Diamond Shoes: Stuart Weitzman Marketing Genius

Weitzman being introduced at Mass Art for talk held April 2, 2019

What would you think if you saw a pair of shoes designed with one million dollars’ worth of diamonds walk across a stage? You might be clapping or oohing and awing, but if you were me, you’d thought what a great way to market to a younger group! Stuart Weitzman visited the Massachusetts College of Art & Design yesterday to give a talk about himself and his company. I want to look at a few topics dealing with Stuart Weitzman’s marketing strategy that can apply to all industries!

Weitzman’s beginnings

Weitzman talked about taking a more traditional path with plans to go to school and heading to Wall Street afterwards. A friend whose father owned a shoe manufacturing company saw Weitzman’s drawing skills (a hobby at the time) and encouraged him to draw some shoe designs to sell to his father. Weitzman was honest and detailed about his process, the designs he came up with were from researching the company he was trying to design for and thinking of what would appeal to the customer. The day arrived and Weitzman laid out his drawings for the friend’s father to judge. The father picked up one drawing and said, ‘Did you trace this?’. Weitzman could honestly say none of the drawings were copies and traced from another designer, these were all his. The man looked at the picture again tore it up, crumpled it and tossed it to the ground. He then took another drawing, turned it to its blank side and told Weitzman to draw that shoe again. Weitzman did and he was paid for 19 of the 20 drawings. The importance of originality was brought up after this, Weitzman estimated in his career, he had interviewed 15-20 designers and of those only 6 or 7 could replicate a design they had just presented to Weitzman from scratch.

Weitzman was an apprentice for several years and learned the ins and outs of the industry before starting his own business. This is when his true genius comes out, not in his designs but in Weitzman’s marketing strategy. He started by making custom shoes for celebrities. Weitzman had looked at department stores and saw how hard it would be to get his shoes some shelf space. Weitzman saw a need in the market for custom shoes for celebrities because most stylists focused on jewelry and dresses, celebrities at the time bought their shoes from department stores so it was not uncommon to see several celebrities with the same shoe. That all changed with Aretha Franklin the night she won the American Music Award in 1983. You can read more on it here. Look at that marketing! After that Weitzman was getting plenty of orders.

Publicity that got Weitzman into the celebrity designer market. Aretha Franklin pictured at AMA in 1983 with her designer shoes by Weitzman

Marketing to Celebrities

Then came 2005 and the hottest actress at the time was left for Angelina Jolie. For those that can remember the beginning of the Jen-Brad-Angelina drama. The divorce was not finalized until 2008 and Weitzman wanted his shoes on Jennifer Aniston. However, Aniston never shopped Weitzman’s store, so Weitzman found out the store she did shop at and collaborated with them to create a shoe for Jen. Jen liked it and the wedge espadrille was worn throughout the summer of 2009. Weitzman even got a two-page spread in People Magazine with Aniston’s many looks with the shoe in the early stages of the recession. This was all free advertising due to Weitzman’s marketing strategy.

Weitzman talks about the wedge he designed for a store that Jennifer Aniston shopped at

He did a similar strategy to get Kate Moss to model his shoes by working with Mario Testino to create an ad campaign.

Weitzman also noted how you can not overlook the marketing of smaller stars. Weitzman mentioned how a few years back his marketing team wanted him to stop making custom shoes for TV stars, but Weitzman did not see the harm in it. They may not have the star power of Kate Moss, but they did bring some visibility and you don’t know they could be a famous movie star one day. His belief paid off; the TV show that his company was working with was Suits, filmed in Canada and once had Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s current wife. Markle frequently wears Weitzman’s shoes along with her sister-in-law Kate Middleton.

Weitzman talks about how he got Meghan Markle as a client

Creating buzz with an original idea

Stuart Weitzman wasn’t done winning over the crowd in the auditorium he then talked about creating a pair of million-dollar shoes for the Oscars in 2002, worn by Laura Harring. He could have got a bigger name at that time to wear his shoes, but he knew a less popular star up for an award would want to show off the shoes to get more attention. These shoes were created with one million dollars’ worth of diamonds and gained a lot of attention! The celebrity that helped promote the shoes the most was Joan Rivers! Weitzman recalls watching Rivers interview Angelina Jolie and interrupting their talk to see the diamond shoes on Harring! This was no surprise to me considering how much Joan loved jewelry!

Weitzman talking about actress wearing $1 million diamond shoes

The talk wasn’t over yet, Weitzman brings out a couple of pairs of shoes one being the diamond pair he just talked about to be modeled by a lady in the audience. 

Audience member modeling Weitzman Diamond Shoes

Final thoughts

Weitzman really seemed to enjoy speaking to the group and ran a little over but was happy to take questions. After he finished and I was heading back to my apartment I caught myself going to his online store. I realized how effective his talk was and knew I wasn’t alone. A girl near me asked her friends, “How did they get Stuart Weitzman?” Weitzman may have been doing the school a favor but after his talk I think he had things he could benefit from by giving the talk. Besides the free publicity, his company is probably looking for fresh talent and what a way to recruit than by giving a speech like he did with all the celebrities and glittery events! I imagine many of the students in that auditorium will be dreaming of employment at Stuart Weitzman. To me Stuart Weitzman is more than a shoe designer, he is a marketing genius!

If you are looking to improve your business and marketing strategy reach out to me, data.inthe.rough@gmail.com. I would love to help you build a better business with my many years of experience as an analyst and consultant. Thank you for reading and I hope you return soon! If you’re in the Boston area check out Boston Design week, this group helped sponsored the talk that I am able to share with you.

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