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Niche Marketing Sends Nike Sole Searching

Chances are you, or someone you know, owns a pair of shoes. Now consider there are currently about 7.078 billion people on earth. That’s how big and lucrative the shoe industry is, and for decades Nike has been at the forefront of shoe sales.

But times changed.

Nike’s original young demographic grew up and had its own kids. Spokesman Michael Jordan retired… twice. Competing brands gained influence. Technology turned the world inside out, and the public began consuming information a la carte instead of off the menu of mainstream television networks and newspapers.

Instead of being a lumpy, amorphous, loosely-defined mass of humanity, the public became a collection of niches. This may be a welcome development if you sell horse magazines or pirate-themed paper plates, but for Nike this changing reality is a big challenge. To reach customers Nike must exploit every channel from Twitter and Facebook to Youtube and traditional television, and it must do it in a way that resonates with the various sensibilities of different niches of people.

That’s hard to do.

Instead of courting famous athletes like Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong (look how well that turned out), Nike should exploit the new niche reality by going directly to its source: customers. The future of Nike’s brand shouldn’t focus on how far someone can jump from the free throw line, but on health, competition and style—the core interests of its dynamic target demographic.

Or it should go back to selling the original Air Jordans. Those are timeless.

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