Vans – not so “off the wall” afterall?

Vans has had an online competition (Vans Global Custom Culture show contest) running amongst its fans to design the next Vans shoe letting their community vote for their favorite.  Great marketing – get the fans involved, let them design your product range etc. So far so good.

However, the brand is facing a difficult situation which is testing their “real” brand values.

The competition, which invites artists globally to create unique designs using the brand’s kicks as their canvas, is drawing attention for one notable submission in support of the city’s pro-democracy movement. The design by Canada-based artist “Naomiso” features Hong Kong’s national orchid on the upper and a yellow umbrella, emblematic of the Hong Kong protests. Illustrations of masked protesters adorns the sides. Check out the shoe below.

Now Vans has removed the shoe from the competition even though it was by far the most popular shoe of the competition thus far. And this is leading to social backlash of course, and rightly so. The brand statement “Off the wall” is now being seen as a fake brand value.

So what now Vans – rescue your brand value, or rescue your market share in China? Nice, tricky, test!