I was just contemplating Reebok's (herein referred to as rbk) Run Easy campaign. I admire rbk for many of it's accomplishments over the years, for it's overall size, etc, but the brand has definitely been refocused way too many times.
The latest example is the Run Easy campaign. The basic premise is to market rbk running shoes to those that aren't serious athletes. Rather, those that go out for a wimpy "jog". Now, why would anyone who's trying to at least appear fit want to wear a product that screams "I'm not that serious about what I do". The whole Run Easy concept suggests that rbk is confused about their running category. Here are some possible interpretation scenarios we can conclude about their run easy campaign and rbk running shoes:
1. Rbk running shoes simply aren't as good as the competition. As such, you can only run easy in our shoes. Run hard, and they just aren't up to snuff!!
2. Those who wear rbk running shoes aren't that serious about fitness. Hey, at least they're willing to readily and outwardly admit it by wearing rbk. But, if you want to be categorized in the poseur running department, wear rbk. This is similar to buying fitness equipment, only to use it for a few weeks before it begins collecting dust. Almost all home fitness products, particularly those via infomercials, end up very quickly in the back corner of the house, under a bed, in the attic/garage, or thrown away. People are as committed to fitness equipment as they are to eating healthy. They just don't do it very long!!
3. Rbk running shoes are actually as awesome as the best Asics or Saucony running shoe!! That's right, they're just as good. But, rbk wants to give you, the customer, more value, so they market it as a run easy product, which means it should cost less. (i admit, this scenario is confusing, but, so is the Run Easy campaign, so at least were in good company)
4. Maybe rbk is trying to grow the running category as a whole. If they're doing this, then arguably this campaign could be very effective, albeit in the short term. Why only in the short term? Consider this. If rbk is successful at "growing the category", then they will convert customers to running. But, as we've noted in some of the other interpretations, this creates a bigger problem. As soon as the customers are truly converted, they'll drop rbk products like a bad habit since their running shoes are only designed for poseurs, wannabes, or those who really aren't committed. And, if someone's truly committed to the "category" then they'll start buying product that performs. Once again, it's always great to build the category. But, with rbk's short-term product positioning strategy, as created by their ad campaign, their shooting themselves.
5. Arguably rbk is simply being honest in their marketing by admitting most people who buy running shoes simply don't run, aren't into it, and when they do, they run easy (i.e. to catch the bus, into the donut shop, out of the rain, etc). For these duties, I'm sure rbk shoes will perform quite admirably. However, is this how successful product should be marketed? Honesty and transparency should be paramount. However, this kind of honesty from rbk simply loses all the romanticism, dreams, and aspirations of those who run, or would take up running.
A few years back, it appeared that rbk was trying to transition to a more urban, lifestyle brand with athletic influences, all but conceding to Nike the reign of performance footwear. With this run easy campaign, it's as if they've reneged and decided they weren't quite ready to concede. Or, maybe this action is a result of the whole urban trend being in a slump more recently. Either way, it's symptomatic of major marketing confusion. But, the rbk consumer should be used to that, at least in the performance category, as it seems like rbk has been trying to figure out what they stand for over the last few years. And, during that time of confusion, Nike has continued to grow quite nicely and steadily.
Nike = committed
RBK = not committed
A simple marketing principle. Stay committed to your strategy, in both the up and downs. Now, if you are to stay committed to your strategy, that means you better pick a strategy that is sustainable over the long haul. Or, sell out before your trend goes in the dump!!!