Dockers brand

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

9 September 2019

The Dockers brand: Hip or deeply unhip?

There’s a scene from an early Seinfeld episode that always cracks me up, Jerry making fun of a late 80s Dockers brand commercial.

But here’s the thing. As ridiculous as the ad looks today, I kinda liked it back in the day. Back then, I wore Dockers pants. Because, ironically, the brand meant a kind of business casual wear that was stylish and hip.

I’m serious.

Yes, the commercials sports lots of crotch shots. And it’s easy to mock now. But the Dockers brand once meant a sort of upscale casual wear with an urban appeal.

Not anymore. It’s gotten a reputation as Dad’s pants, which isn’t by itself a bad thing. It’s just that Dads don’t buy clothes very often. In fact, they’ll wear casual clothes – even business casual – until they really wear out. Like, frayed wore out.

“But is a table stake like comfort a reason for it to attract a younger set? The Dockers brand is better off reaching past the table stakes of the category for something more emotional.”

Can Dockers brand mean anything to a younger set?

Those running the Dockers brand seem to understand this. Now. Owned by Levi Strauss, the brand is switching course to better attract a younger group of men. In its latest ad, the Dockers brand switches from being about style to comfort, highlighting it branded Smart 360 Flex. Its position of “Always On” fulfills that comfort stance.


Dockers brand

Even Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is now ditching Dockers

But here’s the problem. Comfort remains a table stake among apparel, even among business casual clothes. Hell, comfort defines the business casual category. It’s the reason why it even exists.

The ad ends with an interesting couple of tidbits that are sure to be mocked in future years, but may have resonance now. The actor, or shall I say, the runner, unzips a side pocket to pay his meter. And, walking away, he’s viewed by an attractive woman. So, useful and sexy, right?

But is a table stake like comfort a reason for it to attract a younger set? The Dockers brand is better off reaching past the table stakes of the category for something more emotional.

Because soon there will be another popular sitcom making fun of it.

See more posts in the following related categories: Apparel

1 Comment

  1. JP

    Table stake branding; the scourge of my industry. My fellow marketers are only now beginning to convince the C-suite that “great service, personal attention” has been a table stake for eons in small bank marketing. Many still waste truckloads of time and money on that pitch. The latest table stake… a C-suite colleague of mine (brilliant in many ways btw) recounting in strategy meetings the story of a bank conference he attended in which a 25-year-old stood up, thrusted his phone upward and said “If I can’t bank with you here, I’m not going to become your customer.” That thinking is why small bank marketers are now all pitching digital banking. It’s a table stake folks, it’s not a distinction. Like a gas station in 2010 crowing about how it accepts card payments at the pump, it’s meh at best, emotionless.


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