How Nike rules the world

In a list recently compiled by the US-based Complex magazine entitled “25 Sneakers You Should Own Before You Die” (click if you are interested in best shoes for plantar fasciitis), ten gym shoe classics by Nike are listed. All the other leading sportswear shoe giants got to have three of their own creations in the list of sneaker joy to die for, at the most. Hardly any other brand is able to so strongly exert its product dictation with modern consumers and their individualism and “anything goes” attitude. Whether it’s Blazer, Free or Dunk, Air Max/Jordan/Yeezy/Safari or one of the other models with the exalted “Air” insert-whatever shoe Nike releases becomes the standard for what to wear. But why is that? What gives the company with the godlike name so much prestige in the market?

It works with the best.

Nike has an uncanny gift when choosing what sports figures to supply with sportswear apparel. Nike signed contracts with both Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods at a time when the two were relatively unknown. The choice of brands with which Nike cooperates seems to be equally well considered. The list of previous collaboration partners includes labels ranging from Stussy and A.P.C. to Levi’s and Liberty London. These brands are fundamentally different in nature- however, their collections with Nike caused a unanimous furor.

It has the best ideas.

The air cushion technology of the Air Max, the springy feel of the Shox, the flexible sole of the Free-all these innovations were both so technically advanced as well as comfortable that they were successful not only among ambitious high performance sporting figures but also in the mainstream urban scene.

It protects itself.

Nike knows how to protect its good ideas. According to a study by the patent attorney Grunecker, between 2000 and 2010 Nike lodged no less than 77% of all patent claims by the five largest sporting goods manufacturers in Europe. As recently as autumn 2012 Nike objected to the marketing of the running shoe Adizero Primeknit” by Adidas in Germany on the grounds that this infringed against the patent on Nike’s “Flyknit Footwear Technology” and succeeded in obtaining a temporary restraining order.

Journalists too feel the effects of Nike’s protectionism. Image material is never available until just before the sales launch of a collection (which is not helpful for early coverage by specialist media) and Nike is also very sparing with interviews. There is only this sentence at the nikeinc.com website: “Nike regrets that we cannot fulfill requests to interview Nike executives or receive advertising, print ads or images.” Couldn’t be stated more clearly.

It acts like the locals.

Nike operates in more than 170 countries worldwide-and appears to be successful in every one of those local markets. This is due to the fact that Nike gives careful consideration to differences between the various consumer cultures-whether by sponsoring the right athletes and sports or by choosing the optimal retail format. While Nike places a strong focus on wholesale in the US, and in 2011 generated about 23% of its US sales through its three largest retail partners, in China it relies more strongly on monobrand stores run by partners. In addition, there are unique formats such as “1948 London,” a space where nothing is sold and instead serves as a showroom for consumers and showcases Nike’s newest high-end products. People may not be able to understand that in Texas City, but in London Shoreditch it sets off fashion pilgrimages.

It remains to be seen whether Nike will also be able to defend its leading position in the next 20 years. Of central significance for the sporting goods giant is confirming its leading position in China, continuing to develop new markets and making a lasting improvement to its tarnished image regarding sustainability and social responsibility. And most importantly, Nike needs to keep the seemingly endless flow of ideas by its creative people flowing. Otherwise, at some point in time it will be: Ticked off.

Email marketing proves solid in uncertain times

While many businesses lock horns with economic uncertainty, we’re seeing email marketing offer a practical and stable means of beating the odds. According to a recent Forrester Research report, ‘State of Retailing Online 2009‘, 89% of marketers say email marketing is a reliable staple for generating leads. It’s maturing as a sustainable revenue contributor and its place in overall strategy has become crucial to meeting business goals. During a recession, email’s proven performance can be a lifesaver to many businesses forced to scale back in other ways.

Email marketing is durable for many reasons: it’s a proven, established online channel; it enables quick speed to market; it’s easy to test and measure; it involves lower overhead than traditional media; and it produces quantifiable results. It therefore continues to hold a top spot in marketer’s purview. While some grapple with cutting spend during tougher economic downturns, savvy marketers will keep their higher-performing, lower-cost programmes running at a steady clip to generate leads and revenue and shift traditional, more expensive brand marketing into a lower gear to maximise return on investment.

Struggling to stay vital in a tough market raises the stakes of any investment. While budgets may be tightened, it’s still critical for email marketers to maintain their long-term programme vision and continue to invest in growth. To help clients avoid pitfalls, we carefully strategise with each to formulate a plan that not only focuses on the basic foundational elements of email programmes, like welcome campaigns and thank you messages, but doesn’t overlook the importance of revenue generation and growth using organic, cost- effective strategies. With consistent revenue generation in mind, it’s important to engage customers early with activation campaigns and incentives embedded in triggered messages. Focusing on simple, scalable tactics like these while conserving in other areas enables long-term viability.

We’re also helping our clients adapt to consumers’ changing communication needs by developing and testing integrated social media and mobile strategies. Email is incredibly complementary to the Web 2.0 world as a driver of traffic to multiple destinations, such as web- based widgets on commerce sites, location-based offers delivered to mobile enthusiasts, and a smartly planned deal-of-the-day message shared on Facebook. To take advantage of the social media trend, marketers should monitor customer’s social media behaviour and dedicate time to learning about technology trends still on the rise. The future is never certain but strategic and innovative email marketing today is what will pay off later. Simple numbers reinforce this advice: Forrester finds email marketing listed as a high priority by 88% of retailers who are using it largely to retain customers, by 71% who plan to send segmented emails to customers based on purchase data and preferences, and by 55% who plan to gather customer feedback.

As we head into 2015, budgets may still be tight but we expect investment in email and multi-channel marketing to grow as marketers continue to focus on top revenue-generating tactics to keep business on course. The high ROI promise of email marketing affords ample opportunity to seize this moment and, when tides shift, marketers will be ready to invest in the next generation of email and interactive channels just around the corner.