Finishing to me is more important than racing to the top for being a 10. Part of it is that for my build, I fare much better in team sports that have bursts of activity built into them -- like volley ball, hand ball (we placed third in the nationals in Italy), soccer.
Performance is personal
Because protecting joints from injury is a key aspect of staying fit and healthy over the long haul, I am religious about replacing running shoes every 300+ miles. Especially if I end up running on asphalt a lot (which should tell you something about car tires as well).
Over the years, I tried a few brands -- Nike, Asics, Adidas. I keep going back to Adidas for many reasons -- the Supernova glide are a perfect fit for my narrow feet and provide the best support for my posture and gait. Asics narrow are also quite good at a comparable price point.
Those are comments that describe use. I bought them because of how the product felt in my feet and in my body after a run. Period. When I asked on Twitter the responses I got pretty much confirmed that we all buy based on performance and that is a very personal thing indeed. We all come in different shapes.
In case you're in the market for a pair of running shoes, the brands mentioned in order of number of times mentioned with comments. I also added some info about the companies to give you an idea of resources and scale:
- Saucony -- mentioned for comfort, stability, light weight. This is a $136MM company and its parent is Collective Brands, Inc.
- New Balance -- another with great stability, lower range in price for those of us you are super frugal, 993's are best shoe ever. A $1.3BN private company.
- Asics -- fit perfectly around feet, synergy between flight and pounding. A$2.4BN- public company- Tokyo Stock Exchange
- Mizuno -- Wave Inspire-amazing for low arches, flexible, and light-weight, best for track'n'field, Trance are the best running shoes I've had - they just feel like they iron out all my bad running habits. A $1.6BN - public company- Tokyo Stock Exchange
- Brooks -- for serious runners, beloved brand that runs with the giants! The parent company is Berkshire Hathaway -- revenues are not broken out for this segment.
- Adidas -- great for wide feet and also trail running range is excellent, they also make the Supernova Glide that is excellent for narrow feet as I said above. A$14.4BN company.
- Nike -- Pegasus perfect for neutral stride, a favorite for some. A $19.2BN company.
- Newton -- @$10MM what they expected to be in 2009, so just an estimate since it's a private company.
- Kalenji -- no information available, it's a French company.
Interestingly, there are two known brands that were not mentioned in our conversation -- Reebok (at $3.2BN, the parent company is Adidas) and Puma ($3.4BN- parent co is PPR SA, formerly Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, a France-based company that specializes in retail and luxury goods distribution).
These last two have created quite a different kind of online conversations on speculations that ads making the rounds online were created by the companies to build buzz. [ref. Reebok's naked workout video and the fake Puma ad]
All this talk of running shoes is inspiring. Clearly, the product features become benefits or fit for the runner. No question about it. How do runners choose in the first place? Does a digital experience influence that buying decision? Is it a matter for brands to communicate what their shoes offer, in addition to making great shoes?
Let's pick on Twitter for interactions. It's more accessible than Facebook and you can do a couple of interesting things here like highlight people, provide resources as lists, touch base with fans, etc. I'll let you make up your mind on the bio and promo stuff on those pages, it's pretty self evident:
- Saucony -- Tirelessly devoted to inspiring every runner, on every run, on every day. At Saucony, we run. 2,827 followers (they follow 745), a nice stream with interaction, questions, and information.
- New Balance -- no bio. 2,027 followers (they follow 273), good splash screen with customer service, media inquiry and ordering info, and good interaction in stream. No lists.
- Asics -- performance athletic products created for a Sound Mind in a Sound Body. 3,497 followers (they follow 16), good mix in the stream, although why follow only 16 people. Surely there are more fans? Asics-centered lists.
- Mizuno -- Running footwear and apparel featuring innovative,
high performance technologies that enhance the running experience. 69 followers (they follow 1), they joined Twitter recently and already have good interaction.
- Brooks -- We make high-performance running shoes and apparel. (penelope, catherine, meredith, nikki on keyboard.) 4,982 followers (they follow 1,729), they provided list of coaches, seem to be big cheerleaders for the brand.
- Adidas -- Improving every athlete’s performance through innovation. 125,841 followers (they follow 70), good interaction, tweets with stories and @ replies. Surely there are more than 70 people worth following out of 125k? No lists.
- Nike -- after the 2009 the Human Race initiative, it looks like Nike did not have an integrated plan for the running products. This may not even be the company's official account. It has 27 followers and follows one.
- Newton -- ward-winning Newton Running shoes are helping runners
go further and faster with fewer injuries through patented technology
and proper running technique. The most balanced follower/ followed count so far at 3,427/3,238, respectively. A non intuitive name and icon.
- Kalenji -- no account.
- Puma -- PUMA successfully fuses the creative influences from the world of sport, lifestyle and fashion. Find out more about in-store events and retail promotions here! 15 followers (follows 3) here. The company has another handle with 1,615 where Matt@PUMA Running follows 63 and the brand's athletes as they compete around the world.
- Reebok -- Your Move. This is a general account for the brand, which is owned by Adidas. It has 6,422 followers (follows 4,787), and the stream has lots of @ replies and retweets.
Would a digital interaction be enough to get runners to switch? I'm looking at the Web sites above and thinking about the calls to action, some do it really well, the education and information, ditto for that. In addition to performance, which we agree is personal and situational, it comes down to telling a story that resonates with us.
Telling the brand story, digitally
Does having a really good philosophy and story behind the brand, like Kalenji's help?
Saucony has a pretty middle of the road approach. If you sign up, they have monthly gear giveaways.
Brooks have a shoe advisor page, where I got that my models are either the Adrenaline or the Trance -- interesting names for sure in a running shoe. They also run a sustainable model, they call Green Silence.
Puma rethought the shoebox -- now that is interesting. Would the packaging encourage you to buy the brand? Their site is geared to men runners, by putting the performance of the shoe front and center and with the athletes featured.
Mizuno encourages you to choose the right shoe -- excellent start. This is one of the points in our discussion that more that one person brought up. And with good reason.
I went ahead through their questions, which educated me on things to think about when I run and gave me the recommendation you see here. I might go ahead and ask for the Wave next time I'm replacing my shoes at the store and see how they feel on my feet. You can get a personal exercise and stretching plan, if you're willing to give them info on yourself.
New Balance gives you the opportunity to personalize the 993, and to train with Hillary Stellingwerff, a London, Ontario native claimed a silver medal in the 1500m at the Canadian Track and Field Championship held in Toronto, CA this past June. The site is geared to women runners.
Reebok introduces athletes. Maybe I'm missing the juicy parts and feel free to weigh in -- their Web site is pretty plain vanilla.
Although I find it interesting that the Adidas site URL had the word "campaign" in it, I found it quite compelling. Remember I'm a fan of the product, so this makes me biased toward the brand. I do like that the Supernova is designed specifically for the way women run -- and indeed I had knee injuries. The site has tips for runners who wish to be faster. MiCoach is a system that allows you to measure and track your performance.
You probably know about Nike+ and their system. It gives you information on your pace, distance, time and calories burned, and providing audio feedback if you connect it to your iPod (nano or touch) or iPhone while you run. This alone is very useful. You can go back and look at your info to see progress over time.
That's not all. You can track how you're doing towards your goals, it allows you to map routes and find routes mapped by other members of the Nike community. This is a very social system - it connects you to the greater Nike+ community in a variety of ways. You can joining challenges, for example.
I find all of this very compelling as well. Although I cannot remember when it was the last time I bought Nike running shoes, I might take another look based upon the community and the information. Interaction is by design and Nike comes closest to it with this system.
Do any of these brands use the information they receive back in their product design? This to me is the most important question of all.
While some of these examples give you ideas on how to organize interactions to communicate benefits better, and admittedly one of them is quite socially integrated, the Holy Grail of social is aligning the business to gain intelligence and insights to then produce better products for customers.
Does some of this information change the way you think about running shoes? Would you switch brands? Change in buying behavior is where you move the needle. Does this short analysis change the way you think about integrating social in your digital media?
Interestingly, while all of these companies are on Twitter, where we had our conversation, none of them jumped in -- it was Sunday. However, I did met David, the founder and CEO of Skora, who engaged with me based upon the conversation.
[image of Adidas Supernova Glide, one of my current running shoes brands]
© 2010 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.