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« Having a Theory of Mind in Marketing | Main | How Brain Research Is Changing How We See the World »

September 03, 2004



As a 22 year-old recent college graduate, I'd like to point out that NB's are popular with the large chunk of college students who shun the rabid consumerist culture of our country. Goes to show that there are plenty of us who haven't reached the second half of life but are still uncomfortable with "narcissistic and materialistic" values. Of course, most kids don't consider this when they buy. Instead, it's "just something about New Balance" (read: the soul) that leads them to the purchase.

David Wolfe

Bret, that is the beauty of ageless marekting in which marketing projects values that extend a brand's reach across generational divides. And the values invoked are universal values.

Yes, New Balance has soul. For more on soul see the reference to the Hartman Group's white paper I refer to in my September post.

Anda I am keenly aware of a significant transformation of values among young people today. I will be discussing that in my posts shortly and present a hypothesis for why it is happening.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Chuck Nyren

Purely anecdotal:

I'm not a sneaker fanatic (anymore) but tennis shoes have been my footwear of choice even before it was fashionable. I'd wear Converse All-Stars for every occasion.

When New Balance arrived I bought a pair and was hooked for awhile. Now, I admit that there is a Costco offering that I wear. (Have I progressed into non-narcissistic enlightened agelessness or what???)

But I'm always interested in other people's sneaker purchases - and usually drill friends when they buy a pair.

During interrogation, I find that many go into a store - and silently they are saying to themselves, "Okay, here's the plan. I'll try on a bunch of different shoes - and if none of them fit perfectly I'll check out the New Balances - for I know I can find a pair that are comfortable because there are so many widths."

No new shoes are ever completely comfortable. Feet are odd things. Very complex, unwieldy appendages. So no matter what, the person always ends up trying on selections of New Balances - and by that time they're exhausted trying on shoes, inevitably finding a pair of NBs that is more comfortable than the rest. They may or may not be more comfortable - but by then anything is more comfortable than the idea of putting on and taking off more shoes.

Do New Balances have 'soul'? Maybe, maybe not. My guess is that their coziness simply comforts the wearer's soul.

A well made product, word of mouth over the last twenty years, and NBs selection of sizes may have been worth a hundred soulful ad campaigns.

David Wolfe

Chuck, when Bret says, there’s "just something about New Balance" (read: the soul) that leads them to the purchase," it pays off nothing to skeptically examine whether or not New Balance has a soul. To Bret and his friends who favor New Balance the brand does indeed have a soul. And that’s all there is to it. You may not believe waht they believe yet still like the brand because of the fit issue. The point here is a play on the old idea of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. If customers behold a soul in New Balance, what is the point of suggesting otherwise?

Besides, products that aren’t best can be winning brands because the have a certain je ne se qua which adds up to soul for a lot of people. That’s what happened in the New Coke fiasco. Coke finally came up with a formula that tasted better than Pepsi to most people in blind tests. But many in the heart of America thought something of the soul or whatever you want to call it was lost in the chemical altering of Coke’s “classic” formula.

So, I wouldn’t go to far in explaining New Balance’s remarkable success to fit. That’s just one item, and to a lot of people not the decisive aspect of the product.

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