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How to Inspire Customers to Jumpstart Conversations on Your Behalf

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Brandworks University® 2009

In the second in a series of blog posts recapping presentations from LSB’s Brandworks University 2009, we review how Nike’s Global Director of Brand Connections, Stefan Olander is jumpstarting conversations with brand fanatics worldwide.

How to Inspire Customers to Jumpstart Conversations on Your Behalf

Make no mistake. Stefan Olander, Nike’s Global Director, Brand Connections, loves the Nike brand and thinks the shoes are marvels of technology. But even he admits that “In the past, the product was the end point of the customer experience, now it is just the beginning.”
Thanks to social networking media, Nike has had to learn to turn over responsibility for the Just Do It brand statement and brand conversations to Nike’s athlete-customers. “The responsibility we have because we have a brand statement like this is to enable people to Just Do It. We’re just scratching the surface of everything we can empower as a brand.”
One way Nike is empowering consumers is with Nike Plus, an application developed in partnership with Apple. Nike Plus lets runners use their iPods to keep and view a graphic history of their routes, running times and pace; get real-time voice reports on their times, distance and calories burned during a run; and even play a “power song” at the push of a button when they need an extra energy boost. Hundreds of thousands of runners from 160 countries now upload their running data to
But a funny thing happened once runners could see a graphic display of their times and their friends’ times shared on the website. It started to function like a social networking site.
“Runners are competitive people,” he explained. “They want to challenge others to beat their time. So your friend pings you by email and challenges you, and now, after every run, you plug in and you see who’s ahead. We established a dialog we never had before.”
Nike took the conversation to a higher level by creating the Human Race 10K, a worldwide running event held August 31, 2008. On that day, 800,000 runners all around the world ran in a coordinated event. “What was great was the connectivity,” Olander said. “Wherever you were in the world, you knew there was someone else running.”
Empowering athletes to create their own social networks is all fine, Olander said, but the question is always asked, “are we selling any more shoes?”
“At the end of the day, we are about selling shoes and Apple is about selling iPods. We can’t just cash in at the end of the day, but if you’re coming to our website three times per week to interact with our brand, eventually you’re going to try our shoes. If you enable someone to get better at what they’re doing, it’s going to benefit your brand.”
Incidentally, Nike’s sales are up 6-8 percent since the introduction of Nike Plus.