Nominees: Trade Me, The Warehouse Group, Moustache, Countdown, Lush, KFC, Mr Bigglesworthy, Barkers, World, Allbirds, Z Energy.
Woollen sneaker brand Allbirds overcame a tough start to become one of New Zealand’s most exciting value-added exports. After securing its place in the market, Allbirds was able to branch out with its initiatives and company growth, opening flagships in Wellington and New York in quick succession.
The brand aligns itself heavily with social consciousness, placing high importance on corporate responsibility and lessen the strain to the environment. Allbirds’ newest shoe represents a further innovation – it’s made with a proprietary mesh knit textile derived from sustainable eucalyptus pulp.
Allbirds is known for its creative stance on the most intimate of details, from design, manufacturing, production and distribution – nothing has been left unchecked to meet both consumer demands and market expectations, all while taking a spin on a very saturated market.
Tim Brown, co-founder of Allbirds, has long known the market needed something different: not just in product, but in ethos.
“We’ve come into a really old-fashioned category in footwear, and we have tried to rethink every aspect of the experience in terms of the product itself and what it is made from. I think there is a deep commitment to the use of sustainable materials in our products and in our brand. Traditionally with footwear you release a range, so I think our idea to release just one shoe within a range was a quite innovative approach.”
Brown credits Allbirds’ focus on sustainability to a new up and coming conscious consumer.
“There is an emerging consumer that wants to know the prominence of things, to understand every aspect of the business and the supply chain. We saw really early on that wool is remarkable and a great material opportunity for footwear.”
Allbirds overcame a tough start to become one of New Zealand’s most exciting value-added exports, but it hasn’t lost its Kiwi humility.
“In terms of brand, we’ve tried to bring a real empathy for that mission of innovation, but also a sense of humor in to a category that traditionally takes itself pretty seriously.”
After securing its place in the market with a 2017 flagship in San Francisco, Allbirds branched out with its initiatives and company growth, quickly opening its second flagship in New York.
Allbirds’ newest shoe represents a further innovation – it’s made with a proprietary mesh knit textile derived from sustainable eucalyptus pulp. Brown says creativity doesn’t always come from overzealous over the top operations, but often the opposite.
“I think there is a misconception that innovation is adding things on, sometimes it’s about taking stuff away… But simplicity is not easy, and it’s been a relentless process for us.”
Allbirds’ creativity can be seen through many its innovative ways of creating and selling its product, but Brown says having a company as successful as Allbirds is less about creativity and more about listening.
“I think it’s about paying attention to the details and caring. About everything from packaging to customer service, I think the idea of a brand just being a logo is no longer the case. You absolutely must consider every touch point and we definitely try and do that both online and in our retail stores. All the little details really matter, and to me that’s what creativity is, that is what creating a great brand is all about, which is caring about all those things.”
Judges’ comments from James Blackwood: A lot of discussions and many worthy finalists. But for innovation, freshness and overall approach, Allbirds wins. The brand DNA is unique, and everything it does reflects those core values in a cool way.
Honorary mention goes to Barkers for continuingly evolving as a first-class retail experience.
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 756 June/July 2018