Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Brooks | Lefsetz Letter

You want to be sponsored. That’s what separates the professionals from the amateurs, whether you’re on the corporate team. And today brands are everything, musical acts come and go, but brands have a much longer lifespan. You align yourself with one and it takes a lot to shake you from it. Look at Elon Musk’s Boring Company promotion. Before Xmas he tweeted that he was selling a limited number of hats, they went like wildfire, and now owners get perks, like tours of the company. These people are not only wearing their hats but talking about the company non-stop, how do you achieve this?

Certainly by creating quality products.

But innovative marketing primes the pump, it gooses the adoption, it makes you win.

I was a Nike guy forever, but then they discontinued my model. I switched to New Balance, which famously doesn’t do this, only they do, the latest edition of my sneaker fit nothing like the previous iteration, of which I’d purchased three, I had to move on.

Research told me to go to Brooks.

I hadn’t owned a pair of Brooks since the turn of the decade, from the seventies to the eighties, when their Varus Wedge was the talk of running, when Jim Fixx was still alive and the Vantage won all the tests.

And now research told me the Brooks Addiction was the state of the art. Nobody buys blind anymore, everybody goes to Amazon and Google, usually the former first, they don’t want to take a risk, they want the best.

And the first pair I purchased were too small but I exchanged them for one half-size bigger, and voila! I had new sneakers.

But I still lamented the loss of my New Balances, I was just warming up to the brand, but it bugged me that they fell apart. And now the Brooks…DIDN’T!

But nobody I knew was wearing them, I didn’t come out of the closet until…

This story in “Bloomberg Businessweek”:

“Brooks Needs Runners Who Hate to Run”

If you get one magazine, and only one, it’s got to be “Bloomberg Businessweek,” I can’t say this enough, it’s one of the few magazines that’s gotten better since the advertising crash. Hell, you could possibly cancel your subscription to the “Wall Street Journal” and still end up ahead. The “Journal” has made its articles ever-shorter, and the right wing Op-Ed pages are laughable, come on, don’t you ever print the other viewpoint? Despite what the bloviators believe, the “New York Times” does. You’ll learn more about the Kalanick/Uber story in this week’s edition than you have in any newspaper. But it was this Brooks story that rang my bell.

Because I was wearing my shoes while I read it.

And it wasn’t a puff piece, it delineated the history of the company and innovation.

You see Brooks was niche. It was for runners only. The elite ones, who competed. But moving down the food chain, the usual suspects won, like Nike, which Brooks eclipsed at the Boston Marathon. You see Brooks was utilitarian, it wasn’t cool.

So they changed their designs.

And told their new audience they weren’t runners. That’s right, if you’re not insulting anybody, if you’re not drawing a line in the sand, you’ll have no adherents. One of the worst things marketers can do is try and appeal to everybody. Then you’ve got no edge, no loops to be hooked. Furthermore, people pay attention to you when you take a stand.

But what Brooks was actually saying was most people weren’t competitors, they were running, but casually, for fun, for exercise, and Brooks now wanted their business. And if you signed up, they’d send you a dollar and you’d be sponsored:

“Real track-and-field sponsorships are notoriously meager; a 2012 MarketWatch survey found that 80 percent of runners ranked in the top 10 for their events made less than $50,000 a year. Brooks’s sponsorship stunt is roughly equivalent to adding one professional runner to its roster.) More than 60,000 people have signed up and subsequently peppered social media with tongue-in-cheek posts about their sponsorship deals. They share their 4-mile runs and 9-minute miles. Sometimes they’ll use the #brooksendorsed or #brooksathlete hashtags on pictures of themselves wearing Brooks shoes (but often other companies’ clothing). The Levitate has been popping up with increasing frequency on these sponsorees. A few weeks ago a woman in London used them to run on a treadmill while watching Netflix. A man in Maine went for a walk in them. ‘They’re so light,’ gushed one new fan, Marisol Beck, 22, in Carlsbad, Calif., who took up running in 2016.”

Brooks created a social media juggernaut nearly instantly. Sure, they designed some hip shoes, but even more they designed a hip way to get their message out, to bond buyers to them.

I was once sponsored by Smith ski goggles, my first sponsorship ever. I use Smith to this day. So much of what I buy I stick with. It gives me something to believe in in a land where humans are sold out hacks groveling for dollars. One of the things that bonded me to Apple was Steve Jobs, who had no fear of insulting people, who thought he had it right, was in search of excellence as opposed to expediency, the end result was the most valuable company in the world.

Who wouldn’t admire that?

The naysayers.

But it’s when they show up that you know you’ve made it. No one made fun of my Apple hat in the eighties and nineties, no one blew back, no one cared, but now I hear complaints about Apple every damn day, which makes me believe I’m on the right track, like with Brooks.

“Elon Musk says he’s ‘capping’ production of Boring Company hats at 50,000 (that’s $1 million worth)”

“Musk’s Boring Co. invites 10 lucky hat buyers to tour LA tunnel and drive boring machine”

[from http://ift.tt/2k9aO1A]

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