Call It Spring wraps its mission up in kindness

The shoe retailer appeals to community-minded youth by helping them care for their wallet, the planet and each other.

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Call It Spring is making the notion of kindness, which it has tried to embrace internally, a more loud-and-proud part of its brand in this year’s fall campaign.

Across online videos, social content, email, digital platforms and in-store signage, the “Kind AF” campaign encourages customers to find ways to be kind to their communities and themselves – something people have been much more mindful of since March – whether that be on a personal level, or with bigger picture thinking, like protecting communities by protecting the planet.

The tagline for the campaign exemplifies the three-pronged approach to kindness that Call It Spring is hoping to embody this fall: “Kind on the planet, kind on your wallet, kind on your feet.”

Alyssa Whited, global marketing director for Call it Spring, says that while sustainability, the benefits of vegan products and an accessible price point have been part of the way the retailer has viewed its brand internally, the new campaign brings those elements to the foreground and combines them with the more community-minded perspective that its younger target embraced following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because it was inherent to us, I don’t know if it really dawned on us that it needed to be something so widely projected,” Whited says. “When the pandemic hit, we realized very quickly that sustainability and planet action are still really important, but people are also more focused on community and self-care than ever. It’s really about taking all of that and looking at it through the lens of people coming together and doing what’s best for others.”

In May 2019, Call It Spring made the entirety of its product lineup fully vegan, something it has gradually made a key pillar for the brand, tying it closely to a sustainability mission, which it’s pursuing in tandem with parent company Aldo – the latter brand became certified climate neutral in 2018, and no longer uses single-use bags in its North American stores. But Whited says internal discussions about how much to talk about the vegan elements of its brand go back to 2018, a time when the brand wasn’t totally sure how well it would be received among consumers.

“It’s wild to say now looking at how informed the customer is, but having a vegan product assortment wasn’t the norm then,” Whited says. “It was associated with very specific brands, not a retailer with our scale. When we launched, we had to have the context for the customer to understand why non-vegans would want to shop a vegan retailer and make sure they weren’t excluded. Now we’ve been able to be more obvious when it comes to vegan because the customer gets what we’re saying.”

Call It Spring has typically been more youth-focused and budget-friendly compared to Aldo, but it was also something it approached with caution in its communications. Customers familiar with the brand already associated it with having a good price point, and calling it out more directly ran the risk of making Call It Spring being seen as the “cheaper” brand with lower-quality products. But given the fact that younger people have been more impacted by both temporary and permanent job losses in recent months, Call It Spring could acknowledge that by positioning affordable, conscious footwear as a way for customers to be kind to themselves.

“What’s going to resonate with customers who have been laid off, and who maybe don’t have the same means or income to prioritize buying occasion-based footwear?” Whited says. “I think we’re going to see it more and more with all brands is that price point is not going to be something that signals ‘bargain cheap.’ It’s going to be recognizing that, if you are going to be shopping, you want to do it within realistic means, and brands not being tone-deaf to what customers are going through.”

Whited says the budget for this year’s fall campaign is smaller than past years, reflecting the hit the business took due to months of store closures and its parent company’s ongoing restructuring. However, she adds that the brand made the budget work harder, such as handling all elements of the campaign internally. It also focused on spend that would be more meaningful, such as a $10,000 community fund that invites customers to use social media to share what they would do to benefit their communities and potentially receive a grant to make it happen. It is also doing something similar with influencers – for example, having them hold free virtual acting classes – and empowering store staff to give coupons to customers when they’ve had positive interactions.