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Crocs: A Journey from 'The Ugly Shoe' to Pop Culture Phenomenon

Updated: May 31, 2023

Crocs used to be one of the most hated footwear items UNTIL they tapped into pop culture and turned things around! With collaborations and product partnerships at the core of the brands strategy.

In fashion and footwear, few brands have experienced the remarkable rise to fame and cult followings that Crocs has achieved. From humble beginnings as a functional ‘hospital shoe’, Crocs has become a pop culture icon that has successfully immersed itself into the mainstream.

In this article, we will delve into how Crocs masterfully leveraged marketing, embraced pop culture, and landed in Africa with Nigerian influencer Eni helping to shape the brand's success. Furthermore, we will draw valuable lessons that other brands can learn from Crocs' innovative marketing strategies.

Woman with colourful trousers wearing platform lilac Crocs with Jibits on them
Black woman Crocs

The Evolution of Crocs Originally designed as a boating shoe in 2002, Crocs transformed the footwear concept with its distinctive clog-like design and comfortable, lightweight material. While it initially gained popularity among niche communities such as gardeners and healthcare professionals, Crocs soon broke free from its functional image. They became a symbol of self-expression, with the early adopters - STILL - loving the shoe. In 2016, the brand dramatically altered its marketing strategy, seeking well-known designers to collaborate with to appeal to Gen Z. Christopher Kane produced the first designer collaboration.

Highlighting how crocs have increased there sales year on year
Results - crocs increase sales

Dubbed ‘pandemic swag’, Crocs was the only top footwear company to see a rise in sales during March 2020 and April 2020 during the height of lockdown - sales increased by 14% between March 2019 and March 2020 (NPD Group).

Hip-Hop Crocs tapped into hip-hop culture - reaching new audiences though celebrity partnerships and endorsements. They collaborated with popular hip-hop artists, such as Nicki Minaj, Dreamville, Wu Tang Clan. Crocs also embraced the streetwear aesthetic collaborating with streetwear brands, such as Chinatown Market and Pleasures, bridging the gap between sneaker culture and Crocs. These collaborations added an edgy and fashionable twist to Crocs' classic silhouette, making them more appealing to the hip-hop community.

Pop Culture Immersion Crocs' success in immersing itself into pop culture can be attributed to various factors; let’s focus on three key areas: strategic collaborations, influencer partnerships, and embracing social media [ for real ]. By staying relevant and capturing the zeitgeist, Crocs resonates with diverse consumers.

1. Collaborations

Crocs realised the power of collaborations with popular figures to boost their brand image. Crocs has collaborated with Justin Bieber, Megan The Stallon, Bad Bunny, SZA to name a few.

A notable example is their partnership with Grammy-nominated rapper Post Malone. Malone's limited edition collaboration with Crocs sold out within minutes, showcasing the brand's ability to tap into the music industry and reach new audiences.

The brand also hosts an affiliate program, allowing influencers to promote a series of popular shoes on their platforms and receive commission as a result.

2. Embracing Social Media

Crocs embraced social media platforms, particularly TikTok, to engage with younger consumers. They launched the "#ThousandDollarCrocs" campaign, encouraging users to showcase their customised Crocs. This initiative quickly went viral, with videos of creatively styled Crocs worldwide. The campaign showcased the brand's versatility and created a sense of community and encouraged user-generated content. Not to mention - the tone of voice on social remains consistent with the brand's look & feel. It’s fresh - young - bright and accessible.


From KFC, Cars, Barneys New York, Space Jam, Palace Skateboards to high fashion brands. Crocs have successfully and unapologetically had some notable brand partnerships - creating dialogue and reinforcing the shoe brand’s versatility. Need I say more.

'Collaborations are important to us because they allow Crocs to connect with consumers who may not have previously thought of Crocs, let alone [worn] them. Sales, yes, are important too, but at the end of the day, collaborations are all about driving awareness.’

Molly Wilhelm, Director of Product Line Management

Crocs masterfully leveraged marketing, embraced pop culture and landed in Africa with Nigerian influencer Eni . He sits at home surrounded by Crocs - different styles and colours.
African Pop Culture

CROCS AFRICA. Eni and the Nigerian Influence

Crocs' global appeal and cultural immersion can be seen through the influence of Nigerian fashion influencer Eni. With a massive following on social media, Eni's love for Crocs inspired a trend where Crocs were paired with traditional Nigerian attire. FIRE. This fusion of traditional and contemporary fashion gained immense popularity, transcending cultural boundaries and captivating audiences worldwide. Eni's influence was pivotal in exposing Crocs to new markets and showcasing the brand's versatility.

What Brands Can Learn from Crocs' Pop Culture Success

  1. Embrace Collaboration: Collaborations with influential figures can amplify a brand's reach and attract new audiences. By partnering with artists, celebrities, and influencers, brands can tap into their fan bases and create a buzz around their products.

  2. Leverage Social Media: Social media platforms provide direct communication with consumers and enable brands to create viral campaigns. By embracing platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, brands can engage with their audience, encourage user-generated content, and foster community.

  3. Cultural Immersion: Understanding and embracing diverse cultures can broaden a brand's appeal. Crocs' collaboration with Eni showcased the power of cultural fusion and demonstrated how brands could connect with global audiences through cultural immersion.

Bonus - Let your audience create. Empower them, for Crocs they do this through the Jibbitz charms. Building brand loyalty and deepening the connection - I personally customise and continually change my Crocs.

Crocs' journey from a functional shoe to a pop culture phenomenon is a testament to their innovative marketing strategies and ability to immerse themselves in popular culture. Through collaborations, social media campaigns, and cultural fusion, Crocs successfully captured the attention of diverse audiences worldwide. Brands can learn valuable lessons from Crocs' success. As the brand continues to evolve, it will be fascinating to see how Crocs continues to shape and influence pop culture in the years to come.

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