Brands, Footwear and Apparel, News

Nike’s latest craze…Socks!

You might be wondering why I would ever consider writing about such a staid product like socks. Walk around any school yard these days and you’ll quickly realize that the days of the basic white tube socks are gone. As a father of two 9 year olds, we are seeing first-hand the craze of the Nike Elite basketball sock. (Disclaimer: as the former GM of Nike’s Equipment division, socks was one of my largest product categories. Yet, I can take little credit for this recent success).  Selling for a whopping $16/pair, my kids must have an equivalent of 1-2 pairs of shoes worth of socks in their drawer, in all colors imaginable.  While Nike created this newest craze, many other brands in the sporting goods industry are capitalizing on the trend and achieving 25% – 40% sales growth. So, what’s behind this phenomenen?

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Brands, Consumer Electronics, Media, Strategy

The Rise and Fall of Consumer Brands

This week’s Wall Street Journal has run a great series on the decline of Japan’s consumer electronic brands like Sony, Toshiba, Sharp, etc.  While the electronics industry is extremely competitive with frequently changing technology, no one would have predicted 10 -15 years ago that Sony would be surpassed by it’s Korean competitor, Samsung. For those who grew up in the 80’s, the Sony Walkman was our generations version of the iPod. No longer did we have to carry around a transistor radio or “boom box”. We could cruise around with our Walkman in our back pocket and listen to cassette tapes or the radio.

What Sony and many other consumer brands get wrong is to assume that their consumers will be happy with improved versions of their existing products. Naturally, continual improvement is an important part of any business but is not the key to long term success.  It’s been said that Steve Jobs didn’t believe in consumer research because most consumers could only tell them what their needs are today. Part of this is true yet I would argue that the best brands are able to interpret what consumers are saying to not only understand what issues they face and but also understand how those needs are going to evolve. Continue reading

Footwear and Apparel, News

Outdoor Industry – Land of Lemmings?

Touring the Outdoor Retailer trade show last week, I was struck again by how much of the industry is littered with small, enthusiast run companies that are just copying others. Stand up paddle boards (SUP) were the most egregious example of a bunch of lemmings (Webster’s definition: a member of any large group following an unthinking course towards self destruction) who were all thinking that the explosion of this sport was going to continue unabated. Looking back at the history of many other once hot categories like snowboards, inline skates and Razor scooters, I can already predict what the SUP paddle board industry will look like in a few years.  The bigger question is why does this seem to happen so frequently. I believe there are a few key drivers of this behavior. Continue reading


Outdoor Retailer this weekend, Aug 2nd – 5th

The outdoor and athletic industry bi-annual trade show, Outdoor Retailer, begins this week in Salt Lake City. Similar to many other consumer branded shows that have seen the lines blur across multiple sectors, OR is no exception. With athletic, sportswear, travel and foods brands all showing the latest and greatest product offerings, it’s a mecca for most gear heads.

What’s got the message boards really buzzing however? Show organizers say they are going to crack down on any drinking before 5PM each day. Glad to see that while the industry has grown and matured, the attendees have shown what they care most about….Free Beer!


Is it Live or is it on NBC?

With the London 2012 Olympics underway, there has been much written about NBC’s multi-channel strategy to show events live over the internet while still keeping the most popular events on tape delay for it’s prime time show. With the advent of social media, NBC realized that the days of keeping the results quiet until hours after they had happened were fruitless. Yet, it still needs to protect its multi-billion investment and use the marquee events like gymnastics and swimming to get people to watch TV. Thus, that’s why the Men’s gymnastics final didn’t start until 9PM and why Michael Phelps hadn’t swum the 200 Fly when I turned it off at 11PM PDT, only 18 hours after he had actually competed the race.  Is this just one more reason to move to Canada and watch CTV’s coverage live?