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Fugly doesn’t matter

Guess how many pairs of Crocs have been sold? Over 300 Million. That’s a statistically relevant number because it disproves my theory that ‘I can count on one hand the number of people who actually buy themselves Crocs’. 

Yes, one of the ugliest shoes ever made is one of the greatest footwear success stories. When you’re listed on the stock exchange, sell shoes in more than 90 countries, have created a product that is instantly recognizable and loved by customers – it really doesn’t matter what I think about your product design. 

Crocs decided early on that the only thing that matters to them (and the customers they want to serve) is comfort. Without fail, every single Crocs wearer I’ve ever spoken to raves (with big words and all their teeth) about how comfortable the shoes are. Some even admit that the shoes are (f)ugly, but they don’t care, they love them, because comfort rules. Well played Crocs, well played. 

Startups will often talk about their North Star metric, the key thing they measure that showcases whether they’re succeeding or failing in their efforts. For example, in the early stages of Facebook it was probably ‘sign ups’, then it might have migrated to ‘user time on site’, and now it looks like the entire product is built around behavioural hooks and data mining to enable ‘monetization’ through ad revenue. 

Whether you’re designing a product, service, or a company, you can also implement this idea of a North Star metric or a key product characteristic, something you care about and measure above all else. For Crocs it’s comfort. I would love to have been a fly on the wall during their R&D process – ‘no, not soft and comfortable enough, try again’. What do you care about above all else? Are the customers who care about that currently being served? 

Here’s the great thing about where Crocs find themselves now and why they keep growing. Since they’ve built this identity of comfort first they’re converting many of their customers (who trust them) into repeat buyers by launching new shoe models. Did you know they made heels, flats, sneakers, flip flops, loafers, kids shoes and more?   

Go build something, even if it’s (f)ugly, because often that won’t matter. 

Ps. I don’t own Crocs, but I have tried them on and agree, it’s like walking on marshmallows. I prefer being a little closer to the ground and only wear zero-drop barefoot style shoes from Vivobarefoot