Designed with an intense focus on comfort and breathability, Nike launches the Air Rejuven8, an innovation that rejuvenates the foot during an athletes day off the field.
Nike’s heritage of 35 years of innovation “The great thing about innovating at NIKE is that we have iconic heritage products to draw from,” says Pam Greene.
With help from the Innovation Kitchen team, and drawing from the experience of designers like Bob Mervar, who designed the Presto; Tinker Hatfield, creator of the Air Huarache; Sean McDowell, who brought the Air Kukini to the triathlon world; and Bruce Kilgore who invented the Sock Racer; Pam built upon their foundation concepts and pushed them to the next level of rejuvenating comfort and aesthetic functionality. The Zvezdockha, Nike’s innovation project with designer Marc Newson, introduced the idea of modularity to the NIKE family, and the Air Rejuven8 makes it accessible from a consumer and athletic standpoint. The Air Rejuven8 is the latest evolution and fusion of the aforementioned shoes in the NIKE family tree, combining great fit, breathability, and support in a seriously fun way that only Nike can deliver.
Inspiration * Design at NIKE follows a problem solving process and inspiration to solve the needs of an athlete can come from anywhere. At a Thanksgiving dinner in 1999, a NIKE innovation leader’s seven-year-old son took the protective fruit net off an Asian pear and placed it around his bare foot. It was a playful gesture that immediately sparked the imagination of NIKE’s design team, spawning the first Air Rejuven8 prototype—built from the very same netting and hot-glued to a last. What intrigued designers about the structure was the way the material worked in harmony with the foot’s shape, as well as its graphic look. But, at the time, the technology required to make the Air Rejuven8 was too complex and its various prototypes ended up at the bottom of a drawer for nearly five years, out of sight, but not out of mind.
Great video of the design process of the new Swisscom identity.
Here’s what the guys from moving brands say about the project:
“Swisscom, one of the leading brands and a market leader in Switzerland(with more than 60% average share of market), is perceived as one of the most trusted brands by Swiss people. The Swisscom re-brand is the final step to a major restructuring of the whole Swisscom organisation which will see the previous group companies Swisscom Fixnet, Swisscom Mobile and Swisscom Solutions cease to exist. These companies will be replaced by Swisscom (Switzerland) Ltd with the divisions Residential Customers, Small & Medium-Sized Enterprises and Corporate Business. Swisscom’s fixed-line, mobile communications infrastructures and IT platforms are to be merged into a single division as part of the same process.
The pitch process began in the first half of 2007, and from the outset, and in light of the organisational re-structuring that was on the horizon, we argued strongly that what was at that stage merely a ‘corporate design’ brief, needed to in fact be elevated to a complete and audacious ‘brand renewal’ brief.
Following an initial round of pitches, we then found ourselves on a shortlist of several agencies from across Switzerland and Europe. The Moving Brands concept was selected for implementation by the Swisscom board of directors in November 2007.
Our concept for Swisscom centres on creating just a cross-platform, dynamic identity. This will form a strong and clearly defined single axis around which every element of the Swisscom organisation can then move. The new Swisscom identity, developed by ourselves with Swiss typographer Bruno Maag, will be launched in the first quarter of next year. It will be ‘an innovation for Switzerland and the industry.’ To see more of the design please go to www.swisscom.com/brand-2008
The new millennium has since brought about an adidas renaissance; the brand has steadily regained market share over the past five years to become the world's number two athletic shoe company (behind Nike). How did it go about repositioning to once again be among the coolest of kicks?
Adidas claims that, "the brand values of the company – authenticity, inspiration, honesty and commitment – are derived from sport." Historically, this sensibility was demonstrated through early and continued involvement with Olympic athletes, as well as active sponsorship of major global sporting events – like the World Cup. Today these events provide an ample playing field for sportswear companies to duke it out for representation and thus market share. Adidas’s rapid growth in Asia, where revenue rose by 15 percent to US$ 878M last year, may be further propelled in Japan and Korea when those two nations host the World Cup this year – an event which is expected to garner 2.5M spectators and one billion TV viewers worldwide.
However, the key to revitalized success seems to lie in the considerable endorsement deals adidas has developed with world class athletes. Recent sports figures representing adidas don’t only score high marks in their game – they also score high in their celebrity quotient. British football star David Beckham’s relationship with adidas has no doubt lent itself well to the brand’s visibility in the UK. Recently dubbed "Captain of England," Beckham led his team to victory in the 2000 FIFA World Cup. It doesn’t hurt that he’s married to a highly visible, ex-Spice girl and is often seen in the tabloids sporting the adidas logo. With Europe as adidas’s largest market, exposure like this reflects in the numbers; sales grew seven percent to US$ 2.7 billion, last year.
Stateside, Kobe Bryant is another example of a winning adidas endorsee. The LA Laker and youngest NBA all-star player is an athlete with substantial celebrity leverage. This translates directly into sales, young men who idolize Bryant want to play basketball like he does, and thus will want to wear what he wears. The equally compelling Russian born, American-bred tennis star Anna Kournikova also meets these criteria. She’s a young, brilliant professional athlete whose celebrity extends well beyond the world of tennis – like Bryant and Beckham she’s captured the public’s interest in mainstream newspapers, magazines and tabloids.
Reinvention was key, not only for the adidas’s marketing strategy, but also for its product line. On its website, adidas acknowledges that "The markets and industry in which we compete are transforming rapidly, paced by the evolution – or revolution – in how 'sports' are defined. Team sports such as soccer and basketball will always be a fundamental part of sporting competition. Today, however, eclectic, individual, 'no-rules' sports such as snowboarding, inline skating and surfing have grown into significant categories. Activities such as golf, hiking and mountain biking, which used to be seen as lifestyle and leisure activities, are now part of mainstream sports." Increased product offerings in these categories have undoubtedly contributed to a better score for the brand.
To keep up with the competition, adidas generates close to 60 new foot-friendly designs each year. The adidas credo is to regard shoes as feet, resulting in a product with superior fit and performance capabilities. Tactics have been revised in getting these products out for consumption. As a result, products have been repositioned in higher-end and sports specialty stores. As their main competitor has sprinkled flagship NikeTown stores throughout the US, Europe and Australia, adidas has also embarked on a foray into retail. The first adidas-Solomon megastore launched in Paris last year to capitalize on the brand awareness in that market; France scored victories in both the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Cup football championships. Word on the street is the brand hopes to eventually roll out this concept to more cities in Europe and North America.
Adidas continues to prove itself as a brand built to last through a game plan of reinvention. With the recent acquisition of a lifetime partnership with Orlando Magic's Tracy McGrady (basketball) and its heavy involvement with 2002 World Cup, it continues to strike savvy deals that capitalize on the star power of young athletes and increase its visibility in the marketplace.
It appears that team adidas has honed its strategy to become a revitalized contender in today’s competitive sporting goods market and is now duly recognized as the sneaker of yesterday and today.
So it is refreshing when a Japanese brand discards discretion for an emboldened embrace of its culture in brand identity. The contemporary consumer is multicultural, seeks the exotic, and may even perceive Japan as being (kookily) cool.
One brand that wears its national colors on its sleeve is UNIQLO, a fashion retailer that combines the back-to-basics approach of American Apparel, the competitive pricing of Old Navy, and the foreign edge of a Zara or H&M. If not yet Gap-like in scale, UNIQLO (its name coined from "unique clothes") is a retail juggernaut in Japan, with 760 stores in six countries, 20,000 employees, and earnings of US$ 3.5 billion in 2004. But most of its stores are domestic, and with little room for expansion in a saturated home market, CEO Tadashi Yanai is looking to sew up the US market.
Like many Japanese brands, UNIQLO's message is heavily product-oriented, touting garment quality as a major selling point. To maintain high production values they rely on a strategy of "Total Systems Control"—which does not exactly impart an image of sexy, edgy fashion—sounding more appropriate hanging on the wall of a silicon-chip plant or on the bridge of a battleship. Still, it does ensure the company is accountable for all aspects of production, down to rigorous quality checks in their Chinese factories. Again, though, these are the kind of production values people take for granted from Japanese manufacturers.
Another technique for quality control that is equally widespread in Japan, but less well-known in other countries, is the use of takumi, or master craftsmen, to oversee important processes and educate new staff. The takumi concept has deep roots in the aesthetic values of Japan, where artisans have been placed on a cultural pedestal since the Edo era. UNIQLO's branding team was quick to capitalize on this very Japanese element in its communications, featuring some of these crustily hip tailors in the UNIQLO Paper, a brand magazine sold at stores.
But where the brand really begins to take shape is with its philosophy of "un-branded" fashion. UNIQLO-thes sport no overt logos, which fans of the (paradoxical) "no-brand" Japanese brand MUJI will no doubt warm to. The premise is that consumers can make their own fashion choices. They do not need to have a style dictated to them from on high. In a country like Japan, where a surprising majority of young dressers in the street can be classified by the fashion magazine they subscribe to, this is nothing short of a seismic shift in thinking. The idea is simple yet empowering: Your clothes don't define you; you define your clothes.
So far, so good. A high-quality, democratic clothing line. Is it enough to cut through the noise in the highly competitive world of American retail? Probably not, and that is why the UNIQLO marketers have blended Japonism with creative marketing techniques for its American invasion.
In part, the brand is learning from mistakes made in its incursion into the UK in 2001. There UNIQLO expanded aggressively and rapidly but with little focus on building a strong brand. A bland product offering that failed to stand up to the likes of Zara, and store retrograde interiors that communicated few values, forced Yanai and his team to rethink their strategy.
To avoid similar missteps in the US, UNIQLO has moved cautiously, entering the market nearly unnoticed with a couple of pilot stores in New Jersey. Programs to bring in more foreign talent to the design team, and major acquisitions by their parent company of headliner brands such as the formerly defunct Helmut Lang, are steps UNIQLO is taking to be sure its products have enough style to appeal to American consumers.
Just as important as stocking clothes that sell was the task of raising brand awareness, and the UNIQLO marketing team adopted some unorthodox but effective multidisciplinary marketing approaches to generate buzz from the ground up. As a buildup to the launch of the New York flagship store in November of last year, the UNIQLO team embarked on a guerilla campaign called "UNIQLO Is Everywhere," with "container stores" appearing at random on New York City street corners. Further efforts include an ad campaign featuring Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef fame. The company also produced a CD of 15 contemporary genre-bending Japanese artists that cleverly communicates the brand's Japanese essence, as well as its eclectic, cutting-edge, global style.
But it was in the design of the flagship store that the brand's Japanese DNA was most fully revealed. The involvement of a predominantly Japanese team—including renowned interior designer Masamichi Katayama—in the store development was a clear vote of confidence in Japanese heritage over red-white-and-blue-washing the brand. "We didn't set out to create a typically exotic traditional Japanese atmosphere," says Kashiwa Sato, the creative director of the SoHo store design. "The aim was rather to express contemporary Tokyo pop culture."
Sato wanted to transport the fetishistic artistry of Tokyo boutiques to New York, hence the centerpiece of the store: a giant glass cocoon that incubates twirling mannequins modeling UNIQLO combinations. It is a spectacle reminiscent of a display of a couple of years ago in one of the branches of BEAMS, a trendy Tokyo retailer, in which t-shirts were displayed on a glass-encased rotating clothing rack, perhaps inspired by conveyor-belt sushi. While other design elements are somewhat more expected, from sliding panel doors to tatami floor coverings, the overall environment embraces modern minimalism, everything clean and bright, placing product at the center without giving too much distracting context. This lack of context is a physical cue to empower consumers to create their own styles and combinations.
The signage and logo are also optimally aligned with the brand identity. The red and white logo colors link implicitly to the Japanese flag. Further, the flagship store is outfitted with both English and katakana versions of signage. This seems to further enhance the Japanese-ness of the brand while adding a practical communicative element for the large Japanese and Asian population living in New York City. It also cashes in on the undercurrent of "cool Japonica" that has been more or less simmering in the underground since American adolescents discovered Akira in the mid-1980s. In all, the experience is both Japanese and infused with the kind of dynamic futurism people associate with Tokyo, though such associations are based more on pop-culture references like the movie Blade Runner than on actual experience. Sato believes this uniquely Japanese identity will contribute greatly to the success of UNIQLO in the States.
UNIQLO execs seem to agree with their expectation of US$ 1 billion in annual sales from the US in five years—a lofty goal. But, as they say, if you don't dream big, you won't win big. The bottom line is that only the bottom line will reveal success or failure for this Japanese casual-wear behemoth. If buzz translates into sales, a result far from guaranteed, then expect to see a UNIQLO moving to a Gap near you in the near future.
Patrick Williamson works in marketing and corporate communications in Tokyo. He previously worked for four years at a leading global brand consultancy.
From Burton to Oakley to Billabong to adidas, these once specialty brands were created out of a passion not only for a particular sport but how to make participating in that sport a better experience. The road is paved with companies who have contended with the tricky balance between broadening the brand to a wider audience and over extending the brand to be too many things to too many consumers. The result? Brand dilution and, in some cases, death.
The granddaddy of all sports to lifestyle brands may be Tag Heuer, the watch company. Founded in 1860 by Edouard Heuer in Switzerland, the Heuer Watch Company quickly became recognized for a high degree of accuracy suitable for timing sporting events. Known for its innovations in stopwatches and water-resistant watches, Tag Heuer has closely associated itself with competitive sports, providing official timing services for the Olympic Games, FIS Ski World Cup, FIA Formula 1 World Championship and many other international sporting events since the early 1900s.
In 1985, Heuer joined the Tag group and was re-christened Tag-Heuer. Its sports notoriety may not have died entirely, but it is clear that after the acquisition, Tag-Heuer morphed into a high profile, fashion and status-conscious brand.
Edward M. O’Hara, chairman and senior partner of SME Inc., a strategic branding agency specializing in team and retail sports brands, believes that what makes many sports brands authentic, and therefore appealing to consumers, are the elements of “high performance, contemporary, and technologically innovative.” Throw into this mix unique, hip and more often than not youth-oriented, and you have many of the common ingredients today’s sports to lifestyle brands share.
Says O’Hara, “I think when [a sports brand] is based in performance, there’s a sense of realness and authenticity to the brand. You just can’t come out and say ‘I AM a sports-lifestyle brand.’ You have to earn it.”
Bill Carter, president and partner of Fuse Integrated Sports Marketing specializing in youth markets, cites Burton and Quiksilver as two successful sports to lifestyle brands very much targeted at young teens/young adults as their conscious core audience. Known for surfing, Quiksilver has broadened its reach from its core teen male/female buyer by adding fashion line extensions such as Quik Silver Edition to appeal to the 25-year-old buyer. In the case of snowboard brand Burton, he notes that the company is not highly concerned with older (in this case even 20- to 30-something-year-old) consumers. More recently, Burton has taken a somewhat similar approach to line extensions as Quiksilver, but as Carter puts it, they’re not as concerned with “identifying with the older target market.”
Authenticity may be a key factor as to why brands like Burton are shy of moving too far beyond their core audience. It’s one thing to sell items other than snowboards, bindings and boots to a teenager who isn’t a snowboarder; it can be quite another thing to sell it to the 38-year-old accountant non-snowboarder. Let’s face it, how real/cool/street is it to see your friend’s dad wearing the same brand as you around the house on a Sunday afternoon?
States SME’s O’Hara, “There are several brands that have moved away from the performance and the realness of the sport. If you look at all these brands, a lot of them have moved away to where they are really just a catalogue now [and are] leveraging the equity that they’ve built.”
Back to Tag Heuer. To retain its own authenticity in the sports realm, the company’s website prominently promotes its status as the official timekeepers of the Indy Racing League (IRL) and the Indy 500. Tiger Woods, the young Midas of golf pros, is one of several “brand ambassadors” alongside glamorous European models and actors. In 2003, TAG Heuer even opened its own Formula 1 driving school in the south of France, in partnership with AGS.
There is no question that what fuels the image of a sports to lifestyle brand is the media. Whether it’s ESPN showing the X-Games, an IMAX movie of extreme snow sports or a music video featuring rappers wearing adidas, the media can add extra layers of sizzle and cool that cannot necessarily be concocted behind closed doors in the strategy laboratory.
Since so much of the sports brand equation is innovative technology leading to high performance leading to victory, it only makes sense that aligning with a proven winner athlete is the way to promote the effectiveness and cachet of the brand. This can also be the greatest challenge to the younger or smaller company competing for endorsement deals for top athletes starting in the millions of dollars.
In 2003, David Beckham inked the most lucrative athlete endorsement deal to date with adidas for approximately US$ 160 million. Not bad considering golf pro Arnold Palmer effectively began the era of athlete endorsements by earning $20,000 in 1958.
The further appeal to top athlete endorsements is the aspect of the average Joe/Jane aspiring to be or do something greater. Says Peter Summersgill of Trinity R&D, a product development research firm, “I absolutely believe these brands are aspirational on the part of the consumers because most [people] are never going to be using that device—or whatever the item is—to the peak of its capabilities.”
If athletes like Beckham are out of reach, live and televised event sponsorships, team sponsorships and good old product placements are other tried and true methods of promoting the brand to a core audience and beyond. Product placements continue to be especially effective for reaching outside the sports brand’s core audience.
Few who saw the American movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1981) can forget actor Sean Penn playing a stoned-out surfer in his classic, checkerboard-print, slip-on Vans. Already well known in the skateboard and surf communities for its shoes, the movie brought this niche-specialty brand into the lives of millions of suburban kids who knew little to nothing about skateboarding. The shoes were hot, colorful, customizable and relatively expensive for the average 13-year old at the time. As a result of the exposure, Vans became a leader in extreme-sports footwear with brand loyalty so fierce, it reportedly thwarted attempts by Nike to gain market share for its own skateboard shoes.
Like fashion, the fickle tastes of consumers also extend to popularity of certain sports. At the height of Vans’ success, skateboarding’s popularity succumbed to BMX racing and didn’t re-emerge again until the mid-1990s, thanks in part to ESPN 2 and its coverage of skateboarding in its Extreme Games. Today Vans is back, proudly displaying its namesake retail stores in a suburban mall near you.
The other link to claiming lifestyle success is good old-fashioned viral marketing. Says Fuse’s Carter, “With a lot of brands I think the most effective way of marketing is word of mouth—especially in the youth and teens—that market likes to discover things on their own. They don’t necessarily gravitate to brands that have been dumped in their lap.”
If ever there was the greatest brand tale told, it is the story of Op’s (Ocean Pacific) transition from a surfboard maker in the 1960s to a fashion trendsetter of the 1970s—a phenomenon not previously heard of in the sports world.
In the 1970s and early 80s, Op’s trademark silky Hawaiian prints and boardshorts, which were designed for the surfer’s lifestyle in and out of the water, created an entire cultural movement based on the “West Coast Lifestyle.” The brand stayed authentic by consistently sponsoring top surfers and major surfing events promoting in particular the California surf scene. According to history, the impetus for Op’s obsolescence began with Op Pro’s morph from a top tier international surf event to bikini contests gone wild with surfing as a side note. The breaking point came in 1986 when riots erupted at the event, quickly turning the surf kings into has beens. By the company’s own website admission the perception of the brand by the next year was that it was “out of touch, over the hill, and interested more in expanding a massive distribution system than in serving core customers whom had built their brand.” While the licensing agreements for anything and everything Op were lucrative financially, the over-extension of the brand tore its image down. By 2001, the brand had just two athletes endorsing it.
Under the tutelage of its new CEO, Dick Baker, a veteran of Esprit and Tommy Hilfiger, the company has regained some if its lost footing after many unsuccessful prior attempts and is leveraging its equity as the “first of” sports to lifestyle brands. Like Quiksilver and Burton, the company recently launched a new brand called Seven2 to appeal to more fashion-forward street styles and launched a line extension called Ocean Pacific label for its older audience of 25 to 45 year olds. Wetsuits, fragrances, home furnishings and electronics are, according to its website, other areas of brand expansion.
While there was a 40 percent sales increase between 2002 and 2003 since the arrival of Baker, the question remains will the brand fully resurrect itself or fall victim once more to over-extension and dilution? We can start to worry when we purchase a new dining room set from Op.