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Don't Chase the New, Innovate the Old': Four Lessons From Nike Like   most   great   CEOs,   Mark   Parker   sought   the   counsel   of   some   wise   mentors   when   he   first   took   the   helm   at   Nike. One   of   those   mentors   happened   to   be   Steve   Jobs,   who   shared   the   following   piece   of   advice:   "Nike   makes   some   of   the best   products   in   the   world.   Products   that   you   lust   after.   But   you   also   make   a   lot   of   crap.   Just   get   rid   of   the   crappy   stuff and focus on the good stuff." The   problem   with   focusing   on   the   "good   stuff"   is   that   most   of   that   stuff   isn't   shiny   or   new   anymore.   For   your   top   talent, whether   they   are   marketers,   designers,   or   innovators,   working   on   version   4.0   of   a   tired   franchise   is   the   equivalent   to being assigned corporate latrine duty. Yet,   that's   exactly   what   the   best   companies   in   the   world   do.   Instead   of   chasing   the   new,   they   innovate   the   old.   They take   all   of   their   shiny   new   ideas   and   apply   them   against   existing   products   and   services   that   already   have   tremendous market momentum and consumer goodwill, with the goal of making them even more iconic. Innovating   your   existing   products   and   services   leverages   your   existing   staff,   structures,   processes,   manufacturing facilities,   distribution   channels,   retail   outlets,   and   customer   base   in   a   way   that   "radical"   new   innovation   never   can.   It's   a smart   use   of   resources   and   energy;   it   leads   to   increased   gross   margins;   and   it   has   a   far   higher   chance   of   success.   It's   also   simpler   to   do,   and   you'll   start   seeing   results faster. But the most important reason to innovate the old is to protect your iconic status, the highest and most profitable form of branding. There   is   plenty   of   evidence   that   iconic   status   leads   to   greater   customer   loyalty,   greater   demand,   and   stronger   testimonials.   Research   from   WPP,   one   of   the   world's biggest   advertising   agency   groups,   has   determined   that   people   find   it   far   easier   to   remember   iconic   brands.   Its   studies   have   revealed   that   iconic   brands   have   over   60% better top-of-mind awareness than non-iconic brands. That's because iconic brands connect more deeply with their audiences. Four Lessons from Nike's Air Max As   a   classically   trained   designer,   Mark   Parker   fully   understood   the   value   of   iconic   design   and   was   able   to   apply   this   thinking   against   one   of   the   most   successful franchises in the Nike portfolio, the Air Max. Having just celebrated Air Max Day (March 26) and the 31st anniversary of the shoe, let's consider four ways Nike has been able to innovate this ever-popular product.
1. Protect signature elements to maintain familiarity Iconic   products   enjoy   a   stronger   connection   with   their   audience,   and   consistency   is   an   important   element   of   that   connection.   Iconic   signature   elements   act   as   solid anchors, giving believers something to define themselves by. If your brand is wildly inconsistent across its touch points, it's unlikely to make it to the iconic level. Consistency   leads   to   familiarity,   familiarity   leads   to   confidence,   and   confidence   leads   to   trust.   Trust,   in   turn,   leads   to   more   sales,   more   recommendations,   and   more profit. Consistency is essential if you want to earn status as a symbol in your industry. Over   the   past   three   decades,   Nike   has   carefully   protected   its   key   signature   elements,   including   the   Nike   Swoosh   and   the   unique   air   pocket   in   the   sole   of   the   shoe. These elements are not merely distinctive; they also connect each generation of the Air Max with its audience in a way that is both familiar and reassuring. 2. Evolve your story and heritage to create meaning If   a   stranger   handed   you   a   Montblanc   pen   along   with   a   scrappy   BIC   pen   with   a   chewed-up   lid,   you'd   have   a   pretty   good   idea   which   one   was   more   valuable   to   them.   If he   then   told   you   that   he   and   his   wife   had   signed   their   marriage   certificate   with   that   BIC,   they've   held   on   to   it   for   12   years,   and   they   use   it   only   once   a   year   to   write anniversary cards to each other, you'd probably change your mind.
That's the power of stories to create meaning. Story can totally transform the value of a product. Nike   has   constantly   evolved   the   story   of   the   Air   Max,   from   the   origins   as   a   space-age,   NASA   technology   used   to   protect   astronauts   from   head   trauma,   to   the   elevation of the brand along with each leap of every child who just wanted to "be like Mike." 3. Innovate the benefits to deliver delight As   I   noted   earlier,   the   best   companies   innovate   the   old.   They   look   at   their   existing   products   and   look   for   ways   to   draw   attention   to   them   more   clearly,   add   more   theater to them, and increase the amount of delight they deliver.
Think   of   the   Nike   Air   technology.   The   air   pocket   was   originally   hidden   inside   the   sole.   When   Nike   innovated   to   make   it   visible   in   the   first   Air   Max,   the   shoe   suddenly took off. Nike continued to innovate on the product until the air pocket extended beyond the heel to cover the entire length of the shoe. This process has continually added drama to the product and kept it fresh. This   constant   innovation   has   also   made   it   harder   for   competitors   to   get   a   leg   up.   Reebok   launched   its   Pump   sneakers   the   year   after   the   Air   Max   1   was   released,   in   an attempt to claw back some market share, but it's never had the same success. 4. Reimagine design to build excitement Keeping   your   iconic   product   fresh   and   contemporary   requires   reimagining   it.   If   it   doesn't   change   over   time,   it   sends   the   message   that   you're   not   that   interested   in   it, so maybe your audience shouldn't be either. That means it will slowly slip out of relevance, and you'll lose your audience. Refreshing   your   product   is   about   more   than   just   keeping   it   up   to   date.   A   2006   study   at   University   College   London   found   that   novelty   activates   dopamine   pathways   in the   brain,   making   us   feel   good.   Our   brains   crave   dopamine.   But,   over   time,   the   effects   of   new   stimulation   wear   off   and   less   dopamine   is   produced.   Products   quite literally become less rewarding over time. Without frequent refreshes, even the most iconic product will gradually lose its wow and become just an everyday object. With   each   iteration,   Nike   didn't   merely   capture   the   zeitgeist   and   trends   of   each   era;   in   many   instances,   its   designers   were   given   license   to   push   the   envelope   on design aesthetics to blaze a new path on the fashion runways. Marry the old with the new Innovating   the   old   is   not   merely   more   profitable.   For   your   top   talent,   it   can   be   an   opportunity   to   showcase   their   innovation,   storytelling,   and   design   chops   in   a   way   that is both motivating and rewarding. The key to success is marrying the best of the old—signature elements and heritage—with the excitement and delight of the new. Over time, that approach creates greater longevity and more sustainable competitive advantage, allowing you to up the lust to deliver more of that iconic "good stuff." by Soon Yu  |  March 28, 2018
Soon Yu is the author of Iconic Advantage: Don't Chase the New, Innovate the Old, an international speaker on innovation and design, and an adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design. Twitter: @SoonSpeaks LinkedIn: Soon Yu
Like   most   great   CEOs,   Mark   Parker   sought   the   counsel   of   some wise   mentors   when   he   first   took   the   helm   at   Nike.   One   of   those mentors   happened   to   be   Steve   Jobs,   who   shared   the   following   piece of   advice:   "Nike   makes   some   of   the   best   products   in   the   world. Products   that   you   lust   after.   But   you   also   make   a   lot   of   crap.   Just   get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff." The   problem   with   focusing   on   the   "good   stuff"   is   that   most   of   that stuff   isn't   shiny   or   new   anymore.   For   your   top   talent,   whether   they are   marketers,   designers,   or   innovators,   working   on   version   4.0   of   a tired   franchise   is   the   equivalent   to   being   assigned   corporate   latrine duty. Yet,   that's   exactly   what   the   best   companies   in   the   world   do.   Instead of   chasing   the   new,   they   innovate   the   old.   They   take   all   of   their   shiny new   ideas   and   apply   them   against   existing   products   and   services that   already   have   tremendous   market   momentum   and   consumer goodwill, with the goal of making them even more iconic. Innovating    your    existing    products    and    services    leverages    your existing     staff,     structures,     processes,     manufacturing     facilities, distribution   channels,   retail   outlets,   and   customer   base   in   a   way   that "radical"   new   innovation   never   can.   It's   a   smart   use   of   resources   and energy;   it   leads   to   increased   gross   margins;   and   it   has   a   far   higher chance   of   success.   It's   also   simpler   to   do,   and   you'll   start   seeing results faster. But   the   most   important   reason   to   innovate   the   old   is   to   protect   your iconic status, the highest and most profitable form of branding. There    is    plenty    of    evidence    that    iconic    status    leads    to    greater customer     loyalty,     greater     demand,     and     stronger     testimonials. Research   from   WPP,   one   of   the   world's   biggest   advertising   agency groups,   has   determined   that   people   find   it   far   easier   to   remember iconic   brands.   Its   studies   have   revealed   that   iconic   brands   have   over 60%   better   top-of-mind   awareness   than   non-iconic   brands.   That's because iconic brands connect more deeply with their audiences. Four Lessons from Nike's Air Max As   a   classically   trained   designer,   Mark   Parker   fully   understood   the value   of   iconic   design   and   was   able   to   apply   this   thinking   against one   of   the   most   successful   franchises   in   the   Nike   portfolio,   the   Air Max. Having    just    celebrated    Air    Max    Day    (March    26)    and    the    31st anniversary   of   the   shoe,   let's   consider   four   ways   Nike   has   been   able to innovate this ever-popular product.
1. Protect signature elements to maintain familiarity Iconic   products   enjoy   a   stronger   connection   with   their   audience,   and consistency    is    an    important    element    of    that    connection.    Iconic signature   elements   act   as   solid   anchors,   giving   believers   something to   define   themselves   by.   If   your   brand   is   wildly   inconsistent   across its touch points, it's unlikely to make it to the iconic level. Consistency   leads   to   familiarity,   familiarity   leads   to   confidence,   and confidence   leads   to   trust.   Trust,   in   turn,   leads   to   more   sales,   more recommendations,   and   more   profit.   Consistency   is   essential   if   you want to earn status as a symbol in your industry. Over   the   past   three   decades,   Nike   has   carefully   protected   its   key signature   elements,   including   the   Nike   Swoosh   and   the   unique   air pocket   in   the   sole   of   the   shoe.   These   elements   are   not   merely distinctive;   they   also   connect   each   generation   of   the   Air   Max   with   its audience in a way that is both familiar and reassuring. 2. Evolve your story and heritage to create meaning If   a   stranger   handed   you   a   Montblanc   pen   along   with   a   scrappy   BIC pen   with   a   chewed-up   lid,   you'd   have   a   pretty   good   idea   which   one was   more   valuable   to   them.   If   he   then   told   you   that   he   and   his   wife had   signed   their   marriage   certificate   with   that   BIC,   they've   held   on   to it   for   12   years,   and   they   use   it   only   once   a   year   to   write   anniversary cards to each other, you'd probably change your mind.
That's    the    power    of    stories    to    create    meaning.    Story    can    totally transform the value of a product. Nike   has   constantly   evolved   the   story   of   the   Air   Max,   from   the   origins as   a   space-age,   NASA   technology   used   to   protect   astronauts   from head   trauma,   to   the   elevation   of   the   brand   along   with   each   leap   of every child who just wanted to "be like Mike." 3. Innovate the benefits to deliver delight As   I   noted   earlier,   the   best   companies   innovate   the   old.   They   look   at their   existing   products   and   look   for   ways   to   draw   attention   to   them more   clearly,   add   more   theater   to   them,   and   increase   the   amount   of delight they deliver.
Think   of   the   Nike   Air   technology.   The   air   pocket   was   originally   hidden inside   the   sole.   When   Nike   innovated   to   make   it   visible   in   the   first   Air Max,   the   shoe   suddenly   took   off.   Nike   continued   to   innovate   on   the product   until   the   air   pocket   extended   beyond   the   heel   to   cover   the entire length of the shoe. This   process   has   continually   added   drama   to   the   product   and   kept   it fresh. This   constant   innovation   has   also   made   it   harder   for   competitors   to   get a   leg   up.   Reebok   launched   its   Pump   sneakers   the   year   after   the   Air Max   1   was   released,   in   an   attempt   to   claw   back   some   market   share, but it's never had the same success. 4. Reimagine design to build excitement Keeping     your     iconic     product     fresh     and     contemporary     requires reimagining   it.   If   it   doesn't   change   over   time,   it   sends   the   message   that you're   not   that   interested   in   it,   so   maybe   your   audience   shouldn't   be either.   That   means   it   will   slowly   slip   out   of   relevance,   and   you'll   lose your audience. Refreshing   your   product   is   about   more   than   just   keeping   it   up   to   date. A   2006   study   at   University   College   London   found   that   novelty   activates dopamine   pathways   in   the   brain,   making   us   feel   good.   Our   brains crave   dopamine.   But,   over   time,   the   effects   of   new   stimulation   wear   off and   less   dopamine   is   produced.   Products   quite   literally   become   less rewarding over time. Without   frequent   refreshes,   even   the   most   iconic   product   will   gradually lose its wow and become just an everyday object. With   each   iteration,   Nike   didn't   merely   capture   the   zeitgeist   and   trends of   each   era;   in   many   instances,   its   designers   were   given   license   to push   the   envelope   on   design   aesthetics   to   blaze   a   new   path   on   the fashion runways. Marry the old with the new Innovating   the   old   is   not   merely   more   profitable.   For   your   top   talent,   it can   be   an   opportunity   to   showcase   their   innovation,   storytelling,   and design chops in a way that is both motivating and rewarding. The    key    to    success    is    marrying    the    best    of    the    old—signature elements and heritage—with the excitement and delight of the new. Over     time,     that     approach     creates     greater     longevity     and     more sustainable    competitive    advantage,    allowing    you    to    up    the    lust    to deliver more of that iconic "good stuff." by Soon Yu  |  March 28, 2018
Soon Yu is the author of Iconic Advantage: Don't Chase the New, Innovate the Old, an international speaker on innovation and design, and an adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design. Twitter: @SoonSpeaks LinkedIn: Soon Yu
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NICE TO MEET YOU PORTFOLIO ARTICLES
Don't Chase the New, Innovate the Old': Four Lessons From Nike
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