How do you gain and sustain market share with a super-premium-priced product in a highly competitive $1.5 billion (US) market? That’s the challenge faced by brands such as these four: Reef – created in California by Argentinian surfers in the 1980’s, Teva – sport sandals designed by a river rafter in the American West in 1988 ($25-50 for flip-flops), OluKai — a Hawaii-inspired US brand introduced in 2006 priced at $60-100, and Havaianas – a $20-30 Brazilian brand introduced to the US in 2007. Reef stands out as having held a top position in the market for 25 years while commanding prices from $30 to $85 per pair. How did they do it?
Reef thong sandals were created by two brothers from Argentina who moved shared a passion for surfing and an idea to create a high quality, “ridiculously comfortable” sandal for active oceanside lifestyles. To separate themselves from other surf companies, and inspired by the beautiful women of South American beaches, the brothers decided their brand image would layer a glaze of sensuality on top of the surf culture. Their marketing would feature an exotic woman they called Miss Reef, whose face and identify were concealed.
Reef Fanning sandals were introduced in 2006 and became one of Reef’s best-known models, available everywhere from Macy’s to Bass Pro Shops. Inspired by champion Australian surfer Mick Fanning, they are a water-resistant performance sandal with enhanced arch support and an air-cushioned heel which conceals a pull-out bottle opener – a gimmick they call “thirst quenching technology.” This conversation-worthy attribute added to the brand’s mystique, which in turns lends itself to storytelling and helps make the brand magnetic. The Fanning is so popular, in fact, that it remains a top-selling men’s sandal on both Amazon.com and Zappos.com.
So, what are some of the keys to their success?
Of course, just producing a good-quality product doesn’t guarantee success. Delivering the Reef mystique, which stems from the above three factors, is what really keeps the brand on top and able to command a premium price.