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    Birkenstock’s first paid global campaign says feet are ‘Ugly for a Reason’

    • Birkenstock kicked off its first paid global marketing campaign to dive deep into the history of the human foot, according to a news release.
    • “Ugly for a Reason” runs for four months and centers on a documentary series. The first episode, which premiered July 1, features interviews of academics about the evolution of the foot. A second installment will drop Aug. 11 followed by the final entry on Sept. 21.
    • Birkenstock partnered with The New York Times’ T Brand Studio to develop the content play, which will air across its owned channels and on nytimes.com. There’s also a print and online takeover in the Times as Birkenstock tries to link its products to a stronger sense of purpose.

    Birkenstock narrowly predates the founding of the U.S., but the footwear marketer is only now enacting its first global paid content initiative to emphasize a guiding mission around foot health. The Germany-based brand teamed with the Times’ T Brand Studio unit to lend its documentary series a dash of journalistic prestige and is clearly targeting the Gray Lady’s audience, which tends to skew wealthier and more liberal.

    The campaign itself tries to hook consumers with provocation, drawing a connection between the perceived ugliness of the human foot with its utility. One of the ads depicts the bottom of a bare foot muddied after walking outside, with stark white copy bearing the “Ugly for a Reason” tagline. The title could double as a winking nod to Birkenstock’s signature sandals, whose designs have long proved divisive but have seen a bounceback on the runway in recent years. Regardless of style trend fluctuations, the sandals have fostered a larger cult following, in part thanks to their footbed that shapes to the wearer’s sole.

    The first episode of the series goes way back to when human ancestors first became bipedal and how that shaped the evolution of the species. The piece features interviews with Carol Ward, a professor of paleontology at the University of Missouri, and Benno M. Nigg, a professor of biomechanics at the University of Calgary, along with medical diagrams and animated sequences. A second episode, “Finding Our Feet,” jumps to Birkenstock’s background in orthopedics and looks to the future of foot health, while the final installment, “Stepping into the Details,” is dedicated to design, quality and responsibility in footwear.

    While Birkenstock is rolling out the campaign to strengthen its consumer-facing brand purpose, it is positioning the content as more educational than purely promotional.

    “Most people are born with healthy feet and develop painful foot issues because the shoes we’re wearing are often too small, too narrow or have heels that are too high,” said Oliver Reichert, CEO of the Birkenstock Group, in a statement. “We want to draw attention to this and enable consumers to make better-informed decisions — no matter which footwear brand they ultimately choose.”

    Birkenstock last year was acquired L Catterton, a private equity firm backed by luxury goods giant LVMH. The deal was for about $4.87 billion, according to the Financial Times.

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