Category Archives: Nike+

Apple patent would let your pants talk to coffee shops

One of my favorite geek activities is to skim through Apple’s patents, which are updated nearly every day. Apple files for many cool ideas, such as holographic TV sets or haptic-sensory gloves, and the patents hint at real products to come.

Now, Apple wants to watch your body. In a recent filing, Apple described the need to move body-movement sensors beyond its current Nike+ sneaker systems, frankly admitting that the current Nike+ is limited in what it can do (basically log and share running miles, although Nike+ has started progressing into wristbands and watches):

The use of devices to obtain exercise performance information is known. For example, simple mechanical pedometers have been used to obtain information relating to walking or running… unfortunately, however, it is becoming more commonly practiced to place the sensor at locations on a garment (shoes, for example) that are not specifically designed to physically accommodate the sensor and/or calibrated to accurately reflect data…

The problem is twofold: athletes can move in many ways without shifting their feet, and there is a vast market beyond athletes if Apple found new ways to monetize other body-movement data. So Apple continues with this new concept — sensors in all clothing:

An embodiment of this invention pertains to linking an authenticated sensor with one or more authorized garments (such as running shoes, shirts, slacks, etc.) that can provide in addition to current physiologic data of the user, garment performance statistics (i.e., rate of wear of a running shoe), location of the garment and any related information (location of near-by eating establishments, for example) and any other garment related data.

The expansions of Nike+ would improve human tracking in a way that moves more Apple entertainment content. Clothing that tracks nuances in movement would allow Nike+ to work on bicycles, indoor trainers, or weight training; all of this data could expand the social functionality, and also tailor music playlists and content sales, a nice source of profit. The next way could be using physiologic data and LBS tracking to align Apple mobile devices with retail network partners (coffee shops, clothing outlets), telling you when and where you can find offers to refuel from workouts, another source of revenue for Apple. And Apple could even get into the payments game: if Apple integrated NFC into its mobile devices, it could capture a slice of each transaction as you use your iPod instead of a wallet.

Your physical condition, movement, content preferences, and buying mechanisms could all revolve around Apple. You’d get better feedback and personalized content (“Nice workout! And your favorite coffee shop is just ahead!”), and Apple would make a lot more money.

All you have to do is wear the right clothes.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: Patrick Caire
Originally posted on Google+.

Nike’s GPS watch and the new age of dongles

This is more than a Nike+ SportsWatch with GPS that allows you to track your runs without using an Apple iPod. It’s proof that we’re entering an age of dongles.

A dongle is technology key, usually a bit of hardware that forces you to use a certain software or operating system. Own an iPod? That gadget locks you to the Apple iTunes store. Dongles started back in the 1980s when software makers would set up unique connection pins so their software could only get power or data if you used the gadget. Today, falling tech prices have led the big content portals to build their own dongles: Droid phones with hot keys for Google search; Barnes and Noble Nooks that sell B&N books; the Amazon Kindle … the list goes on.

Consumers typically put up with dongles because the value of the content they are connected to seems worth it. You probably never think that your iPod constricts you to only Apple-sold music and videos, because the library is so big it feels like freedom, but you’re really in chains.

Now, however, with chip and screen pricing continuing to plummet, niche businesses can build their own dongles. Nike+, an online running log and social community, has relied on Apple iPod dongles since it launched in May 2006, back when devices that only played music were $150 and it took scale to get to market with tech. Today, dolls have cameras and Android tablets that act as microcomputers can be had for $200. So dongles are proliferating. LENA, for instance, is a gizmo that attaches to a baby’s clothing; it listens to all the words spoken to the child over the course of a day, parses male voices from female’s, and then uploads the data into a software program that tells the mom and dad whether they are speaking enough to their child — a Nike+ for language development.

Are tethers good business?

The obvious question is what portals are these new gadgets locking us into? But the deeper query is whether dongles are a sound strategy for marketers. Sure, it’s tempting to want to add technology to your service to lock your users into your proprietary system. Nike is obviously doing this; the new watch is much clunkier than the old Apple-powered ones, which are as of this writing conveniently out of stock. But as more businesses build walls to hold customers, consumers may rebel as they lose the ability to share across platforms. The corporate desire to tie a customer down is diametrically opposed to the human need to connect.

We’ll see how it plays out with Nike on the road.

Nike and your Lady Gaga meme future

Darryl Ohrt calls this new Nike spot epic, but we think it’s more — an explanation of how individual memes have taken over pop culture.

A meme (pronounced to rhyme with “gene”) is a cultural idea or practice that, once seeded, can spread until almost everyone has adopted it. The Nike soccer players flash through victories and defeats, each result cascading into a future of fortune or disaster. In reality, memes can last a long time — blue jeans, leather jackets, women’s stockings and men’s short haircuts have been around for more than 50 years. The word “cool” to represent, well, cool is a meme that stuck. God, religion, political views and superstitions are foundational memes. Other cultural units have fleeting lifespans — pop music, women’s dress lengths, goatees, the use of the word “curate” to denote managing something in advertising, the “#” hashtag symbol everyone used a year ago on Twitter that now appears to be waning. We wonder if the hipster-khaki look will ever take off. And just as each soccer player’s fortunes in this Nike spot are cut short by the subsequent action of another, new memes tend to push prior ideas off the cultural table.

Mutations and marketers

British scientist Richard Dawkins thought up the idea, stating memes are cultural expressions that, like genes, mutate and spread. All you need is variation (a new idea), propagation (the ability to create copies of the idea), and something called “differential fitness” (in which some ideas are better suited for an environment than another) and a meme can take off.

Advertisers are in the business of producing memes. Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the darkly funky ad shop behind psychologically dissonant campaigns such as Burger King’s “King,” has a core strategy of always seeking buzz behind the paid communications — the goal of a meme replicating in society. Every “viral” campaign is a meme gone successful, if only for a fleeting moment.

But now individuals are getting in on the game. Like the soccer players in the Nike spot above, your personal future seems to hinge on whether you can send the right message about yourself to your networked peers, and have that idea scale until they erect statues of you in a public square. Lady Gaga is the best current example, and say what you will of her pop hits, you probably want to be as famous. The challenge, of course, is that in a world of limited communication inventory, the rising supply of memes and the falling demand of consumers to absorb what other people say (since they are creating their own stories) mean the value of any message has fallen. The odds of winning the meme game are shrinking because the number of slots spinning on each cultural concept wheel has multiplied. The players on the field have grown too numerous. Still, go ahead, idea-makers: kick the meme ball.

Forgiving Tiger, forgiving yourself

There’s some debate in ad circles over whether the new Nike spot, showing Tiger Woods apparently being chastised by his deceased father, is appropriate. We suggest the execution is brilliant — not just for the emotion which stops viewers cold, but for the colder media planning fact that about 41% of U.S. marriages encounter infidelity. In any given year about 10% of married people have sex with someone other than their spouse, and cheating is becoming more popular as Viagra, testosterone and estrogen supplements keep us all feeling fitter longer. The 19th most popular web site among U.S. men 35-54, core to Nike’s golf demo, is Google launched its web browser with a prominent privacy button to make surfing for porn less troublesome. America, you cheat.

Unfaithfulness is a sad and complex part of life, and anyone who knows anyone who has gone down that path realizes that pain, confusion, and redemption, not models or porn stars, are the real new partners. Spot producer Wieden + Kennedy has captured such angst perfectly. Do you like the creative, the disturbing emotion, the use of a dead man’s voice to sell golf equipment, the fact that Nike is softening the market for future, cleaner Woods advertising? It doesn’t matter: Earl Woods’ voice resonates because it’s talking to you.

Footnote: Nike chatter on Twitter shot up to 0.15% of all Tweets when the spot was released Wednesday. That suggests it’s working.

Adidas whacks Nike with a lightsaber

“What the hell?” you think, watching TIE fighters zoom over Snoop Dogg and David Beckham with an urban backbeat. And then it clicks: Adidas is moving in on Nike one sports demo at a time. In January 2006 it bought Reebok, bringing total athletic shoe sales to No. 2 in the world. In April the same year it won an 11-year deal to be the official sponsor of the National Basketball Association. Adidas is all over Major League Soccer, in 2007 it announced a move into lacrosse, and it recently began stuffing computer chips and kangaroo leather into its highest-end shoes seeking halo differentiation. It now has little kids covered with a Disney tie-in. So, how to get more attention?

Star Wars! Um … Star Wars? Adidas’ new Darth Vadar mask seems curious, since the last Star Wars film was released in May 2005, until you realize it’s a smart tactic for infusing Adidas’ brand with a meme we all love. What better brand to jack up Adidas adrenaline than a big-bold outer space dream filled with fight scenes? And since nothing happens with Star Wars without George Lucas’s approval, it also makes you wonder … is more to come from the franchise, perhaps the 3-D film versions Lucas hinted about back in 2005? Is Adidas an early blip on the Luke Skywalker master marketing calendar?

Adidas’ current marketing slogan is “Impossible is Nothing.” That’s not as catchy as Nike’s old “Just Do It,” but as far as catching Nike, Adidas has $15.2 billion in sales vs. Nike’s $19.1 billion. Maybe nothing is impossible.

Via @chicalibre and AdRants.

Nike’s poor taste: Kobe Bryant leaps over speeding car

Nike attempt to go viral? Or sports celebrity not paying attention to his contract, which clearly states, “don’t kill yourself”? We smell viral, but worry this may encourage young kids to try the same thing.

Update: Blogger for LA Lakers reports on-the-ground chatter that this video is pure special effects. Nice work, Nike. Hope 200 kids don’t kill themselves this weekend.

Watch this Nike spot and then find an excuse

A few years ago, Nike was on the verge of becoming a Levi’s — a once-cool, now-stale brand. Something changed with Nike Plus, top bloggers raved, and now Nike is back with incredibly emotional, empowering messages. Every Nike impression we see makes us want to blow off work, strap on the shoes, and hit the pavement.

The lesson here is not about taglines or technology partnerships. It’s about moving your product beyond a benefit, and beyond the consumer need, to the consumer’s underlying aspiration. We want to embrace the world like 7-year-olds racing at recess. Nike makes us believe we can.

The humiliation of Nike Plus

We just bought the Nike Plus in-the-shoe-chip gizmo. It’s brilliant. One piece plugs into your iPod, and the second fits into your running shoe. The shoe chip tracks your stride, the iPod tells you your pace, and when you get back home and plug it all in to your computer, you can track your running progress on screen and invite friends to challenges. The whole thing is a clever loyalty device that entangles Nike runners in switching costs — why on Earth will we ever buy New Balance sneakers again if Nike has become our running coach? It also has a nice viral element, since you talk to your friends about it, and then set up web-race results, and then they recruit more friends …

We’re barely figuring this all out when a friend challenged us to a 1k run. There it was, in an email, a blatant provocation. She runs marathons. Our mutual scores will be compared on the web site.

We’re going to get killed.

Luckily, we have a solution. Since Force = Mass x Acceleration, and we’re heavy, and thus have more mass, and our running friend is light, and thus has less mass, obviously WE are expending much more force to accelerate. We’ll adjust the race results accordingly and demand that our speed by increased in line with our additional weight … or maybe just strap the chip to our Golden Retriever.