Studies show that over the next decade, an estimated 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to a widening skills gap in the trades. To help address this gap, Timberland PRO, Timberland’s work safety brand that targets men and women working in the industrial trades (e.g., construction, manufacturing), launched a bold initiative last November to focus on women as the next generation of trade workers. The effort is highlighted by an innovative new women’s-specific product collection and a powerful campaign — Made for Women Who Make — that celebrates women in the trades.
To learn more about this cool new initiative, I interviewed Cassie Heppner, director of marketing at Timberland PRO, who is leading the marketing campaign. Here are highlights from our email discussion.
Melissa Campanelli: Why did Timberland PRO decide to launch the “Made for Women Who Make” campaign? What are the goals of the program?
Cassie Heppner: Timberland PRO launched a collection of women’s footwear this fall. We saw an opportunity to not just launch footwear built with all the innovation and technology you expect from Timberland PRO, but also encourage and support women to enter the trades. Ultimately, we want Timberland PRO to be a brand that makes great product, but also supports the consumers that put on their boots every day to go out and create and do as a way of life. The women’s product launch was our opportunity to put that initiative into action.
MC: How is the PRO merchandise different from other Timberland products?
CH: The women’s collection is not about “shrink it and pink it.” The development of this new women’s offering was driven by Timberland PRO’s longstanding commitment to innovation coupled with deep consumer insights. In addition to pouring over third-party research, we spoke directly with hundreds of female consumers and analyzed these insights to understand what she’s looking for in safety footwear.
The result is a women’s-specific fit with a crafted aesthetic, not just a take-down of a men’s boot. And comfort is non-negotiable, so she can work 10-12 hours a day and focus on the job, not her feet. The collection includes seven styles across three different families, and is built with three distinctive points of comfort for women, including a more anatomical last with a true-to-fit instep and heel lock; asymmetrical toe shape; and low profile for a more feminine aesthetic. Timberland PRO’s best-in-class dynamic anti-fatigue footbed provides all-day comfort.
MC: How are you marketing the PRO merchandise?
CH: Timberland PRO created a powerful, multifaceted campaign to connect with consumers in a meaningful way. First, Timberland PRO donated $20,000 to support the completion of a documentary film called “Hard Hatted Woman” about breaking down gender barriers in blue-collar construction trades. Timberland PRO also held a community service event at a Manchester, New Hampshire-based nonprofit organization called Girls@Work, which provides after-school programming where young girls can learn how to use tools and build not only furniture, but also confidence. And finally, PRO is about to launch a dedicated area on its website, Timberlandpro.com, to provide information and resources for women interested in pursuing jobs in the trades. This empowerment campaign will all be ignited through a robust social media campaign, encouraging tradeswomen to share their stories about how they got into the trades using #timberlandprowoman.
MC: Can you tell us a bit about your experience launching this initiative?
CH: Women make up about less than 10 percent of the trades. In the unionized construction trades it’s only 3 percent. Any businessperson would look at those numbers and say that you’re focused on the smallest opportunity. But it’s not the smallest opportunity. It has tremendous upside. While doing research for this launch, we learned that over the next decade, according to a Deloitte analysis based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Gallup survey, an estimated 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to a widening skills gap in the trades. That’s significant and will have an impact on not just the workforce, but everyone.
Imagine if manufacturing, for example, slows down and demand outpaces production. Where will those jobs go or what happens to cost of goods? Young people are needed to get into the trades. That group of young people aren’t just men, but women, too. Therefore, as we moved the product forward we developed the marketing campaign. Yes, there was push back, but in the end, the team saw the launch as a great example of what Timberland PRO is all about. We want to inspire people to create and do as a way of life, and when they enter the trades, we want to be there alongside them to conquer their workday.
Cassie will be speaking about this initiative on a panel called “Finding the White Space … and Running With It” at the Women in Retail Leadership Summit, taking place April 16-18 at the Ritz-Carlton in Miami. Register today!