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20 Oct

The coolest uncool thing out there

Stoa Daily Challenge #6

In today's challenge, step into the shoes of Pranay, Chief of Staff at zepto, and help him build a strategy that increases the company's share in the quick-commerce market.

Also, learn about Porter's 4 Major Drivers for the quick-commerce market while you're at it!

Play the challenge here.

Now, to today's issue.


In 2007, Crocs were ranked no. 6 on the "Worst" list of Maxim's "The 10 Best & Worst Things to Happen to Men in 2007."

Time magazine, in 2010, listed Crocs as one of the world's "50 Worst Inventions."

And this is Crocs' revenue growth in the last 5 years.

Image source: Aakash Gupta's Substack

In FY22 alone, Crocs amassed a total revenue of $3.45 billion, globally.

Just let that sink in.

An ugly-looking foam shoe with holes — initially designed and developed by two chemical engineers as a boat shoe to be used in wet environments like the beach or the sea — soon became a practical staple in households and was found on the feet of nurses and chefs everywhere.

The ease of wiping them clean and washing them combined with their non-slip build made them a go-to for a specific segment of the market that loved and valued comfort and usability over everything else.

This is what makes Crocs such an interesting case study in a brand that understood its customer persona well and focused on the purpose they were meant to serve. But before that, a small note on what an Ideal Customer Persona is —

If you don't know what a customer persona is, you can think of it this way:

How did you guess what your best friend wanted as a birthday gift?

Being acquainted with each other for a long time, you have built a specific image of your friend in your head. This image is a fictional representation of who your friend is, their personality, their profession, and most importantly, their likes and dislikes. And you consulted with this image in your head while making a decision of what they'd like to be gifted on their birthday.

An ideal customer persona is the same fictional representation, built not by an individual, but by a business to help its product decision-making and direct marketing efforts.

Businesses build this representation of their ideal customer with 4 key data points:

  • Demographic: What do my customers identify as? eg: Age, Sex, Job Title, Income, Education and Family Status
  • Psychographic: Why would my customers buy the product? eg: Lifestyle, Goals, Pains, Habits, Values and Interests
  • Behavioural: What signs of wanting to buy this product have the customer shown? eg: Browsing or Purchasing history, and using similar products in past
  • Geographic: Where do my customers live? eg: Country, State, City, Locality, Urban/Rural

In the case of Crocs, the meat of the insight lies in the psychographic and behavioral data.

The brand's website states,

"In 2002, we introduced the world to one of the most unique brands that anyone had ever seen: we were different and it made some people uncomfortable. Now, hundreds of millions of shoes later, we make the world comfortable."

India is amongst the top 6 worldwide markets for Crocs. Let's understand some behavioural observations of Indian footwear usage to see why clogs — the ugly boat shoes (sandals???) that account for the brand's 50% of sales — are such a good fit:

In India, most cities have bad and muddy roads. Conditions worsen during the monsoons. Clogs can be wiped clean to look new very easily and very regularly. They are all-season footwear.

In India, people go outside their homes frequently to run errands. Having a pair of shoes you can easily slip on is very convenient. In fact, people say that it is the very first shoe that a lot of children can put on by themselves!

India has a hot and tropical climate which makes these lightweight clogs and the ventilation they provide very comfortable and soothing to wear for hours at a stretch. The synthetic foam material used to make them has antibacterial properties and the aerating holes all over the toe box prevent the shoes from getting grimy and gross when you sweat.

India has a culture of people using each other's slippers often while going outside the house to run errands. Clogs are designed in a way that most family members can slip on the same pair while going out. In some sense, Clogs are the "common family slipper."

The company knows Crocs aren't the most head-turning piece of design, but they're certainly fit for a purpose and for a specific kind of consumer who is comfortable in their own skin and values comfort over everything else.

This is actually an increasing trend the brand noticed back in the mid-2010s, which allowed it to make headway into being seen as a unique fashion statement.

As this article on the brand's unlikely fashion success story mentions:

"In 2016, Christopher Kane debuted a Crocs collaboration during his London Fashion Week SS17 show. Kane adorned his Crocs in fur and gemstones, saying at the time, “Crocs are arguably the most comfortable shoe. I love that they are slightly awkward and might be perceived by some as ugly. They have a very naive and childlike shape, which I especially like when they look extra clunky on the foot.”"

After the rise of casual fashion at the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, their popularity continued to surge. And by 2022, Crocs were the best-selling item on Amazon across all clothing, shoe, and jewelry categories.

Much of this trend was driven by Gen Z's desire for comfort and unconventional style.

In fact, two of the brand's biggest ad campaigns are themed:

“Come As You Are”


"Find Your Fun”

highlighting how people who love Crocs are secure in their identity and want to focus on comfort and having fun instead.

Celebrities like Justin Bieber, Post Malone, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, and Ariana Grande — all have been seen sporting Crocs, and inspiring their fans to embrace these albeit ugly looking sandals as a fashion statement; a signal they put out in the world saying,

"I'm comfortable in my own skin."

Parting thoughts

Crocs managed to crack their ideal customer persona by primarily understanding what this specific segment of customers valued. This allowed them to have the conviction to keep making these boat shoes, without getting ruffled by all the cultural criticism they were subjected to in their early years.

The psychographic and behavioural aspects of building an ideal customer persona are underrated. These are the two factors that actually help you filter down the human population into a group of people who you're confident would love your product.

This tweet by John Cutler summarises it perfectly:

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