In last week’s blog post, we enthusiastically dived into the study of marketing, as we finished discussing target markets the week before. Since we talked about the definition and the importance of marketing last week, my original plan was to continue the research and introduce multiple different ways of marketing in this week’s blog post. However, after I met with my mentor, Coach Seth Berger, on Monday, I changed my plan. Today we are going to go back and talk more about target markets through a quick look at And One, the sneaker company founded by Coach Seth many years ago. And then we are going to discuss about how I should identify the target market of my sneaker business, Sole Garage, again, but in much more details.
According to Coach Seth, when And One was first established back in early 2000s, the competition within the sneaker industry was relentless. Nike, even though not as dominant as today, was a huge force, as they provided high-quality athletic sneakers for a great variety of sports, and had famous athletes in the marketing team. Adidas, considered Nike’s biggest competitor back in the days, was also in its prime. And there were other influential brands such as Reebok and Puma. Therefore, to enter such a competitive sneaker industry, And One had to be special, and specialized. Due to the common enthusiasm towards basketball shared by the co-founders of And One, they decided to make And One a company that exclusively provided basketball sneakers. When I asked Coach Seth about the reasoning of such a move, his answer was brief and direct. “Because if we worked to make sneakers for multiple sports, we would directly compete against Nike, and they would kick us out of the market.” Therefore, in order to survive, And One made itself a basketball sneaker brand instead of a general athletic sneaker brand. They worked to provide the best kind of basketball sneakers, instead of “good-quality” sneakers for many different sports. What I learned from this is powerful – instead of going head-to-head against competition, take a different direction and find the niche. And then work within the niche, to first put yourself out there in the market so that everyone can see you.
What impressed me more through my conversation with Coach Seth was not the decision of what product And One was going to provide, but the identification of And One’s target market. “Our target market is 16-year-old boys who love basketball and want to play basketball in high-quality basketball performance sneakers.” I bet when you hear this, you will be as surprised as me. “Wait, what, only 16-year-olds? Why?” “Yes, only 16-year-olds.” Coach Seth answered with a smile. He was confident. “First of all, we knew that our target market had to be specific enough so that we could set a solid base for our business. And then, think about yourself when you were sixteen. Did you know your favorite sneaker brand back then?””Ah… Not really, sometimes I got Nikes, other times I would get Adidas…””Exactly what we want! Since 16-year-olds haven’t decided which brand they would be a fan of, we wanted to be the brand they think about when it comes to basketball. When you are sixteen, you are trying different things out. You don’t have to worry about your income and spending because your parents still got you. That’s the best time you choose the brand you will go with for life.” I was impressed, not by the logic, but how the co-founders of And One thought of such a brilliant logic and utilized it back then. “16-year-old boys who love basketball” is an extremely specific target market, and as a result, And One might never gain as many followers as other bigger brands such as Nike and Adidas. However, And One found their spot within the sneaker market. While some 16-year-old basketball players went with Nike and Adidas, a lot of them also discovered And One and decided to rock them since And One was so specialized in basketball. In a short couple of years, And One quickly made its name in the sneaker industry. During its prime, And One was the third largest company in the basketball sneaker industry, only trailing behind Nike and Adidas, only by very little. Coach Seth definitely thinks that the identification of the target market was a smart move. “It has absolutely helped us a lot.”
Then Coach Seth and I talked about the target market for my own business, as I posted an interesting notion. “I think people who buy sneakers can be divided into two kinds – those who want to wear them for athletics, and those who want to wear them for fashion.””Great observation. For me, And One was designed for those who want to wear sneakers for athletics, but what do you think about your very own Sole Garage?” His question threw me into a long process of thinking, and I spent this past week researching and trying to figure out which direction is better. Now I think I have the answer – opposite from And One, Sole Garage, as a sneaker re-sell business, should target those who love sneakers for fashion. When I looked back at all the sneakers we have sold over the last two years, I discovered that most of them are Air Jordan retros, which are not necessarily for basketball, but a huge representative of nowadays’ fashion trend. Recently, as the collaboration between Adidas and Kanye West soars into the sneaker market, our focus also shifts, as we begin to deal with more and more adidas sneakers that are considered highly fashionable this year. So instead of marketing Sole Garage as a sneaker re-sell business for those who want to buy sneakers, I intend to market ourselves as a boutique for those who love sneakers for fashion. Of course, my great enthusiasm for fashion also contributes to such a conclusion, but I am never afraid of letting my own preferences affect the business decisions I make. It is my business, so I want it to look like me, as well.
That wraps up this week’s blog post, as we take a look back at the topic of target market and try to learn some more about it. Next week instead of going into new material for our discussion of marketing, I will actually explore the second part of my conversation with Coach Seth, and provide some updates of the sneaker industry in 2016. It will be my first sneaker market analysis blog post in the new year, so y’all should definitely stay tuned. I will see y’all with much love next week!
P.S.: I’m glad to turn 19 today! And I just want to share some of my happiness with y’all!