Here’s some sneakernomics 101 for you: the global sneaker industry is currently estimated at around $55 billion, more than the entire GDP of Ethiopia. The year 2014 witnessed Americans spending a hefty $28 billion on sneakers alone, almost a 50 per cent increase since the beginning of 2010.
Footwear giants have spent years accruing a frenzy of fanatics with their one-of-a-kind collaborations and innovative designs, and they invest millions of dollars in delivering state-of-the-art functionality. But if there’s one thing sneaker brands have superbly mastered, it’s how to generate hype. Hype and hysteria have been – and always will be – the engines fuelling the profits for sneaker brands. While the sneaker world plays a different game to that of banks, insurance providers and B2B resources, there are a number of strategies virtually any company can employ to drive up brand value and boost content marketing efforts.
Fuel demand with limitability and exclusivity
What sneaker brands have really mastered is the ability to release just the right amount of product for complete control over demand. Capped releases are teamed with promotions via VIP apps and insider platforms, generating an incredible level of anxiety and eagerness to be a must-know, must-have customer. Veterans like Nike and Adidas have thrived off this minimum product/maximum promotion and have mastered the art of reaching a society that craves to stand out among their peers. Lesson: Just as Adidas caps the number of YEEZYs released for value recognition, it’s important for businesses to share the same idea about their content. These days, technology enables anyone to publish thousands of pieces in thousands of places, but that doesn’t mean we should. The consumers of this generation may be paying less attention than others before, but picking up on overproduced, meaningless content is a skill set we’re sharpening every day. Rather than producing content for the sake of it, create just enough to keep the energy high, the ideas fresh and readers on their toes.
Reissue the classics
Creating a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shelf life is not the only thing sneaker companies can teach us – they’re also pretty neat at strategic planning. Some of the most successful sneaker releases of all time have not been new at all. Adidas and Nike are kings of this technique, where after years of pulling a bestseller from the market, these giants will reintroduce them into the wild. While slightly tweaked to meet the needs of the modern-day buyer, the Adidas Stan Smith, Converse Chuck Taylors and Vans Authentic models have all piggybacked off their ancestors’ successes. Lesson: Always test and re-test your content across different formats, channels and topics to see what your readers are responding well to. Producing content without a recurring theme or opinion won’t get you very far. Invest in Google Analytics and tracking platforms to see what’s receiving a positive response. If your company has produced an ebook or a video that’s been received well by your audience, leverage your past success and roll out a second series.
Get conversation starters on board ASAP
Sneaker brands have always had a knack for getting bloggers and media outlets in the know prior to a product launch. What really sets some brands apart, though, is they get people talking months before there’s even a photo released. Clearly, being a sneaker mogul helps. Mass streetwear media outlets like Complex and Highsnobiety know that Nike and Adidas always deliver the goods, and they can be almost certain that future releases will be as in demand as the last. Lesson: This is a strategy that anyone can apply to an upcoming release, even if you don’t have the same respect as a footwear giant. While you might not have The Huffington Post following your every move, you can work with multiple smaller media bodies to get the word out.
Collaborate to personalise and expand
In the sneaker game, the only thing more pervasive than a Jordan retro is a collaboration. Less than a decade ago, brand partnerships were a rarity. But today, sneaker brands are making magic with everyone from Pharrell Williams to Hello Kitty in order to supply customers with creativity and choice. When big names like Adidas and luxury designer Raf Simons come together, both their audiences expand. Lesson: Collaboration is a powerful force when harnessed by brands seeking reinvigoration and a fresh vision. Creating collaborative series will deepen your engagement with the consumer and prove to be an exciting catalyst for creativity. When deciding on the perfect partner, it’s always important to keep in mind both parties customer bases. Content creators should think about who they know and who matters in their industries to create something worth talking about.
Build an army of hypebeasts
With the explosive popularity of sneakers over the past decade, the term ‘hypebeast’ has been coined by the streetwear community to mock those who basically promote certain products on their Instagram to gain recognition for their good taste. A hypebeast is: “A kid who collects clothing, shoes and accessories for the sole purpose of impressing others. Although these guys might not have a dime to their name, they post and write about brands to communicate a lifestyle and aesthetic that will impress others.” Lesson: Humans share things to experience a connection and feel more involved, so give them that opportunity with your content. Offer information that makes them look good. Supply them with something that makes them feel part of a community, helps define them, entertains others or creates new relationships. Brands can also take this example and draw out creative content from users. Brands just need to give them a reason why they should.
The bottom line: Plan your content
The point of this piece isn’t to say that your content has to be as cool as a pair of kicks, or shift your content creation efforts over to pre-launch exercises. No matter how difficult it can be at times, don’t lose sight of creativity for the content itself. The point is that you need to be pulling out the unique value of your content and focus on how to build it up and put it in front of your audience. Plan what information you wish to release and when, who you want to talk to, and how you can turn it into something worth the hype. That’s what Nike and Adidas do.