Fighting Words: Foamposite One Galaxy

Creating over-the-top-demand for a product (or service) is a what brand managers dream about. But in real life, it’s a perfect storm that only a few will ever experience. Apple knows this storm, and so does Nike.

I use the word storm not lightly. Last week, people began rioting outside shopping malls in Florida and Maryland, creating Black Friday-like criminal mayhem over a $220 basketball shoe from Nike.

According to USA Today, the release of the $180 Air Jordan XI shoe before Christmas also caused a riot at a mall in Indianapolis, fights in Seattle and a stabbing in Jersey City.

“Nike is mostly watching from the sidelines as its name has been linked with consumer rioting,” claims the paper.

Brand consultant Jonathan Salem Baskin told USA Today that Nike shouldn’t ship product “until there is ample supply to meet demand.” I agree, but I also see how that goes against every fiber in the Beaverton company’s polyester mesh.

Kicks on Fire, a sneaker freak’s site, says the hype around the Galaxy Foamposites has been one of the highest recorded buzz for a sneaker in the past decade. USA Today believes social media has a hand in the hype, and while Foamposite One Galaxy was trending on Twitter prior to the release, the new kicks also graced the front cover of the New York Daily News. Which is to say, the Nike press and branding machines were in full gear around this launch, as always.

What was not in full gear was the production line, by design. Like Apple, Nike is introducing their new item deliberately. Both Apple and Nike intend to deny many of their customers, on first approach. Why? To sink the brand’s hooks ever deeper. Twisted, but true.

But let’s not blame the Foamposite One Galaxy team in Beaverton for doing their job so well. After all, they made a shoe people not only want, but simply must have. No matter what it costs or what they have to do to get their feet in them. That’s success in American manufacturing, as well as retail and advertising success.

Yet, violence ruins that win. Violence is a big ding on the brand, whether it goes down in Asia where the shoes are made, or at a mall in Anytown, USA. Personally, I don’t see how the brand guardians in Beaverton or the Pearl district can laugh or shrug this off. Nike’s 21st century challenge is to become a better company and a better winner (something Nike shares with every other high profile brand today).

Nike has always had a champion’s swagger, so walking a higher path won’t come natural or easy in Beaverton. Regardless, it is time.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.