Case Study

By The Drum | Administrator

June 6, 2002 | 6 min read

Client: AirWair Ltd

Project: New Brand Website for Dr. Martens -

Agency: Code

The Background

“Dr. Martens” is one of the most renowned cult brands in the world and AirWair Ltd wanted to ensure that the brand remained true to its original heritage. Following a reassessment of the Dr. Martens brand positioning, it was agreed that there should be a clear “return to roots“, and a new tagline, “Dr. Martens - the stamp of independent culture“, was introduced. The development of a new brand website, which fully reflected this, would play a key role in communicating the brand’s revitalisation.


AirWair Ltd appointed Manchester-based digital communications company, Code (, to develop the new site. Code had worked with AirWair in the past on a number of CDROM projects and had demonstrated that they fully understood the Dr. Martens brand, in addition to showing a natural empathy towards the youth market generally.

According to Dan Gyves, AirWair Ltd’s head of marketing, “Code particularly impressed us with their ability to combine strong creative skills with a high level of technical competence - a combination which is seldom found within one agency, but one which was a prerequisite for the development of the new website.

“Because they were completely conversant with the Dr. Martens brand, they instilled confidence that we could trust them to develop the design and structure of the site within the brand remit.”

Formed in May 1998, Code specialises in producing digital work, including internet, CDROM, video and animation. The company differentiates itself through its ability to provide a combination of strong design and programming skills, coupled with a real understanding of marketing strategy and branding. In addition to AirWair Ltd, Code has worked for clients such as Thus, NUS Services, Aquacool and The Filmworks, and is currently working with brands which include Kimberly Clark and Reg Vardy.

The Brief:

The brief for developing the site, which would target 18- to 25-year-olds, was threefold. First, there was a need to create a site environment that built on the brand’s natural heritage whilst reflecting a number of core brand values - British, attitude, independent, authentic, quality and construction. Second, the site needed to offer greater usability to visitors than previously, in terms of speedy access to the Dr. Martens product range and ease of user navigation. Last, a strong focus on content, allowing the Dr. Martens range to be showcased, was also imperative. It was hoped that the combination of these three would also increase return visitor levels.

The site would become a key marketing tool for the Dr. Martens brand and AirWair Ltd also briefed Code to lay the foundations for the introduction of e-commerce, planned for later this year.


In order to reflect Dr. Martens core brand values, Code adopted a design style that was reminiscent of the early stages of website design, using a minimal number of colours, which gave the site a “rough” and quite raw, almost retro, look, and also made the file sizes very small and therefore quick to load.

Code director Tony Foggett explains, “Dr. Martens is a very straightforward “take us or leave us” brand and we tried to reflect this in both our design approach and our choice of technologies, consciously avoiding excessive, flamboyant front-end interfaces and animations. Our focus was on providing easy navigation, minimal download times and accessible content. On the new site, the content, rather than the delivery mechanism, was key.”

In terms of content, the site provides enhanced access to the full Dr. Martens product offer and visitors can search for footwear by colour and style of shoe, in addition to getting up-to-the-minute news on new range launches and store openings. There is also a Subculture section, which takes visitors on a voyage through the different groups who have aligned themselves with Dr. Martens over the years, from the mods and skinheads of the 1960s, to the 70s punks, right through to the grunge of the 90s.

Dr. Martens’ return to its roots can be clearly seen through the site’s strong focus on music. Dr. Martens teamed up with Virgin Records’ site to provide a host of news, reviews and interviews from the music scene, plus streamed music via an Airplay player. Code advised AirWair that an area for new, non-mainstream bands would be in keeping with the brand positioning and the site therefore also offers unsigned bands a platform to talk about themselves, with visitors being able to demo tracks via an MP3 player.

In laying the foundations for e-commerce, Code concentrated on building a strong backend for the site, which could then be managed by a non-technical team at AirWair Ltd. The bespoke content management system allows the client to quickly and easily update the sections of the site that change regularly, such as new product introductions, news and music, but all within an environment that ensures that the overall site design remains unchanged.


The design of the new Dr. Martens website successfully reflects the brand’s return to its natural heritage and its focus on the core brand values. Visitors now have speedy access to every Dr. Martens product available in every country worldwide, and the strong music content ties in with the lifestyle of the target audience.

Since the site went live, it averages 4,000 visitors per day, compared to the 2,500 visitors to the old site, and return user levels have increased from 3 per cent to 15 per cent.

As AirWair Ltd’s Dan Gyves comments, “Code has ensured that the new Dr. Martens site successfully achieved all the objectives we set out to meet. The key focus of the site is that of usability, both in providing visitors with easy access to the full Dr. Martens product range and in making it easy for them to locate stockists. In addition, the designs that Code created for the site ensure that its look, feel and additional content is wholly consistent with Dr. Martens core brand values.”


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +