Vans Global Marketing VP Departs for New Role
Long time Vans employee Nick Street, most recently VP of Global Integrated Marketing, departed the company last week for a new opportunity.
Nick’s new job, which was announced Friday morning, is Chief Marketing Officer for Zound Industries, a Europe-based maker and marketer of headphones and speakers.
At Vans, Kristin Harrer, who joined Vans in April, remains the Global CMO. According to a Vans spokesman, the company will backfill Nick’s role, which reports to Kristin.
When we heard he was leaving, we asked Nick to reflect on his time at Vans and share some lessons he learned during his nearly 20 years at parent company VF Corp.
What were some of the key roles you had during your time at VF and Vans?
Nick Street: I started my career at Eastpak as the UK Marketing Manager before becoming Vans and Pro-Tec UK Marketing Manager. Just as I joined Vans, VF acquired Reef and I looked after all three brands for the UK and Ireland markets. From there I moved to Switzerland as Vans and Reef were building the EMEA headquarters in Lugano where I was doing multi-channel marketing across the region in direct and distributor markets.
In 2013, I moved to Hong Kong as Senior Marketing Director for the APAC region. There I led the development and execution of all regional consumer marketing campaigns and created regional marketing and go-to-market strategies across our six direct and 10 distributor markets. Following my three years in APAC, I moved to Vans headquarters in Costa Mesa, Calif., where I served as the VP of Global Integrated Marketing for the past five years and where I was responsible for leading Vans’ global marketing initiatives across product, sports, brand, communications and marketing operations.
The company grew a lot during those years. What was that like to see the brand’s global reach increase so much? How did that change the dynamics of your marketing roles?
Nick Street: Vans was and to some extent still is the underdog. The values of the brand run so deep and they are visible throughout the fabric of the brand. This manifests consumer facing through the amazing work all the marketing, product and retail teams do every day. Founder Paul Van Doren once said to me that anyone who buys Vans becomes a part of the family. No matter where I lived in the world or who I met, anyone you speak to has a story about their Vans. It’s something we have not only tried to preserve but really amplified and integrated into the brand DNA in all the regions.
With all the growth the brand has seen, it has always maintained its focus on the consumer and the people. ‘Giving a Shit’ is at the core of what drives any decision and the passion, grit and determination that team has no matter how big or daunting an idea may be, really is inspirational. I am biased here of course but I believe the talent at Vans is the special sauce.
I saw it as my responsibility to ensure those values stayed true as the brand grew in new geographies. I always thought to myself – what would Steve Van Doren do? That meant ensuring the grassroots remains an important part of the marketing strategy. It always starts in a community somewhere be that physically or increasingly digitally and then it grows from there. Of course, as the brand grows the marketing and the campaign reach must grow as well, but at the core I always wanted to make sure that we rewarded the loyalist while also welcoming the newcomers.
Are there any key lessons you learned along the way during your time at Vans?
Nick Street: There are so many. I’d say the first one – and it may sound funny and obvious but coming from an events background this is an important one – make sure everyone is fed and watered! You can do anything with a well-nourished team.
Having lived in three continents I’d say listen first, speak last. Most often you don’t know what the realities are in a local market or community. You are not there to enforce your idea upon others but to enable those around you.
Test, learn and try stuff – not everything is going to be a home run and that’s ok. Most big things you see at Vans started small. Recognize a good idea and give it the support to grow. Celebrate the wins and the fails and acknowledge those individuals that go above and beyond along the way.
And last but not least – I have to quote Paul and Steve again – it’s all about the people! Vans has amazing product so perhaps I am taking that a little bit for granted. But ultimately, I truly believe that you can achieve anything if you put people first – the numbers will follow.
Why was it the right time to leave? What is next for you?
Nick Street: Vans is my second family, and my wife might say at times it was my first. We have travelled the world for the past 10-plus years and I will forever be grateful for all the amazing memories that will always stay with me.
I will be relocating back to Europe with my family where I will be taking on the CMO role for Zound Industries. Music has always been a big passion of mine, so I am excited to learn about a new category beyond footwear and apparel and to being part of an audio electronics company that focuses on innovation with a human centric, sustainable and digital first approach.
Zound, with its portfolio of brands (Marshall, adidas and Urbanears) is the most exciting alternative and the number one challenger to the traditional players in the industry. I’m really looking forward to being a part of that journey.
I’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you to everyone at Vans – especially the Van Doren family as well as the athletes, ambassadors, media and retailers that have supported Vans over the years. The brand would not be what it is without all of your support and passion. It’s been an amazing 20 years and I am going to be missing everyone hugely!