When BusinessWeek gets around to choosing the best innovation of 2007, Nike + will win going away. It’s an astonishing development.
Here’s how it works: I put a chip in my (Nike) running shoe. This broadcasts information to the iPod nano I carry with me on the run. I come home from a run (more usually, a walk) and my iPod uploads my running information to the Nike website where it is aggregated with all the other running/walking data uploaded by all the other runners and walkers in America.
I know. I know. This is one of those classic innovation moments that makes you go, "Wait. What?" Actually, this is actually what I got engraved on my Nano. There’s a good chance you will have to try this technology before it makes perfect sense.
See the image insert. (Clicking on it will make it easier to read.) This describes my walk for yesterday. The line represents the moments I sped up and slowed down. It appears that I came to a dead stop at one point. I have no idea what happened there. Mooning over flowers, possibly? You can see the overall distance. Along the top are my accumulated stats. As I say, I am walking on most trips, so that’s why the mile per hour figure is so large.
One way to understand this innovation is to look at the private and public value it creates.
Exercise is lonely, painful, and boring. And this is enough to discourage most people from doing it faithfully (or at all). Nike + can’t actually do anything about the painful part, but it gets at lonely and boring very effectively. It allows everyone to devote their miles to challenges.
This means, for instance, that everyone on the South side of Chicago can now use their miles to compete against everyone on the North side of Chicago. The Nike + works as a vast spread sheet. It sums all the runs. At the end of every day, you can watch your run uploaded and you can see who’s winning the challenges you belong to.
That’s an incentive that may launch a couch potato out of the house. If our runner is just running for himself, well, the temptation to remain housebound is strong. But if he is now running for everyone on the South side of Chicago, and his team now happens to be just a few hundred miles from acing those North side numskulls, it’s a different proposition altogether.
The private value is that I exercise more. The public value is that I now "belong" to and participate with collectivities that would otherwise not much interest me. This is a kind of mechanized networking of the kind we see more and more of.
Of course, these are early days. I am using my accumulated miles to compete in a competition between my little town in Connecticut and Steam Boat Springs, Colorado. It’s not going very well. No one in Steam Boat Springs has picked up the challenge. Or maybe that’s not so bad. (We could take this one.) My little town in Connecticut is not always the friendliest place in the world. (That New England frostiness, you know.) But I can see our competition with Steam Boat Sprngs changing changing that a little. (I also issued an open challenge to all the towns smaller than 5 k in Connecticut, proving that I didn’t really get how challenges work.) As I say, it’s early days. This is one of those technologies that is going to find its own applications, and amaze us as it does.
I wonder if we are going to see that Nike miles "on the ground" will become anything like frequent-flyer miles "in the air." We were all surprised to see the air miles became a measure for things other than travel and a currency in markets beyond the frequent-flyer one. It’s not hard to imagine runners becoming "mile philanthropists," donating their miles to worthing causes, with brands other than Nike matching them mile for mile.
But these are down stream effects. In the meantime, the question is simply: did Nike accomplish something that is good for the brand. Well, in my own experience, it just went from being another sports supplier to an enabler that has changed the way I think about exercise and the way I participate in it. More than that, Nike has found a way to amplify my accomplishments…and then broadcast them.
Talk about engagement. Talk about partnering with the consumer! Talk about brand and consumer cocreating. Geez, Louise, this is good marketing.
I am traveling most of tomorrow. I will blog if I can but I will be most of the day in the plane.
post script 2
The partnership with iPod uses music in some interesting and useful ways. I left out this part of the story to simplify the exposition.
The website for Nike + is here.
“That’s an incentive that may launch a couch potato out of the house.”
Really?! To me it is just another example of Big Brother trying to track me at every opportunity. There are already cameras everywhere watching us while we eat, shop, and travel. We’re monitored with the GPS in our cell phones and On Star in our cars. This is not to mention all of the ways that we’re tracked online. Now, I’m going to pay someone to track me some more? This is going to encourage me to go out? Drive me to my bomb shelter more likely. For now, I’m going for a walk. The surveillance satellites will have to do.
I love Nike+, and given that it is voluntary, and doesn’t collect much data except your shoe information and where you live, I think it’s pretty low impact surveillance. My view of Nike as a brand has certainly progressed beyond shoes and clothes, and I now think of them as more of a partner in my fitness.
Regarding the music though, I bought the Serena Williams interval run from iTunes. And the first time I did it I was amazed at how cool it is to have a ‘coach’ along with you. In the middle of one of the fast intervals, Serena comes on and says “If I could see you right now, would I be impressed?” I speed up every time.
So the integration with the iPod is seamless, and adds considerable value. It’s not just a pedometer – we’ve had that for years. What’s interesting is that they did all this with older technology solutions, proving that it’s the implementation, not the technology.
Do you take donations via paypal?
Very interesting. And this then begs the question, if Nike can do this, why i can’t i pay for street meter parking with my cell phone yet?
Oh and the other question, are marketers actually getting AHEAD of the technology curve?
Do you know what is the meaning for ?
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I think that people are placing an increasing importance on tracing the social graph online. This will appeal to people much in the same way that facebook does. With the internet making us all realize how big the world is and how small we are in it, we need some way to fit into all that. This is really smart indeed. It appeals to people on a very basic level that transcends one’s love of fitness.
Grant — well put and right on — it’s got me running as well … but man, wait until you see where it’s all going. November 15 is one of the next steps (in the journey of 1000 miles)
PS: just noticed on fb that you friends/friendly with Naunihaul. Wheels within wheels.
i think it’s great that there are people like you who thoughtfully examine all these things happening to us and around us…
but the problem is that developments like this are meaningless.
how long have the corporations trained us, to make us think that with things like this, they are doing us a service?
i would like to see some nike shoes made by japanese, isn’t cool?