For some brands, the effect of digital is so great that it seems to complete the picture – it adds, if you will, a crucial third dimension to what they do.
Take Adidas, for example. Previously it just made shoes, sweatbands, socks (and so on). And more or less everything else (the stuff that made Adidas Adidas) was just marketing.
Nowadays, though, at Adidas as well as other established brands effectively keeping up with fast-changing times, technology is supplanting image with something more substantial.
“It’s one thing to just want to just know you’re making your ten thousand steps,” explains a still-sleepy Jon Werner (Innovation Explorer, Adidas Digital Sports), on the phone from the US. “You’re doing it because it’s your regimen, because your doctor says you should. But you don’t really know why. We want to provide you with insights. Why are you working out? What is this doing for your health? How is this going to make you able to sleep better, eat better, think better, be more productive?”
The data sets, he says, are already in place. “If we were able to combine all the research that is out there, we could actually depict how much better your day would be if you were to do a twenty minute workout this morning. I think in five years we should start to see a lot of insights around that.”
In other words, Adidas is increasingly as much about data, chips and apps, as it is apparel. And as Werner will be discussing at Apps World North America in May, this evolution has brought with it a change of ethos, too.
“I can’t tell you how many researchers we have that continue to push the technology envelope of what we can do. And before it was always, ‘let’s keep all this to ourselves because it’s a competitive advantage against other shoe manufacturers.’ But then we realised, wow, we’re really doing a disservice – we can’t force people to buy our shoes, but we can give people the tools to be better runners. Regardless of whether they buy any of our stuff, let’s just make them better runners.”
Indeed, recent years have made consumers more cynical. A brand can no longer just present a convincing pose, it must walk the walk (or run the run), too. Digital is allowing Adidas to do this.
“A lot of people talk about ‘mobile first.’ Well, in our case we’re thinking ‘open first’ for all future devices,” Werner goes on, expanding on the theme. “When we create new devices that they will be open… we want people to be able to create experiences that we can’t, niche experiences for an audience that we might not be addressing directly.”
It’s through openness and cooperation, he stresses, that everyone gets the best out of digital innovation. “On the back end side, we’re providing a way to connect with other ecosystems: we’ve already starting showing synchronisation with MyFitnessPal, so that our workouts, our ecosystem, and the calories that are burnt during the workout, are shown on MyFitnessPal — and vice versa. Knowing to check the weather, monitor your calendar, look at your workout schedule – we’re looking at Tempo, the calendar people. It’s simple things like this.”
Finally, I ask him what message he’ll be bringing with him to Apps World North America.
“I guess the overarching message is, hey, this is Adidas, we’re open, and we’re ready to help get people fit; we realise we can’t do this on our own, and we need to work with other partners to make this happen,” he concludes, before I let him get on with his day, which will start, presumably, with a (very smart) run.
Discover the future of multi-platform apps at Apps World North America (May 12-13, Moscone Center West, San Francisco)