The other week I was on my spring mission: to buy a new pair of sneakers. My mother was with me and we ended up in a large sporting goods store where I tried on a few different pairs. A young man was helping me out and he showed me different styles. The 20-meter-long wall was full of shoes in all shapes and sizes designed for any sporting activity you could imagine.
When we were sitting down my mum asked the shop assistant: ‘How can you tell the difference between all these bands and know where you keep them?’
‘After a few weeks in the job you learn exactly where everything is.’
Then my mother found a pair of simple, classic white sneakers. ‘When I was a teenager this was the only option we had.’
In the end I picked a black pair with a colourful pattern on them. It’s not easy to choose the ‘right’ pair of sneakers or trainers. I wondered what it would be like if there was only one type of shoe.
Later in the week I went for a long walk with a friend and we discussed options, choices and making up your mind. It’s not easy to be human and to have to make up your mind all the time. We have commercial forces that are great at developing new products and models and you build your identity based on what you do and what you wear. Confusing for sure.
It was a lovely sunny day and with our minds sharp we decided to double the distance of our walk. Our next leg was up a steep hill.
My friend was telling me about her son and his new ‘thing’. ‘He is doing boxing training and it’s just five minutes’ walk from where we live.’
‘Aha, cool. Is it a special kind of boxing or just basic boxing?’ I asked her, thinking it could have been Thai boxing or something similar.
‘No, only basic boxing; lot of discipline. The coach is a big shot from the US.’
‘There was a trainer visiting them last week and he had been involved in boxing for years. He said that the Boxing Association’s membership is declining.’
‘Okay, no wonder,’ I said with my marketing hat on. I was thinking of all the new martial arts that have become popular in the last 30 years.
‘He tried to blame the other sports like Kickboxing, Judo, Jujitsu, Mixed Martial Arts, Capoeira, Karate and Taekwondo, and that it’s because of them that there are so few people interested in boxing. But if you look at sport 30 years ago and compare it with today, the total number of young people practising any martial art is much bigger. And that’s good, right!’
‘Sounds familiar to me,’ I said. All brands, events and activities have so many more competitors these days. Just reflect on the different kinds of holidays you can go on today. Thirty years ago there were only a few options, like ‘cold, warm or city’. Now you have wildlife holidays, walking retreats, silence retreats, and cultural trips or you can go on a long train journey or any other special vacation you can imagine.
It’s not easy for brands to stand out in the mix. Importantly, almost all the choices we make are in some ways ethical. Some philosophers say that we become the person we are thanks to the choices we make. Decisions become habits, and habits somehow define who we are.
For years, I’ve bought a few new pairs of sneakers per year. Why do I choose the brands I do?
For my friend’s son, who loves sports, the choices he and his family make for him will influence him for a long time. I can still hear the words that my handball trainer spoke to my team and me when I was 13 years old: ‘We only have one rule, and that is that you are never allowed to say that you can’t. If you do that you influence your mind and your team. Just try again, and then again, and again.’ That rule had a long lasting effect on me. Could I have guessed that back then? No, but what you choose to do over a period of time will stick in your mind, heart and soul.
So why in a morally confused world would anyone choose your brand? What do you bring to the table? And how do you describe the long-lasting effects?
These are profound questions that all brands should spend time thinking about and discussing.
Thank you for reading. If you think your network would like to read the article please share it.
I read every email, comment, and tweet that you send me, so please do reach out. To tweet me connect on @Soffi_Propp.
Sign up to my Digital Leadership Inspiration newsletter here.