Nike has held on to cool for a long time. I remember staying up late to bid on a pair of pink Nike Shox off eBay in 2006. It seemed like everyone had them – and I wanted a pair, too.
I noticed Nike’s popularity was again reaching new heights when I moved to New York in 2012. Nikes had become the shoe for everything – they took the place of sandals with dresses, and replaced boots when paired with skinny jeans in the fall. The sleek design of a pair of Nikes made wearing athletic shoes completely passable with any outfit, something I had not noticed before with women. In doing this, Nike has become more of a fashion brand to me than athletic gear provider – although it holds a pretty decent stronghold in both areas.
The unique thing about Nike is that they continued to be cool the next year, covering the feet of everyone from edgy, fashion-forward types in SoHo to recent graduates working corporate jobs in Midtown.
I fear the Nike crown is starting to fall. All the cool kids and their moms started wearing Adidas in 2014. The swoosh is still cool, but the three stripes (or stripe-less Stan Smith’s) seem hotter.
In fact, I am probably kind of late to the Nike/Adidas switch. I write this today because of a Bloomberg article that just came out, telling investors to “Just sell it” in reference to Nike stock. I couldn’t help but wonder if Nike’s lessening cool is to blame. But, another article highlights how Nike stock just hit an all time high, after executives laid out their plan to grow through a mix of raising prices, playing into a higher global interest in sports, expanding women’s wear, and investing in Chinese expansion.
Both Adidas and Nike stock are up this year: 39% for Nike, 35% for Adidas – possibly because of larger trends around fitnesswear and athleisure. I’ve been skimming articles on both Nike and Adidas wondering if there is an argument I can make around why Nike may or may not have finally lost its cool, or why Adidas might be peaking in coolness now, only to fall from grace next year.
And then another article caught my eye: “An underdog is taking over the sneaker market.”
That article isn’t about some trendy shoe startup making the rounds in Brooklyn. The article is about Skechers, a brand that I think of as, well, not very cool. I associate it with tourists and middle America. And yet, Skechers just displaced Adidas for the #2 athletics company in America. Its stock? Up 230% this year. Their CEO credits the growth to “strong marketing and advertising to families,” children in particular.
Children are a great target because they need new shoes almost every year. Now, I am a marketer, not an investor, but I just got slapped in the face with a very important lesson. And that is that my own reflections of what is trending from where I live in Soho and how people dress in advertising do not exactly reflect everyone else in the country. In fact, if I want to create profitable brand strategies instead of simply follow them, I would do better to get outside of my bubble. And to realize that if every tourist family is wearing Skechers, I should probably ask why.