I am one of those people who celebrates the future. I absolutely love the possibilities of technology and technological change. At the same time, I can’t let go of the past. I use fountain pens to take notes in a paper notebook that is wrapped in a leather cover. But generally, I am biased toward the possibilities of new technologies — and not just information technology.
This week, I came across the Nike Fit, which seems like such a smart use of a much-hyped technology: augmented reality. Nike Fit allows you to point your phone at your feet and get the most accurate measurement. The size data that is collected enables you to find the right match for your foot from Nike’s mind-boggling array of shoe choices. Continue reading “Is Online Shopping AR’s Killer App?”
You can’t be afraid of offending people. You can’t try and go down the middle of the road. You have to take a stand on something. – Phil Knight, founder, Nike
Stanford’s Graduate School of Business recently hosted a conversation with Nike co-founder Phil Knight and later published excerpts from that conversation. They are worth a read. Sadly, I couldn’t find the original talk anywhere on the GSB, unfortunately.
Happy 2016! Let’s get the new year started with seven interesting and informative articles that I think are worth reading this weekend.
“The Best Facts I Learned From Books in 2015.” You read books, you learn from books. It is as simple as that. The New Yorker‘s Kathryn Schulz reads a lot and came up with a list of 10 things she learned from books, including the random fact that in 2013, forty percent of Detroit’s street lights didn’t work. http://bit.ly/1ZeIW6Z
“Parking the Big Money.”The New York Review takes a look at the book The Hidden Wealth of Nations and the film The Price We Pay to figure out how the rich (and big companies) get to keep their tax dollars and get richer and how working-class Janes and Joes keep footing the tax bill. http://bit.ly/1msNaJO
“The Inside Story of Shell’s Arctic Assault.” A long and fantastic investigation by Audubon magazine into oil giant Shell’s incessant lobbying and other efforts to pressure the Department of the Interior to give it everything as it made a push into the Arctic looking for oil. http://bit.ly/1OCWFms
“The Power of a Dollar.”Jacobin magazine believes that microcredit is a way for financial elites to exploit the poor. I don’t necessarily agree but still think it is worth a read. http://bit.ly/1VwJFyc
“Here’s Why Weight Watchers Is Struggling to Thrive Online.” BuzzFeed investigates and comes up with a rather astute assessment of the situation. Its problems are typical of all predigital companies, which don’t understand that the post-smartphone online world is very different. http://bzfd.it/1UmAy24
“2016 Is an Easy Year to Predict.” What can looking back at 2015 tell us about 2016? This story from The Automatic Earth is a sobering reality check on financial markets and the economics of an increasingly polarized world, full of deflation. http://bit.ly/1mvIVxj
“Sneaker Wars: Inside the Battle Between Nike and Adidas.” It is a shame that none of the business magazines picked up on this bruising battle. I love the new variations of Stan Smith kicks from Adidas, especially the ones created by Raf Simmons. This is a great piece by Matthew Shaer in GQ. http://bit.ly/1YWnSFD
Here are a few things I wrote this week, in case you missed those:
Brace yourselves, sneakerheads, because today Converse is releasing a new version of its Chuck Taylors. If you’ve been hiding in some unhip corner of the universe, the heritage footwear brand and these sneakers have inspired a generation. Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II was launched on July 23 in Boston, and the sneakers are now on sale.
What’s the big deal? This is the first new version of Converse Chucks in 98 years. The company was established in 1908, and though Chucks were originally shoes for athletes, particularly basketball players, they were soon adopted by everyone else, especially creative types. In a century, not much has changed about the shoe except colors and some materials. Until now.
A quick glance won’t tell you the difference between the old and new styles, since the changes are mostly internal. What’s more interesting: The lesson for any founder who is reluctant to make changes to products that are loved by a passionate community. While I have read many articles about what this means for Chucks, I am fascinated by the current sneaker boom and how Nike has turned an old brand into a cash-generating monster.
Converse has been on a bit of a tear lately. It had sales of $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2014 — up 10 times from its sales in 2003, when the company was rescued from pending bankruptcy by a Nike acquisition. Nike paid about $305 million for the brand, and 12 years later, Nike has browbeaten look-alikes with its legal prowess, improved brand positioning and gone directly to the consumer. As a result it isn’t surprising that during Nike’s fiscal 2015, Converse revenues grew 18 percent, to $2 billion. Now, that’s something, considering this is a 100-year-old brand.
Some sneaker fans think the new Chucks are going to cannibalize the old Chucks. Not surprisingly, there has been nervous chatter on the social web. Many die-hard fans have been worried about Nike mucking it up and moving away from the minimalism that made the shoe an icon. There have even been comparisons to the New Coke.
I think those negative associations might soon be a thing of the past. Anecdotally, it seems Nike might have a huge hit on its hands. I posted a link to this article on FastCo Design about the creation of this new shoe on my Facebook page, and I asked if people were buying these new shoes or not. The response has been overwhelmingly positive: People are ready to upgrade to the new version, which might mean big bucks for Nike at the cash register.
One caveat: Techies love Converse and always have, so there might be a certain bias in my community toward the brand. And being a tech-heavy community, we are more likely to upgrade more often. That said, the buzz around the shoe is amazing, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see these new sneakers everywhere.
That means a beefier bottom line for the parent company. I’ve noticed that when an acquiring company uses its scale but generally leaves its iconic purchase alone, that acquired brand becomes a big money maker. Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram is another example: According to eMarketer estimates, by 2017, Instagram revenues are likely to be $2.81 billion. Facebook hasn’t pushed any major changes on its acquisition, and the Instagram experience is still as original as it was during the early days. Google’s acquisition of YouTube also falls in this category.
And if you were wondering about me, well, apart from the gym, I rarely wear sneakers. But when I do, I prefer ones with much thicker soles and comfort padding, especially the Greats’ Royale Chukka, which were a gift from the Greats founder Ryan Babenzien, who has become a dear friend over the years and wants me to design a shoe for him.
Update: My friend Michael Galpert disagrees and points out that under the Facebook watch, Instagram has added Hyperlapse, Layout, new search and discovery. I disagree! The first two are standalone apps. Instagram Search and discovery were there before Facebook acquired the company — since acquisition they have become infinitely better and synchronous with Facebook search and discovery. In many ways it is like Nike quietly slipping in its tech inside the shoe.
Here are some of the improvements in the new Chucks II (via the press release) :
Lighter canvas that has a slick and softer finish.
Embroidered Patch in white and blue thread vs heat-welded in the classic model.
Rectangular logo on the heel is embossed and. It screen printed.
The sole is honey colored versus brown.
Eyelets are the same color as an upper, have a matted finish and also have the converse marking.
The inside of the shoe features a springy foam cushion on the footpad. It is Nike technology called Lunarlon.
If Don Draper was for real, there is no doubt he would have worked on the Nike ad and would have come up with the Just Do It ad-line. It is one of the most iconic and defining ad campaigns of our times. Weiden + Kennedy is celebrating the 25th anniversary of this campaign.