Case Study: Shoe Carnival

Our research and brand analysis team developed a strategically driven and creative marketing campaign where Comp sales were up 8 percent in the first year after five years of negative sales, Shoe Carnival’s stock price hit a 52-week high and the Motley Fool picked the stock as a “best buy” while mentioning our branding campaign.

Epstein Group developed a strategically driven creative campaign for Shoe Carnival image


When Shoe Carnival came to us they were seeking an experienced team of marketing analysts and developers that could revitalize their 30-year-old brand while simultaneously reversing declining traffic counts and sales. Prior to engaging us, these declines were across all product categories, and were especially significant in women’s fashion footwear, a key component to increasing traffic from the female consumer.


To reverse the negative trends, we had to maintain Shoe Carnival’s market position as a family footwear destination while reestablishing the brand as a fashion-forward brand that would be relevant to women. Basically, we needed to convince mom that she could fulfill her need for fashionable shoes and still get athletic shoes for the family at one destination.

The discount footwear category is crowded with players who all want to play the fashion card. Even Wal-Mart was making moves to be more stylish. The contemporary woman wants both style and value—and she knows she can demand it.


In our extensive branding and idea planning processes, we came to one strong conclusion: Shoe Carnival could reach style-conscious women, but they needed to do so in a lighthearted manner. We found that the Shoe Carnival customer certainly wanted the latest fashions, but we also found that she didn’t take herself so seriously (compared to, for example, the fashion-driven DSW shopper). This insight just happened to match perfectly with the Shoe Carnival store concept, where a lively promotional experience is at the center of everything. A strategy of surprising value and surprising fashion was the clear path to success.

The entire character and tone of our advertising was based around that single idea: surprise. And the tactical execution of surprise has been built around an imaginative icon: a red nose, which pops up along with the statement, “The funny thing is how little she paid for her shoes.” The tagline, “Have you been to the Carnival lately?” further builds the idea of fun and surprising value.

The Shoe Carnival campaign was a complete branding program—with strong, energetic television advertising, humorous radio spots and extensive in-store point of sale. The advertising was brand building in its character, while always carrying a strong retail message (frequently with price-point promotion).


Through the Red Nose campaign, we were both able to revitalize the brand, as evidenced by increases in comparable traffic and sales results, and to introduce a new audience to the brand without alienating the core. Consider the following:

1. Comp sales were up 8 percent in the first year after five years of negative sales.

2. The women’s shoe segment increased 30%; 10% more than their goal.

3. Shoe Carnival’s stock price hit a 52-week high and the Motley Fool picked the stock as a “best buy.”