Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

How Dr. Scholl’s Plans to Step Up Their Game and Get Your Attention

There are a few brands out there that instantly bring images of your grandmother; Bengay, Bayer Aspirin, and Dr. Scholl’s. The latter brings to mind a company selling wart remover, orthotics, and moleskin at your local drug store. However, the company has decided to re-invent their Dr. Scholl’s as a shoe brand (instead of focusing on all things feet) to increase their reach.

Say hello to Dr. Scholl’s Shoes and goodbye to the dated Dr. Scholl’s brand name.

How will they do it? First of all, they have started an advertising campaign to promote almost eighty new shoe designs for men and women, ranging from $50 to $90 a pair. According to Maureen McCann, the vice president of wholesale marketing at Brown Shoe (Dr. Scholl’s is licensed by the Brown Shoe Company under Merck consumer care), “what really distinguishes us is that this brand has over a 100-year heritage of making products that are good for our customers’ feet.” In order to effectively create a new marketing campaign strategy, they conducted market research and found even though people were familiar with the brand, many people weren’t aware that Dr. Scholl’s made other types of shoes. From this information, Ms. McCann knew that that Dr. Scholl’s needed to reinforce their footwear division of the brand. Now you’ll see Dr. Scholl’s Shoes as their brand name instead of just plain old Dr. Scholl’s.

According to Robert Passikoff, president of a New-York-based brand consulting firm called Brand Keys, modifying their message won’t be easy. “A good market opportunity is not necessarily a good brand opportunity,” he said in a recent interview. “[I]f you asked 100 people about Dr. Scholl’s, what they’re going to do is talk to you about foot care and orthotics, it comes back to what are people willing to believe about the brand.”

In other words, consumers will need to show signs that they are interested in seeing Dr. Scholl’s as a shoe brand instead of just a foot care brand in order for the rebranding to work.

Dr. Scholl's in Las Vegas

Coming soon: a Dr. Scholl's store in Las Vegas.

In order to combat against this dilemma, Dr. Scholl’s is opening up retail stores in several tourist destinations like Las Vegas, San Marcos, and Tampa starting in October. “We feel like reaching consumers when they are on vacation and out shopping,” Ms. McCann said. New retail partners also include Lord & Taylor,, and Urban Outfitters. They also want to get independent shoe stores to carry Dr. Scholl’s shoes as a part of their retail strategy. The more places they’re available means the larger reach they’ll have to get their message out there.

What else is in their new strategy? A new web site where consumers can not only learn more about the products available, but also buy shoes directly and not have to go through a third-party. The designs themselves aren’t the only thing that’s improved; memory foam and gel insoles (to absorb the pressure we all put on our tootsies) have also been added. New packaging designs are also in order and feature 19 icons that will highlight each shoe’s features: waterproof, water resistant or “moisture wicking.”

With all these new strategies in place, you may be wondering about the price tag (even if you weren’t wondering, I’ll still share with you). Ms. McCall declined to give an exact dollar amount, but according to Kantar media, Dr. Scholl’s spent $278,000 on marketing efforts for products not related to foot care in 2009. The next year however, $3.3 million was spent on their marketing.

It’s still too early to determine if Dr. Scholl’s new image will help increase their customer and market reach. If they can increase though, they’ll be a contender in the shoe industry. Not only will they offer comfortable shoes that people can wear for longer than twenty minutes, but they’ll also be stylish enough they won’t want to take them off. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks?

What do you think of the new shoe styles? Do they change your mind about Dr. Scholl’s? Have you seen other companies try to reinvent themselves? Sound off below!


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  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    I’m actually shocked at how stylish those shoes are (save for the “cool” athletic wear). I have to give a hand to Dr. Scholl’s, they hired some great designers.

    I’m not opposed to the brand branching out into shoes…but they are so damn expensive. I get that they are fully equipped with support, but flats for $50? Are you on crack, Dr. Scholl’s? You aren’t Steve Madden. I can still buy flats and inserts for under $20, and I will do so. I would be much more open to supporting the rebranding if they get a little more realistic with their prices.

    • amy

      I was really surprised too when I saw how much more stylish they were than I thought they’d be. As for the pricing situation, they could be trying to compete with Naturalizer and Merrel which also have “stylish, yet comfortable shoes”. They probably aren’t targeting our market with them anyway… and if they are, they seriously need to reconsider the price.

      • Mandy Kilinskis

        I don’t know, a lot of those styles seemed to be geared towards our market. Why else could they make some of their athletic shoes look like Converse’s cracked-out, ugly, stepbrother? There are plenty of people in their 20s and 30s with feet problems.

        • Jill Tooley

          I have MAJOR foot and ankle issues – my knees are getting there, too – and I’m just shy of 30. It’s really tough to find supportive shoes that don’t make me look like Kramer from that one Seinfeld episode (Jeff, you know which one I’m talking about). Are style and support that tough to combine? That’s why I’m really hoping they can succeed because Dr. Scholl’s new shoes are much cuter than any I’ve seen them release in the past.

          P.S. +5 points for your commentary on the athletic shoes!

    • Amanda

      I agree, their prices look a bit too high–but still within reason, I’d say–especially if they’re really comfy, like I’d assume they are.

  2. JPorretto

    I don’t care if they’re for old people, I love Dr. Scholl’s! Anytime I have a pair of shoes that aren’t exactly comfy, I have a specific insole that I turn to to make my feet happy.

    Nice post Amy!

    • amy

      Trust me Jeff, we all want you to have happy feet!! 😉

  3. Jill Tooley

    You know what? The physical shoe stores they’re opening are probably one of the more expensive endeavors for Dr. Scholl’s, but it makes perfect sense. As Mandy mentioned, their shoes are pretty stylish but the price tag is still a bit hefty. If other shoppers are anything like yours truly, then they’re probably reluctant to drop that much money on a pair of shoes if they’re unsure of the actual comfort level once on the feet. But if I had a retail store to visit and try on the shoes first, I’d be much more inclined to drop that kind of money if they were as comfy as they advertised. Not saying I could afford to do it frequently, but there’s nothing wrong with spending a bit of extra money now and then on a quality shoe that actually delivers what it promises. If Dr. Scholl’s can back up these claims with quality products and reasonable prices, then I think they just might have a shot at this.

    However, that’s the tricky part. They are going to have to adjust their prices somewhat in order to stay competitive. Mandy’s right: Dr. Scholl’s isn’t in the position to charge an arm and a leg for their shoes right now. It may hurt them initially, but they’ll have to get people’s attention first and worry about the rest later. Let’s hope they’re good at rolling with the punches, otherwise all of their efforts could be for nothing!

    I’ve always been satisfied with Dr. Scholl’s products I’ve bought in the past, so it would be nice to see them succeed!

    • amy

      Excellent points Jill!!

      I think Dr. Scholl’s might be trying to target the consumer who shops at Naturalizer and Merrel stores for shoes. I have two pairs of heels from them that are extremely comfortable, but were a bit of an investment. However, for them to come right out of the gate charging these prices seems risky, but it could pay off for them in the long run.

  4. Jill Tooley

    Also, Dr. Scholl’s should really have an official Twitter page to answer customer inquiries for this rebrand! I’m kind of shocked that they don’t have one linked on their website (and the only one I could find on Twitter is in Brazil). At least they have Facebook…but they should consider getting with the times if they want to be taken seriously!

    • amy

      Wow, I had no idea they didn’t have one either. It seems like if companies have a presence on one social network they should have an account on all of them. Maybe with this rebranding and trying to attract a new, hipper market of customers they’ll get it together on Twitter.

  5. Jen

    Nice post Amy! I really like Dr. Scholl’s new shoe designs. Very stylish!

    • amy

      Thanks Jen 🙂 They are quite stylish compared to their past designs, aren’t they?

      • Amanda

        I agree! These new designs look very wearable. A much needed improvement from the plain black or white velcro options of the past. Well done Amy & Dr. Scholls!

        • Amy Swanson

          Thanks Amanda, it is truly time to move onward from the “plain black or white velcro options of the past” 🙂

  6. Eric

    If anything, the shoes are so wonderfully designed to camouflage into the mainstream, homogenized aesthetic, that they’re completely underwhelming. Maybe it’s asking a little too much from them in their design. I can’t imagine them placing a store in someplace like Vegas and being able to maintain interest with incredibly common-looking shoes. Honestly, if the company really wanted attention, they should hire-on a high-profile designer and make it a collaborative effort. Even Converse called on John Varvatos to breathe some life into their “Chucks,” and if that longstanding, iconic company needed help, well, the Dr. himself could use a hand, too. Amanda, nope, they’re not Steve Madden right not, but…if they did collaborate with a designer, they could justify the price tag they’re placing on these shoes. Wake me up when you’ve got some Chuck-Taylor-equivalents, Dr. Scholl.

    • Jill Tooley

      Co-branding wouldn’t be a bad idea at all for Dr. Scholl’s, Eric. You’re right! Didn’t even think of that initially…

      • Amy Swanson

        I see where they’re coming from by opening up stand alone stores however, their choice of Vegas seems a bit stretched for me. I don’t think their demographic is the type to go to Las Vegas, but maybe a more low-key location. I think one of their stores could do quite nicely in Naperville or Lake Geneva since they’re more “comfortable” than the heels I saw walking around Vegas when I was there.

        I really like your idea too of having a co-branding effort set in place. It could really breathe some new life into the brand, just like you said. I guess for a first try it could be worse, but there’s so much more they could’ve done.

        • Eric

          Stand-alones are a smart idea for them. That way people can try on and view their shoes without any basis for comparison, or bias. That much I’ll give them. It all has to do with the atmosphere – right! – of the market in which they’re being sold. A sleepy little port town on the coast wouldn’t be a bad call. Vegas falls only short to Miami Beach on a “Crazy Idea List.” Could be worse, and we could be reading about, say, UGGS opening a store in Honolulu. Honestly? They should market these to the Metra commuter crowd…would finally solve the fashion conundrum of people making their way to and from the train in full business suits and New Balance sneakers. That much I’ll endorse.

          • Amy Swanson

            Hahaha, it’s a very interesting fashion conundrum, that’s for sure. Part of me can’t blame them for wanting to be comfy running from Union Station to their office, yet another part wonders why they don’t just wear flats? Also, it seems like I always see women wearing a dark suit and white sneakers. Really?! This shocks me every time I’m downtown.

            It’ll be interesting too when the advertising comes out; what magazines will they appear in, will they have a celebrity endorsement, if yes, then who??

  7. Eric

    Celebrity endorsements? Hmm. I’d hope for either A.) Antonio Banderas, just because the accent would make a name like “Dr. Scholls” sound exponentially cooler, or B.) Christopher Walken dancing around in a pair. Anything less would just be disappointing. As for the dark suit and white sneakers combo…my guess is the high contrast communicates to passerby/general lolly-gaggers that those women mean business, so you best move out of their way. Or shoemakers feels nothing says “comfortable” better than stark white. Either or.

    • Amy Swanson

      Hahahaha, +10 points for these amazing ideas Eric!! Antonio Banderas and his Spanish accent talking up the points for buying Dr. Scholl’s new shoes or Christopher Walken dancing seems like an attention-grabbing advertising campaign. Bar none.

      Very true about those women meaning business, I’d certainly never dream of asking them for directions or taking a picture of my friends and I in front something. Yikes! I can only imagine the icy glare I’d receive ::shudder::

  8. shirley

    Can’t wait to meet my new Scholl-mate.

  9. Judy Knight

    I have always loved and worn Dr Scholl wooden sandals and also used the foot products but after watching the latest advertisement here in the UK for the nail fungal treatment I have some advice for them.
    It is never a good idea to use a foot ‘model’ who has bunions and flat very ugly feet and every time I see this TV ad I am really put off buying anything Scholl and who the hell selected her in the first place as if a person is representing and advertising a product they should be a perfect example of whatever is being advertised which this woman is clearly not!

  10. Laura

    I agree about their adverts. The one for The Express Pedi must have the same model. I can’t bear to watch the advert. I don’t like the sight of bare feet and these feet just confirm that. Surely they could have found someone with perfect feet to show their products work!

  11. Anne

    I bought a pair of Dr. Scholl’s a few months ago, and they are terrible. They are wearing out very quickly–the soles are peeling badly, and they look very battered despite the fact that I have worn them lightly during this time. In fact, these shoes have worn out faster than any other pair I have ever owned. They’re going in the garbage today, and I will NEVER buy Dr. Scholl’s again! Reebok, Asic, and New Balance are all way better.

  12. Sal Savastano

    I have 2 pairs of Dr Scholls shoes I purchased more than 10 years ago and I got many years wear out of them. Any one know what’s the quality of the current shoes? still as good or has quality gone down the tube? (as is the case with many other products)

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