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Doug Palladini graduated from SDSU with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. (Credit: Vans) Doug Palladini graduated from SDSU with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. (Credit: Vans)

Vans Global Brand President Comes to SDSU

Doug Palladini, Class of '88, was hosted by the SDSU Entrepreneur Society.
By Jocelyn Moran, The Daily Aztec

Vans Global Brand President and San Diego State University alumnus Doug Palladini ('88) returned to campus to speak about the key to a successful brand at the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union on Sept. 7.

The event was hosted by the SDSU Entrepreneur Society and attracted close to 200 students.

David Shadi, president of the Entrepreneur Society, said he took away two main messages from the discussion.

“One main point he hit was be relentless in your passion,” Shadi said. “Another, is once you start your brand, the key aspect is branding loyalty, so people keep coming back to you, and then you have a connectivity aspect.”

Throughout his speech, Palladini emphasized the importance of creative expression, emotional connection and storytelling.

“When you are creative and think about your career, you are following who you are as an individual,” Palladini said. “Do whatever the heck you want, but make sure it’s something you love because we spend a lot of time doing it.”

Palladini graduated from SDSU in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in sociology.

“Creativity is business,” Palladini said. “We have to figure out what it means to us.”

He said the words “Off the Wall” on the heel tabs of the shoe unlocked Vans’ path to its creative expression. The phrase is about how someone views the world.

“It’s about a state of mind,” Palladini said. “When you think off the wall, you see the world a little differently. When you skate down a road, you see it differently than people who walk to class.”

Palladini highlighted the four pillars of Vans: art, music, action sports and street culture. Everything Vans does comes from one of those pillars, he said.

“Vans’ mission is to be the global icon of creative expression in youth culture,” he said.

Palladini joked that he knows he's not a part of the youth culture anymore, but said he is still part of the Vans family because his state of mind is still with the youth culture.

He then stressed the importance of establishing an emotional connection with the consumers of a brand.

In order to build that connection, Vans has built skateparks it manages at its own expense, and bought spaces to transform them into places that represent its four pillars.

Additionally, Vans has a custom culture project where high school art programs enter a shoe design contest and the winner receives $50,000 for its art program.

“It’s all about the experience,” Palladini said. “It’s all about proving to fans we are committed to these platforms that enable creative expression.”

Junior economics major Eden Cooper said he was surprised by the way Vans has grown.

“I never really knew Vans harnessed an emotional connection and built a brand through that,” Cooper said. “I think it was interesting how they really grew organically in that sense.”

Palladini ended his presentation by talking about the significance of storytelling.

“My business card says ‘Global President Vans,’ but my job is to be the storyteller,” he said.

Palladini said the connectivity of the cultures in their four pillars is the story of Vans.

“We are not a shoe company," Palladini said. "We are a creative expression company that makes shoes. It’s a fundamental difference. It allows you to be so much more.”

Shadi said Vans is a brand all SDSU students can relate to, and that Palladini was able to give a the audience a lot to learn from.

“You have to think global,” Palladini said.“You cannot do your job behind your desk. We need to be out here on campus at SDSU seeing what you guys are wearing, what’s important to you and what kind of skateboards you’re riding to class."

The SDSU Entrepreneur Society also hosted founders of Pura Vida, Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman, on Sept. 14 in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.

This article originally appeared in The Daily Aztec.