Monday, February 23, 2009

Just do it.

Surprise, surprise. When debating on what topic I should choose for my Customer Insights Current Topics Report, I wanted to do three things:

a. I wanted to do something that I would be really passionate about
b. I wanted it to be sports related
c. I wanted it to involve Nike

Lo and behold, I had already made my mind up without really thinking twice. My three points really (purposely) left me with no other choice. I have managed to make some sort of Nike shoe reference in all my previous blogs. Now I finally have a chance to actually make it the focal point.

In case it's not already clear, I plan on discussing Nike for my report. However, it is not entirely clear to me yet as to what exactly I will be focusing on.

Nike's a global marketing giant. The artist formerly known as Blue Ribbon Sports fascinates me in ways even I can't really completely understand. Nike's an athlete's way of nearly achieving invincibility. Throughout Nike's evolution, it has done things that are beyond abstract. Nike's advertising has always captivated me, particularly because of its versatility. Contrasting two Lance Armstrong commercials, one appeals on inspirational aspect, another aims to make you laugh.

The evolution of Nike from the late nineties' ways of targeting young basketball players to the 2007 way of targeting young basketball players really intrigues me. How is this segment different roughly 10 years later? Maybe more headbands and trash talk--however, how is the mindset different from the previous? How does Nike capture this? As far as I'm concerned, Nike is head and shoulders above the competition in terms of targeting young athletes and capturing their desires then ultimately channeling them onto a product to build a brand.

In my mind, Nike truly does it all. The ultimate definition of versatility, Nike always goes one step further in order to remain embedded in the consumer's mind. Brian Morrissey talks about how Nike allows its users to connect and share data through social networks in his "Why Nike Embraces Brand Utility" article. He talks about how Nike launched the "Ballers Network" on Facebook strictly for its young basketball addicts. Nike's goal is to "provide a useful service that enhances an athlete's enjoyment of his sport." To me, this goal corresponds with what Nike provides me on a mental, physical, and spiritual level.

The last question I would like to pose is how does this differ from, say, Adidas or Reebok? For the sake of argument, I will stick with Adidas because it does own Reebok.

Adidas appears to target a whole different segment. Interestingly enough, Adidas owns the license to make and distribute NBA products through a deal with the league about 2 years ago. Yet, I feel that when a young basketball player thinks Adidas, the associations that most often come to mind are soccer and "not cool" (just kidding... sort of). I own a pair of Adidas basketball shoes, and they are definitely not on par with my Nike basketball shoes. As a "baller" nowadays, Nike is your haven.

Adidas has inspirationally driven spots as well. Why do they not appeal on the same level as Nike's? I love Gilbert Arenas and his story, yet, his commercial would never make me go out there and buy his shoes. As a matter of fact, his shoes are far below appealing. Furthermore, this commercial is exemplary of Adidas basketball advertisements' unoriginality. It is the same concept as the Nike commercial from before (the second coming one under the "2007" link). However, it just does not appeal to me in nearly a similar fashion.

As time progresses, I hope to find more answers as to why Nike's able to capture pathos as well as why Adidas does just the opposite.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

You and me, baby, ain't nothin' but mammals

Sex sells.

I've been hearing it since the days I first started speaking English. I see it on TV, read about it on (as Stephen always says) the World Wide Web, hear about it at school, and learn about it in class (sometimes). Sex appeal is what a large amount of companies shoot for nowadays. They want their products to resonate in a consumer's mind as sexy.

The problem is, sexy advertisement does not translate to sexy product. Now, I don't really know what's sexy nowadays. To me, sexy is a sleek pair of basketball shoes. Or a nice BMW 7-series. Or a really well mixed smoothie at Jamba Juice. As you can see, I've never been your typical consumer - THAT is why the topic of sex appeal... well, appeals so much to me.

Last class period, we watched L'Oreal ads. Then we watched a Dove spot. Dove is a product of Unilever, the same company responsible for Axe male grooming products. Axe, according to Wikipedia, has generated adverse publicity with accusations such as, but not limited to:
  • Sexist and degrading advertising
  • Being seen to encourage sexual promiscuity
  • Targeting adverts at underage children
Axe's advertisements go something like this.

Kind of dumb, yeah? In my opinion, however, Axe had an overall pretty good campaign with their "Axe Effect" gimmick. It was cool, it was sexy. It almost made me want to start using it. It smelled good, it felt fresh (my friends used it so I tried it out a few times), and allegedly drew the ladies right in.

Axe did have some pretty solid commercials - they have probably aired hundreds by now. Regardless of the title of it on YouTube, I am particularly fond of this one. They've also created a website for their shenanigans:

The phenomenon does not end there. There have been countless of "tasteless" (just sexually provocative or implicative) beer commercials. I cannot even begin to think about how many Miller or Bud Light commercials I have seen where there at the very least some sort of sexual innuendo. It doesn't end there... don't believe me? Take a look.

The question that most interests me about the topic is one of segmentation, a topic often discussed in Customer Insights. Who are these companies really looking to target? Is a 16 year-old girl going to buy an iPod because she saw a naked silhouette? Would a 36 year-old mother of two buy a vacuum that looks like one produced for a dominatrix? Men and women are very different when it comes to advertising. Men enjoy seeing healthy, young, good-looking women. Women on the other hand, are not exactly suckers for a muscular anatomy on their products' ads. A sexual connection is much more easier to make with males than with females.

Which drives my question - why sex? Women are a great demographic to target products towards, and although they do not usually have as much spending power, they often times are the primary decision maker when it comes to purchases. With raunchy, sexual-oriented advertisements, you not only alienate women, but at the same time fail to reach all, or even most of, the men. I would never buy a product because it had a hot girl in the commercial. Nike, Vitamin Water, Tropicana, Express, or Sony could put fat, bald, hairy 58 year-old men on their advertisements and I would still be attracted to their products. Beer isn't sexy. Coffee isn't sexy. Sexy isn't the ad, sexy is the product.

Axe smells good. But for how long? The ads were usually "sexy." Fine-lookin' scantily-clad women throwing themselves at the Axe-wearer seemed appealing. It was an appealing commercial (mostly, sometimes they just overdid it). But how was the product?

I never stuck with Axe... I'm more of a Burberry Cologne kind of guy.

I have yet to see one Burberry commercial in my life. Yet, I'm still prone to paying a premium for the product. Does sex really sell? You make the call.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Barry Schwartz. Mastermind author or Captain Obvious?

Schwartz's podcast discusses the paradox of choice. In a nutshell, when individuals are granted too many options, they often choose to do nothing at all. When something is done, the individual will end up regretting the decision that was made. Why? Because that indeed defines the paradox of choice.

Ultimately, a person's expectations will be too high in the midst of the (theoretically) thousands of options which they are given. This notion of variety is what makes our world what it is: a place driven by individuality but conflicted by the war with practicality and convenience.

The man stresses that more is less--a simple idea. Yet, we as consumers find ourselves longing for more options and more variation in the way we look, eat, sleep, and feel. This indeed is the paradox of choice which Schwartz speaks of. In a consumer's mind, it is wonderful to have a bajillion different types of toothbrushes, scents, appliances, etc. However, this can also cause headaches, frustration, laziness, and inevitable heartburn. In my opinion, it's not that people choose not to make (for the sake of the discussion) purchasing decisions because there are just way too many options. They just go with what they believe is to be the choice which best maximizes quality and minimizes the tedious tasks that are involved with getting the best product. These tasks include but are not limited to:
  • research (whether it's online or a magazine, book)
  • asking around (probably the most common)
  • reading about all the benefits (whether it's on the product itself or again on the web)
  • comparison of competitors (which in my mind, is the most imporant but also most tedious)
Since society has turned competition into the norm, there's always going to be a competitor for everything out there somewhere. Thus, the precedent for varied options is set. Consumers have a myriad of choices in the products or services they are able to purchase.

A human's decision-making process is quite intriguing. First off, more often that not, he or she will purchase something that is not needed. Regarldess, an apprehension arises from the moment the purchase is even considered leading up all the way until after the decision is made. "Did I buy the right product? How will it fit me? Will my friends think it's cool? Will it perform the tasks I want it to in the best possible manner?" All questions which the consumer will likely find him or herself wrestling with at one point or another. The apprehension subsequently leads to a form of cognitive dissonance. Schwartz talked about how an individual will begin blaming themselves if the expectations of the purchase are not met. The second-guessing has begun.

I, for example, have been trying to purchase a pair of Nike Hyperdunk basketball shoes for nearly two and a half months now. For the longest time (well, what seemed relatively long at the time.. turned out to be only about a week or two) I could not decide which color I wanted the shoes in. has 13 different colorways alone after getting rid of the white and blue ones (which at the time were a possibility).

The biggest problem of all was finding my size. These "kicks" are a hot commodity among "ballers" of all ages and word on the street is they are some of the most comfortable and performance-driven basketball shoes on the market. Kobe Bryant wore them for a span of two seasons, and many other NBA players wear them as well.

Still, the dilemma consisted of which size I needed, what color I would purchase, and where I would make my purchase. But as Schwartz suggested, since I have an unlimited amount of options, I have yet to choose one...