Anders Bergstrom fills us in on his new role with Sanuk, and what we can expect from the brand

It’s been just a few months since Sanuk named Anders Bergstrom its new director of marketing. Previously the director of strategy development for Deckers Brands, Bergstrom has been using his industry experience to guide and revitalize Sanuk. Since acquiring Sanuk in 2011, Deckers has been working to transform the brand from a surf footwear brand to a global lifestyle powerhouse, all in the midst of a recession and extremely competitive footwear market.

It can be tough for a brand with so much history and preceding reputation to appeal to a younger audience and continue growth, but Anders says of Sanuk, “The brand has always had a very youthful voice and personality, so we don't feel like we have to change too much to appeal to the next generation of Sanuk fans.” What worked in the beginning to get the brand where it is today, that will keep working, according to Bergstrom. When you’ve got a product that has stood on its own for so long, and not bowed to superfluous trends and styles, it’s easy to see why faith in that brand isn’t hard to come by.

Transworld Business talked to Anders Bergstrom, Sanuk’s Director of Marketing, on what’s new for the brand, and how to stay relevant in a competitive footwear category.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Sanuk Creative Director Anders Bergstrom

Sanuk Creative Director Anders Bergstrom

Congratulations on the new position, Anders. What are your top initiatives as you take the helm at Sanuk?
Thanks so much. First and foremost, I'm concentrating on building the team. Sanuk is one of those brands that channels the energy of the people who work on it – so building the best possible team is my number one priority. Beyond that, we're building toward a couple of major launches in Spring 2017 that highlight the key product franchises that make Sanuk really special: Yoga Mat Sandals, Sidewalk Surfers and Beer Cozy Sandals. It's great to have three unique families of fun, innovative product that have many years of consumer love behind them. Lastly, we're investing in enhancing our go to market capabilities – both on the team and in market, investing in new display programs and ensuring that we look polished at retail.

Where are you hoping to take the direction of the brand? How will your extensive experience with Deckers help you guide Sanuk?
Honestly, the most valuable experience I have to bring to this job today is the time I spent with Jeff Kelley and the team that built the Sanuk brand. They created something so special, different and unmistakable that we have incredible inspiration and mandate to revisit the voice and personality of the brand. What we need to do now is leverage the power of Deckers and use that as a much louder microphone than we've ever had before.

Can you give us any details about product and marketing leading into Spring 2017, as well as beyond that?
Sanuk's playful attitude will become more apparent in how we market the brand across channels as we head into the coming spring season. We renewed our commitment to provide something fun and different and as a result, we will launch a fresh campaign that brings back our "Smile… Pass It On!" mantra. This attitude has been a fundamental element of our brand's messaging for over 20 years and our team and retailers are equally as excited on this return back to our roots. Other marketing elements will be hyper-focused to elevate our franchise product collections, provide a higher level of support to retail partners and expand our digital marketing platforms.

The Yoga Sling 2, catching air

The Yoga Sling 2, catching air

The entire Sanuk team is excited about what we have in the pipeline for spring 2017. With our product, you will see an expansion of our iconic franchises: Sidewalk Surfer, Yoga Sling and Beer Cozy. Each collection will be updated with new colors, custom prints and high touch materials while maintaining our expected level of comfort. Our new Brumeister sandal is positioned as a hero style in our Beer Cozy range and features our beer cozy footbed, arch support and beer bottle tread pattern on the rubber outsole. For women, we will expand on the huge success of the Yoga Sling 2 and Yoga Mat collection by adding nearly a dozen bold prints of the Yoga Sling, along with other silhouettes. We will also round out the seasonal range with trend-driven designs for women with new models inspired by festival fashion, as well as new footwear in our closed-toe category.

What are Sanuk's goals in terms of global growth, and expansion within your internal team? Do you have any updates to your ambassador program?
Sanuk also recently welcomed our new general manager, Magnus Wedhammar, who will be instrumental in leading our global strategy. On the marketing end, we are building out our go-to-market team who will help deliver greater focus to product launches and support for our retail partners.

Is there anything that Sanuk is doing, particularly concerning marketing, to reach out to the youth market?
We're building a solid digital team right now. Experimenting and innovating with platforms like Snapchat, for example.

How are changing consumer tastes affecting Sanuk's brand vision?
I think we're seeing a real resurgence of irreverence out there. There are just too many brands and too many messages, so when a brand like Sanuk can say you know what, we're not going to play to the middle – we're going to play to the outsiders and take pride in getting noticed and disrupting a conversation – we're playing to our strength and to the demand of the consumer.

Footwear trends are always fluctuating- what efforts does Sanuk make to stay relevant and on-trend, while also preserving brand values?
With a kitschy attitude, Sanuk is uniquely positioned in the market as a lifestyle brand. While we don't solely guide our collections on fashion, we stay very attune to trends and silhouettes each season. Our men's line is geared towards a lifestyle consumer who enjoys the fun approach Sanuk takes on casual canvas. A good example is our authentic Sidewalk Surfers that provide a fun escape with personality. We offer less serious, lo-fi options for the guys who like to kick back and enjoy life.

With our women's business, it is more important for us to address seasonal color trends to stay relevant for our customer. We tap into trend services to help guide design here. The most important value is that we hold true to our roots and provide a point-of-view that keeps our product fun and unique to us. We put all the fashion cues for the season through the Sanuk lens and then execute authentic product that is meaningful to our Sanuk brand.

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