THE HERITAGE OF TIMBERLAND | INTERVIEW WITH BEVAN BLOEMENDAAL

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Being part of a brand for so many years gives one a certain level of dedication, understanding, and passion; not just for the products themselves, but also for the inherent corporate culture. After 18+ years with a brand, Bevan Bloemendaal, VP Global Environments & Creative Services at Timberland, exudes these sentiments; from the way he proudly speaks of the company and the products themselves, to even the telling tattoos on his arms.

To Bevan, his life has certainly come full circle.  It connects his childhood of growing up in the Midwest to his now adult life of working at an outdoor & footwear brand.  Part of that creative intrinsic circle includes his love of music, which has also played a very important part of his life’s journey. 

“The farm I grew up in, in the Midwest, really grounded me in regards to work value; it’s hard work with a hard work ethic and it’s where I put a lot of my time and energy.”

He used that strong work ethic and passion to pave the way on his road to Timberland – making a few stops along the way.  First he started with a landscaping business as a florist and then a singer and a music major in college. “I’m also a church organist and a choir director.  That stems from my deep rooted values, with my Grandad and Dad being a Minister and my mom was a church organist as well.  For me it always comes back to storytelling. I get to tell these rich stories through music and rhythmic arrangement and/or through the design of the store or through advertising. So composition for me is always key.”

Timberland Yellow Boot

Bevan has worked in the footwear industry for most of his career. At Timberland, he oversees a multitude of disciplines from store design, fixture design, construction and account service to global visual merchandising, e-commerce, art and copy.

“I have a really cool gig, I can’t gush enough about it. When you think about ripping the roof off of the brand, we get to touch everything from within it. I’ve got a group of people who have been with me since day one and we are like a family; we have a level of trust and work for and towards each other’s strengths, but they cover a ton of my own weaknesses. Some people burn out really fast but I think with an iconic brand like Timberland, I need to have that strength. I need to have folks who are always going to understand the integrity of the icon, of the brand itself.”

Timberland is redefining their global consumer and changing their brand perspective to a more outdoor lifestyle approach. They have very much evolved from their simple origins with the yellow work boot – a staple ingrained in their DNA and something Bevan calls, “the mother of all inventions; the icon that we have had the privilege of climbing the ladder up from.”

“There are funny stories around how the yellow boot actually came to exist. For instance, the yellow leather was just what was available at the time. Not sure anyone really wanted that leather but we used it anyway, and it became this universal icon.”

Timberland is a heritage brand that is expanding their consumer basis to a more youthful demographic, who may not know that Timberland produces product or clothing other than their iconic work boots. They are moving into this idea of an urban outdoors look and feel. They are still focused on premium materials with rich, gritty texture, but have now added an enhanced look to the product with a new fresh style.

Timberland Store

“When they think about their outdoors, it’s not only the woods and the wilderness, it can be anything outside.”

“We needed to understand what our consumer’s outdoors were, what their lifestyle was, what is their Timberland. What do they want from us, in regard to style? Our brand philosophy is SPG: Style, Performance and Green. Many years ago, we were all about performance, and then we evolved to a focus on the green factor, all about doing good. Later, we realized that the consumer is looking at us from a style perspective, and it has to be relevant to their life. So now all three are key factors in everything we do”

That GREEN aspect in their DNA is taken very seriously.  Timberland continuously implements new procedures to better our environment and leave a positive mark on the Earth. They use recyclable and renewable materials in their products, making an effort companywide to better the Earth.

“It’s just the human thing to do and within our core values – it goes towards maintaining our humanity, humility, integrity and excellence.”

Within their Headquarters in New Hampshire, they proudly display their history of brand images and advertisements, dating back to the beginning of the company. It is truly a visually impactful way to see the beautiful heritage, DNA and evolution of the Timberland brand.

Timberland Ad Wall

“It starts from our very first ad, and then we go on to some of the very unconventional stuff that we did, from Hillbillies to even at one point, a naked guy in the Antarctic. We are pretty aggressive in regards to our voice, we strive to send a very strong message. You can tell as we have gone through the years where we were very product focused, to when we became very performance driven. You can also see the emphasis on the green aspect and how good we can be to the World, and then, more recently, the shift to style and outdoor lifestyle.”

Another set of values extremely important to the company is “humanity, humility, integrity and excellence.” These words are placed front and center in the HQ offices where every employee can walk past them each day as a reminder to what the brands strive towards.

“These sentiments are something that drives and inspires our team. And something I try to live by personally.”

When looking at the most challenging aspect of his job, Bevan notes that it is the idea of ‘keeping up’ and relentlessly trying to stay relevant.

“That’s a constant; you have to be on your game. I always think new, you have to be relevant. The consumer base, digital, the retail experience – it’s all changing. It’s not the case where the customer buys their boots and goes home. It’s about how am I going to keep you in my store longer, what can you offer me that’s new and different that somebody else is not going to? The consumer base today is very fickle; they want to find brands that have integrity and authenticity, which is everything that we are. But it is still about staying relevant and being able to portray that to them through our imagery, our stores and our products.”

Timberland Lifestyle

“Another tough challenge, I would say, is not only is there a changing landscape of the consumer, but we have a changing landscape within our regions and we have to have a different approach to how we reach consumers in each specific region in a very powerful way. The approach that North America might want to use might not be the same approach we use in Asia. So we have to be cognizant, and that’s why travelling for me is very important. I’m a sponge when it comes to people watching, seeing what other retailers are doing. I have this fear of missing out. I cannot close my eyes in case something’s changed or I miss out on something that’s intriguing or inspires me.”

Timberland is indeed shifting their stores to reflect this new consumer basis yet doing it in a way that stays true to the heritage and brand DNA of Timberland.

“After experimenting with screens, iPads, and technology in stores, it became very clear that we don’t need to have it dominate our stores. We have a higher engagement level with some of the tactile elements of our stores. Customers want to smell the leather, they want to touch and understand the materials behind the shoes. We have new elements like giant leather hides that are going to be hanging behind what we call the social hub. This is where people can hang out and get the opportunity to talk, and learn about the products. We might have tattoo artists, tattooing the boots. But it is where we have to ask, what does experiential mean? For us, it’s through product demonstrations, or knowing that all our boots are waterproof or what does comfort mean etc. Those tactile elements are very important to us, and we are very happy with our store design and we are starting to implement what a lot of that represents to us.”

Timberland Lifestyle

When looking back, Bevan had some advice for his younger self as well as the generation coming into the retail design and visual industries.

“I don’t think kids of this generation are afraid of this, but for me, I should have taken more risks. My advice to myself and to others would be to continue on with that integrity, learn to fail miserably but fail graciously and be able to pick yourself up very quickly and optimize what you’ve learned from that. When I was young, I thought everything had to be perfect before it even went out, but sometimes you just have to take the risk. Let it go and then you can optimize later.”

Bevan finds inspiration in the outdoors, through his natural surroundings and the people and places he interacts with.

“Nature – my surroundings are inspiring to me; that’s why I did what I did here,” [referring to the recent collection of evergreens tattooed on his forearm]. “The idea of the movements, the color of the evergreens, the compositions of the shadows, the light and how they play off each other. I’m inspired by that. I come from an outdoor background, and I’m also Dutch.  That’s the only thing that my grandmother taught me in Dutch: Achter de wolken schijnt de zon, which means ‘behind the clouds shines the sun.’ I’ve always remembered that; I even had to have it tattooed on me. I also love the outdoors, my house, my orchids. I love seeing the regeneration, rejuvenation – that idea of reinventing themselves and coming out differently. And of course, my family, my spouse, my kid, Jett, the one with four legs…”

Bevan’s Tattoo

Concord

New Hampshire, USA