In the early 2000, the Brooks shoe company made a decision that would change the entire direction of their business sparking a new innovative approach resulting in a massive change in a communication process.
Their communication process has helped make their brand the one of the most recognizable running shoe company in the America.
Making the Change & What it Meant to Their Business
The Brooks running shoes brand has not always been a popular choice within running circles. In fact, as Alexis Christoforous (2016) shares “in 2001, Brooks Running Co. was on the brink of bankruptcy.
As the company’s new CEO, Weber decided to re-focus the brand solely on running shoes” (para. 2). What that meant was removing a large piece of their business, pivoting to a specific target market and innovating their communication process.
Weber made the unorthodox but a strategic decision that moved them away from the competitive landscape of selling athletic shoes to the masses and trying to out-promote brands with deeper marketing budgets to a segmented audience where their communication efforts can be magnified.
By focusing on one target market, their communication strategy impacts everything they do, how they operate and minimizes the amount of problems within the organization which in turn creates for a tremendous experience for their customers.
After the pivot, the first step of the communication strategy was the sales process. By not being everything to everyone, Brooks Running had the opportunity to define who they are and how they operate.
Brooks Running (2019) shares that their mission statement changed to a runner focus, “we do one thing: build great running gear. When you focus on what you do best, you do it better. Our goal is to make each run better than the last. This guides every engineering choice we make” (para. 2).
When you have a singular focus for your brand and know exactly who you are serving in the market place, the culture of the organization shifts making the service specific while continuously improving.
Research by Abigail Tracy (2014) adds that “during this period, the company focused on putting Brooks shoes on runners' feet, getting key influencers such as coaches and sports medicine professionals behind the Brooks brand, and building relationships with specialty running stores” (para. 10).
When you spend more time on research and development and fully understanding your target market, the better you will serve your target market. Without the deep marketing pockets, the advertising that following amplified their message with our making bold, audacious promises.
When thinking about service and the value of an operation, what resonates with buyers is speaking specifically to their wants and needs. It’s less about features and more about benefits and the “why” behind a product.
In an interview with Brooks Running CEO Jim Weber, Peter Verry (2017) supports this point, “people want to know more than just what you’re offering. They want to know who you are and why you do what you do. Ninety-eight percent of the traffic coming to our site is there to get information” (para. 14).
This inch-wide, mile-deep approach has increased the Brooks running shoes team brand, their commitment to providing a quality shoe and offering the exceptional service through retailers and online which has catapulted their brand forward.
Increasing Value & Continuous Improvement
At the core, defining your brand and being committed to a target audience is a great foundation to a successful business, continuously working on efficiency and improving offerings to better serve a specific audience takes the business to the next level.
Weber and the Brooks Running team looked to research and development through technology to improve and innovate the experience for runners who choose to wear their shoes.
They looked at the material within shoe and the process in which to help runners choose the right shoe for them based on their running style as two key areas to improve.
Looking at the shoe, Brooks partnered with BASF, a chemical engineering company to develop an innovative polyurethane-based cushioning system that “expands under the runner’s foot, returning more energy as force is applied; leading to less energy expended during a run” (Coatings World, 2017. para. 4).
What this did was made running in their shoes better for runners which leads to less injuries. Secondly, improvements were made to the material used on the upper and midsole of their shoes.
Brooks Running (2018) adds that “48 percent of our footwear (by weight) is made from recycled or biodegradable materials. We’ve also increased the efficiency of our footwear uppers 3 percent since 2013, which means we have less material waste during assembly” (para. 4).
As technology enhances, Brooks Running shoes tends to be the forefront of innovation. Their latest advancement helps runners chose the right Brooks shoe for them. Think about this advancement in terms of a customization, like a new grip golfer might get for his clubs.
Wylie Wong (2019) shares that “customers run on a treadmill, and the iPad device analyzes their running styles, taking into account preferences such as a more cushioned feel or a more lightweight experience, and then it makes shoe recommendations” (para. 16).
This system called “Fitstation” was developed by HP combines 3D foot scanning, analysis of the gait, and foot pressure to develop a personalized running shoe that matches the runner, their running motion and their experience
If everything in life was as smart as this process, the world would be significantly more efficient. Both areas of improvements show that the value they offer for Runners serves beyond just selling a pair of shoes but the dedication to creating the best possible product.
Since the big pivot in 2001, there has been hiccups and issues that Brooks Running has had to navigate. Their staff is enormous and it is easy to assume that communication to specialty running stores across the United States and around the globe is challenge.
Brooks understands this challenge and hires employees who manage areas of the United States that work with specialty stores to answer questions that might arise, develop a great partnership and share trends within a community.
Brooks Running has been known to sponsor races, creates race related shoes and be active within a running community. These employees who work within these cities help collaborate and facilitate these partnerships which strengthen the brand and engage more runners
Brooks Running embodies the spirit of runners by understanding their needs, wants and desires. Their communication strategy has changed tremendously since 2001 and the impact that they are making within running communities around the world is evident.
What is also encouraging about the Brooks Running brand is despite the fact that they are a massive business, they are nimble enough to make changes, to become more efficient and innovate without sacrificing quality and alienating their audience.
Brooks Running may just be the guiding light to the future of running. If not, at least they are living their brand promise. Looking at the sports business, the University Athletics department that I currently work for can learn a lot from Brooks Running.
Fully immersing ourselves into understanding our target market, defining who they are and spending the time delivering products that fit their needs, this will develop better relationships, more rabid fans and encourage a deeper connection to the school.
In addition, the service and innovation first mentality from Brooks Running is inspirational and is something that our operation needs to develop.
BrooksRunning.com. (2019). Our Purpose. Retrieved from https://www.brooksrunning.com/en_us/meet-brooks/our-purpose/
BrooksRunning.com. (2018). How Brooks selects the materials to make your running shoes. Retrieved from https://talk.brooksrunning.com/blog/2018/12/20/how-brooks-selects-the-materials-to-make-your-running-shoes/
Christoforous, A. (2016). How Warren Buffett saves Brooks Running Co. Retrieved from https://finance.yahoo.com/news/how-warren-buffett-helped-save-a-company-on-the-brink-of-bankruptcy-183326248.html
CoatingsWorld.com. (2017). BASF polyurethane used in new Brooks Levitate running shoes. Retrieved from https://www.coatingsworld.com/contents/view_breaking-news/2017-09-25/bbasf-polyurethane-used-in-new-brooks-levitate-running-shoes/
Tracy, A. (2014). How Brooks reinvented its brand. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/abigail-tracy/how-brooks-running-became-an-industry-leader.html
Verry, P. (2017). Exclusive: Brooks’ CEO explains why the brand is sticking soley with running shoes. Retrieved from https://footwearnews.com/2017/focus/athletic-outdoor/brooks-ceo-jim-weber-running-sneakers-athleisure-fitness-trump-economy-immigration-environment-climate-change-global-warming-333736/
Wong, W. (2019). Innovation, efficiency, service and sales: how 3 businesses got there with cloud. Retrieved from https://biztechmagazine.com/article/2019/08/innovation-efficiency-service-and-sales-how-3-businesses-got-there-cloud