Sunday, November 09, 2008


When I decided on the career shift into corporate America, one of the options I had given my background was marketing. One of the early 1900's extremely successful marketers is well-known to psychologists for his work in behaviorism. J.B. Watson is perhaps most well-known outside of psychology for something that isn't really linked to his name, but was his concept: the coffee break.

Anyway, I decided against marketing for a variety of reasons, but one of them was the feeling that sometimes the messages put out by marketing have very little fact behind them or are at best misleading. And let there be no doubt, it is about influence. Three words: buy our product(s). Sometimes it is a hard sell, sometimes not. But that is the intent.

One of the companies we were exposed to during the MBA program was a master at marketing, Nike. They had one of their marketing leaders spend some time with us sharing some of their more successful efforts, and he reveled in the moment in a golf tournament where their golf ball, putted by Tiger Woods at a critical moment in a high profile match, paused just at the lip of the cup, with the "swoosh" Nike symbol centered almost perfectly for the camera shot, then dropped into the cup, with the usual Tiger flair and celebration following. It was an awesome golf shot, and Nike got to put their swoosh all over it.

Many sports junkies might think it would be a blast to work for a sports gear company (I heard that one of our peers from an earlier class refused all job offers except from one specific golf gear company- which didn't offer, so as far as I know he remains jobless to the day). I believe ESPN has no problem staffing their Bristol offices with eager interns. My wife has always thought I should be a sportscaster, because I say all the inane and clearly evident things just seconds ahead of the sportscasters whenever I watch a sporting event.

I digress, point being, I checked out Nike just a bit, just as I did a bit of homework on almost any company coming through the MBA program for show and tell, and learned more about how they market the brand and work to protect it.

One of the things I learned was that they do think Wal-Mart is bad for their brand image, so the work-around at the time was they sold the same products under a different, acquired brand, Starter, which they divested themselves of, I believe, earlier this year. A "moisture-wicking" shirt is essentially the same whether it sports a swoosh or a starter logo. They didn't want to miss out on the revenue stream, even if it is one at a lower margin- simply wanting to keep as much market share across the price continuum, if you will.

So it was amusing to me to see this headline a bit ago:
Nike hits Wal-Mart with copycat suit.

Marketing: perception and reality. Or at least perception.

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