shoes and you can choose between a brand that is only designing, manufacturing and selling shoes or one that does shoes, skincare, bedding and more… which one would you pick? Most often, the specialist wins over the generalist.
The best path for Birkenstock would have been to do exactly what Google and Facebook recently did: sell products with different target audiences or purchase intensions under different brands. The product looks so great that it would be a shame if they do not succeed because of the position Birkenstock has in the mind of the buyer: Birkenstock = Shoe/Sandals.