No review of the brand Jordan phenomenon would be complete without examining the extraordinary creative collaboration that Michael had with Nike’s premier designer and creative genius Tinker Hatfield. Tinker is the designer of many of Nike’s most popular and innovative shoe designs, including the Air Jordan 3 through Air Jordan 15, the twentieth anniversary Air Jordan XX, the final numbered Air Jordan, the XXIII, the 2010 (XXV) and other athletic sneakers including the world’s first “cross training” shoes, the Nike Air Max, the first visible air running shoe and the Nike Air Trainer. Hatfield currently oversees Nike’s Innovation Kitchen as VP for Design and Special Projects.
Chris Anderson once observed that every abundance creates a new scarcity – and vice versa. So if digital is the abundance, what’s the new scarcity? I think it’s analogue – and by that I mean the things that are hard to reproduce and share quickly.
Books used to be like that. They could be reproduced but only with a high level of determination. They could be forwarded, but really only one copy at a time. No longer. Once a book exists as a file or a link, reproduction time and difficulty of access plummets. So does price.
The new law of market physics it seems to me is:
Ability to charge for value = inability to forward effortlessly
Special experiences, for example, retain their value because they’re not easily cc’d. TED has huge analogue value. Sure, I can watch and share the videos but the atmosphere, the conversations, the networking – these are things that affect each attendee individually and so are impossible to reproduce generally. To really get what TED gives, you have to be there. And you have to keep coming back and paying again and again to access more TED experiences.
So what does that mean for brands? It hints at an irony: a business model where the thing that makes you popular is not where you make the money. And the things that make you money are sufficiently removed or different from what makes you popular in order to be limited.
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Brands require huge levels of energy. They need to be promoted, they need to be maintained, they need to be serviced … just to keep them going. And that can lead some to believe that that is all they need. Surely, if you invest enough energy in this brand, it will succeed.
You see this in those interesting exchanges which begin, “We’re going to spend this … and we want to achieve this”.
I would argue that the emphasis needs to be reversed, “To achieve this, we’re going to have to spend this …”.
There are some important distinctions in the order of these statements. The first emphasizes the spend (energy) and ties it, hopefully, to an outcome. The second statement begins with the outcome and attributes a required level of energy to achieve it.
A lot of marketers put their hope in the first approach. Egged on by the planners, they spend up and then wait for the tide to come in. It’s a little like saying that you’ll put a certain motor in a car and aim for it to reach a certain speed. It may work. It may not.
The other approach is much more mechanical. Start with the outcome, and then determine the level of energy required to achieve it, both in ideas and spend. But it’s an approach that makes the creatives and the planners sweat because the emphasis is on actions and results rather than impressions. And it shifts the focus – from “what shall be spent and where?” to “why should that amount (or more) be spent?”
We’re much more susceptible to the power of suggestion than many of us might like to think – at least that was my take-away from more reading from Time: this time on how brands use buying suggestions to entice us to buy more than we might otherwise.
The article quotes John T. Gourville, a Harvard Business School professor of marketing who specializes in studying pricing strategies. Consumers, he says, tend to follow the suggestions listed in brochures or store aisles, so people tend to buy the amount, or buy in increments, that are advertised. If they see five for $5 or 10 for $5, they buy five or ten, regardless of the fact that they normally buy three.
And that, as the article points out, is the key strategy here: to get consumers buying more than they would if there was no sale. It seems we respond positively too to the suggestion of limitation – imposing a limit of two per customer or six per customer incentivizes people to buy right up to that limit. The article concludes, “this is the power of suggestion at work, and it has little to do with whether the item’s sale price is good, or whether you, the consumer, actually wanted any of that soda at all.”
So, if you want to increase how people respond to your brand, make suggestions. Try with this, add that, good with three of those, best value when you buy six of them…and then look to put a limit on how many.
Recently, the research firm APCO Insight released its list of the top 100 most loved companies. Their study measured consumer attachment to brands based on eight emotions: understanding, approachability, relevance, admiration, curiosity, identification, empowerment and pride. There are some interesting results. Yahoo beat Google. Disney beat everyone (OK, maybe that’s not so much of a surprise) and Apple came in at ninth (which certainly would surprise many).
According to the study:
- The tech sector outperforms across all emotions, and rates especially well on relevance, meaning people see these brands as fitting with them and playing a meaningful role in their lives. But they could inspire more curiosity.
- Retail brands are seen as highly approachable but people are less enthusiastic about wanting to be associated with them.
- Restaurants are also approachable for the most part, but they don’t appear to help consumers feel as confident or self-assured as they could.
So what does this tell us about how we react to brands? Why is one brand more loved than another and are the criteria for loving a brand changing?
We love the brands that help us love ourselves: the brands that we feel “get” us, welcome us and empower us. The rise of tech in APCO Insight’s research shows just how much devices have mainstreamed their way into our psyche. Machines telegraph our own currency (and therefore relevance) to others in addition to being relevant to us. More broadly, brands help us resolve things – personally and for those around us. There’s a lovely thought that explains this in this article by Joan Khoury – a good brand, she says, “is an exterior way out of an interior crisis.”