Commentary

Just Pivot

I’m not sure when Nike ceased to be a shoe company for serious athletes and instead become a technology company for average Joes (like me) looking to enjoy a health and active lifestyle.

Perhaps it was Nike ID that first hinted at things to come. Or Nike +, Nike Running, or Nike Fuelband that finally drove home the transformation from Just Do it to Just Digit (sorry).

Thanks to technology, Nike has elevated its relevance and resonance from just a brand to something much more: a community-driven experience. Dare I say, a customer-centric ecosystem powered by technology.

Case in point: #runstronger -- a call to action on the first anniversary of the Boston bombing, offering to donate $1 for every mile completed by volunteer runners.

I’ve become somewhat of a Fuelband fanboy. I wrote about it extensively in my latest book, “Z.E.R.O,” and have dedicated several columns in Mediapost to the same subject.

Last week I was in Australia, where, during a presentation, several members of the audience pointed out that Nike will be discontinuing its Fuelband.

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What an embarrassment for Nike. They failed. They lost the battle to Fitbit. They couldn’t cut it with a piece of hardware that just did not iterate or evolve quickly enough.

And if you think the above paragraph is accurate, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

The actual announcement was that Nike is discontinuing its Fuelband production in order to shift its focus from hardware to software. The company is going to focus on the data, analytics, dashboard, gamification and overall experience, versus just producing rubber bands.

Let me repeat the key phrase again in case you missed it: Nike is shifting its focus from hardware to software. This is -- or was -- a shoe company, remember?

Nike is doing a classic pivot, just as an enviable class of past successful startups -- including, but not limited to, GroupOn, Twitter, YouTube and Fab -- did before it.

Playing to its strengths (or weaknesses), and ultimately reconciling this with its business, Nike is choosing to focus and prioritize versus spreading itself too thin.

Company strategists are also choosing to align themselves with an incredibly like-minded brand: namely, Apple, which will most likely be producing the one band to rule them all soon enough. This has not actually been announced yet, but Nike has subtly (about as subtly as a bull in a china shop) hinted at the continuation of this relationship in the wearables market.

As a betting man, I’m going to fairly confidently place my chips in the Nike + Apple camp. It’s a fairly inevitable no-brainer that Apple and Nike will join forces -- and when they do, it’s game over.

Enjoy it while you can, Fitbit.

In making this announcement, Nike has shown -- proven, in fact -- that it is a technology company -- a lean brand of sorts.

It’s demonstrated how an 800-pound gorilla can think and act like an agile gazelle.

At a time when most companies are still debating if they should sell directly to their customers via their website, what their Facebook strategy should be, which mobile platform they should develop in (because for some reason the budget allows only one) or how to approach a one-off pilot program with a startup, Nike has entered the next phase of its evolution.

By my count, v2.0 beats v0.1 any day of the week.

Not bad for a loser.

1 comment about "Just Pivot".
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  1. Joseph Jaffe from Evol8tion, LLC, May 13, 2014 at 11:25 a.m.

    P.S. No I don't work for or with Nike, but I do have rather unhealthy feelings for my Fuelband (like Joaquin Phoenix and his A.I. O.S. in the movie, "Her".)

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