Pi Attitude Zone: Self-Fulfilment

Little Black Dresses... From... Um... Adidas

What makes people buy branded sport shoes?  Futuristic designs and ‘must-have’ features, right?  Go on, Nike, tell ‘em about the technical specs.  And hire expensive sporting and athletic talent to spread the buzz about performance...

Yet Nike’s rival adidas has achieved dramatic sales growth for their sport-shoe and action-wear lines by following a very different path: the study of human motivation.  Nearly a decade ago, Adidas retained a Danish consultancy called ReD, whose chief consultant Mikkel Rasmussen challenged the obsession with product specifications.  “A mobile phone may have 72 functions”, he said, “but that’s fifty more functions than most people want, or ever use”. 

Adidas allowed themselves to be persuaded that their market was about human attitudes, aspirations and motivations, and acted accordingly.  Rather than dreaming up flashy new features or chasing after sporting superstars, ReD recruited anthropologists and ethnologists, and applied their academic skills to studying customer attitudes and motivations at the most intimate level.  They sent adidas designers to spend the day with customers, studying what they ate for breakfast, how they behaved at the gym, and their comments while doing yoga.  They sent disposable cameras to customers, with instructions to take pix of things that made them want to work out.  25 out of 30 women sent their cameras back with pictures of little black dresses.  The ‘gotcha’ was that aspiration went beyond the sporting clichés of ‘performance’ or  ‘winning’;  it wasn’t even just about being good at this or that sport.  For many people, fitness itself was the sport, and it was a pathway to self-realization.

Even with aficionados of specific sports, adidas latched on to the idea that attitude and aspiration trumped flashy product specs.  ReD embedded researchers with the Bayern Munich football club, and asked players what would define success for them in a ten-year timeframe.  Speed, not trainable skills, the answer came back.  Adidas adapted one of their track-shoe designs into an ultra-light football boot, and found themselves with a runaway best-seller.  Launched in 2010, the boot scored more World Cup goals that year than any other.

The result of all this has been a ten-year sales growth-curve for adidas that would be the envy of most marketers, tripling revenues in a decade to around $20bn. 

Pi says:  it’s not just about beating the competition on product specifications.  It’s about getting into people’s heads. 

But hey, we’ve been saying that all along...

Zone: Self-Fulfilment Country: Europe Product – Leisure