Hunter’s brilliant brand revitalisation

Screen shot 2011-04-06 at 15.47.27 Hunter Boots is a brilliant example of brand revitalisation. The brand became famous for its wellington boot, or welly for short, and has 100 years of history. However, it became quite old fashioned and dusty, associated with posh, older country folk. And the royal family.

The business was taken over in April 2006, when it had just gone into administration, by a team led by entrepreneur Lord Marland of Odstock in partnership with Pentland, a clothing and footwear company.

They turned a loss of £300,000 on sales of £4.3m in 2006 into pre-tax profits of £2m on sales of £16m two year later, according to The Times. Here's some of the things they did well.

1. Remember what made you famous

Hunter was famous for several things that gave it a solid foundation to build on
– A strong core product: the welly
– High quality, endorsed by the Queen no less
– Associated with the British countryside
– Iconic design features, such as the Hunter logo and a side buckle.
The takeover team respected these values, but cleverly refreshed then to bring them up to date. Hard as it is to believe, they even managed to make Hunter wellies fashionable. As Marland says, "There is a core brand which we don’t want to destroy but also a degree to which we can expand it."

2. Revitalising the core product

What I love about the Hunter story is the focus on the core. Most of the innovation effort has gone on the welly, rather than rushing into brand extension. Here's some of the many things they have done:

-Range of colours: Hunter was famous for green wellies. Indeed, there is a saying in the UK to talk about a certain type of upmarket country folk: "the green welly brigade". Hunter injected life into the range, offering a rainbow of colours.

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– Displays by design: the company also worked on the presentation of Hunter, making this more lively and stylish as well. Check out the stunning Selfridges window display below:


– From fields to festivals 

Hunter has cleverly taken its association with the countryside and revitalised it by linking the brand with music festivals such as Glastonbury. The brand has a real role to play here, as these festivals often fall victim to the rather wet British summer! The brand gained huge momentum from top model Kate Moss wearing Hunters at Glastonbury. According to The Times this was "unofficial celebrity endorsement", so all the more valuable as its authentic brand appreciation. As you see below, other followers of fashion have taken their lead from Kate.

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– Brand alliances

Hunter have cleverly linked up with Jimmy Choo to design a special range of boots. This adds even more style values to the brand, and also generates higher profit margins I guess, as they are sold at 300% price premium to the standard boot.

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3. Geographic expansion

Another key growth driver has been expanding in the US. According to The Times "When the current owners took charge international sales accounted for 10pc of revenues. They now make up more than 40pc, with the US contributing a third of group revenues". The combination of British heritage, endorsed by the Queen, and style values from association with Kate Moss has proved a powerful combination.

4. Follow the money

As with most brand success stories, sexy marketing and design is only half of the story. Growth is also driven by smart execution and financial management. In Hunters's case this meant getting costs down by moving production overseas, mainly to China and Serbia. A lot of work was also done improving stock management and distribution, to get the right product to the right place at the right time.

In conclusion, if you have a brand in need of revitalisation, "doing a Hunter" would be a smart move. This means looking back at what made you famous, and then refreshing these attributes by revamping the core product and creating new and exciting ways to activate the brand. And at the same time working on brilliant execution of the basics, such as distribution and availability.