As Nicholas Ind, Oriol Iglesias, and Majken Schultz wrote in strategy + business, Adi Dassler, a cobbler by training and a keen sportsman observed athletes, talked to them about their needs and then experimented with novel ways of solving their problems. Dassler engaged an iterative process that relied on prototyping and testing and evolving production innovations.

Dassler acquired his first patent on a pair of running shoes in 1925, and three years later, a runner wearing his shoes won an Olympic gold. In 1936, Jesse Owens won four gold medals in Dassler’s shoes.

During Adi Dassler’s lifetime, his company, adidas continued to expand and develop new markets and sports. But the company always united by Adi’s belief in “only the best for the athlete” and his philosophy of industrialized craftsmanship created a stream of innovative products.

Today, the value of authenticity and a deep understanding of the brand also extend into innovative partnerships. adidas selects partners largely by their potential for alignment with the values and philosophy of the company.

Radical designs have opened new audiences and sales channels while encouraging adidas’s designers to be more adventurous.

Credit: Zak Noyle/A-Frame/Parley for the Oceans

As Steve Vincent, Senior Vice President of adidas future, says, “That’s the challenge—to do completely disruptive things that no one ‘s ever seen or expected but still feel like they should come from this brand.”

Along comes PARLEY FOR THE OCEANS, an organization dedicated to reducing plastic waste in oceans. Parley’s collaboration with adidas designers led to a 3D-printed concept shoe made out of recycled ocean plastic.

“The new shoe design rethinks the environmental impact of materials to help stop ocean plastic pollution,” according to adidas.

Among others, this collaboration will accelerate the integration of materials made of ocean plastic waste into adidas products as of 2016.

The true impact of a sustainable future for the adidas brand comes from a long-held mindset of product innovation, a strong embrace of innovative partnerships, and today, helping marine life and showing the world how to shed its throwaway mentality.

Adi Dassler would be pleased that the adidas brand is leading the reduction of plastic pollution in the ocean with a genuine partnership while serving the most competitive athletes in the world.

However a compelling story, adidas misses an opportunity to effect greater brand distinction and engagement.

Jim Signorelli, president at Story-Lab U.S. observes, “adidas is making great strides towards becoming a StoryBrand. However, they need to link together the chapters of their story so that a single-minded truth becomes more evident.”

He adds, “Their latest commercial, featuring James Harden, makes a strong and compelling case for the notion that “Creators Never Follow.” However, a story’s theme is proven through its plot. We need to see that adidas is walking its talk. Every brand in the sportswear category innovates. But innovating in ways that support the sustainability of marine life? That’s the kind of stand-out proof that tells the adidas story convincingly.”

Jim Signorelli and I hope our message resonates with adidas. We want to help adidas enter a higher sphere of storybranding and brand advocacy. We think more athletes would engage the adidas/PARLEY solution if they knew what we know.

References: Strategy + Business writers, Nicholas Ind, Oslo School of Management, Oriol Inglesas, associate professor at ESADE, Business School in Barcelona and director of the ESADE Brand Institute, and Majken Schultz, professor at Copenhagen Business School. adidas Partners to Help End Ocean Destruction, Releases Sustainability Progress Report, by Sustainable Brands. adidas and Parley Oceans Partnership Aims end Plastic Pollution Oceans. NYC NEWS.

Note:The adidas brand name in lower case was used correctly throughout the blog.


Mary Olson
Phone: 917.656.1856
Twitter: @maryolsonbiz

Jim Signorelli
Phone: 312.762.7400
Twitter: @jimsignorelli


My interview series, REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2015 includes experts in technology, the arts, marketing, and social good. It is an exciting group of creative thought leaders and enlightened personalities. Some are extraordinary examples of social responsibility; others are creating game-changing paradigm shifts in their market segments.

I recently had a chance to speak with Liz Nightingale, the ultimate expert in relationship marketing.

You can trace Liz’s marketing mindset to every touch-point of a brand experience. I mean, personally and emotionally direct to people.

It doesn’t matter if the market segment is B2C or trade. In the end, it’s people who respond to her remarkable marketing touch. A quick look into her magical toolkit reveals strategic planning, PR, advertising, brand marketing, emotional branding and brand experience.

Philosophies, processes and creativity are the driving elements of Liz Nightingale’s world of marketing. Although she has been the ultimate leader in luxury marketing from legendary brands to global influences, everything is about building and valuing relationships.

I asked Liz recently, “You are at the top of your game. Every brand you touch increases by double digits. What’s next?” She replied, “I envision opportunities to collaborate at the C-suite level with business visionaries who understand the value of relationships. Marketing has never been as competitive as it is today. But it is not just about appreciating how to simplify complexity or creating and managing data, but about understanding and creating a relationship with your market on a personal basis.”

Liz is the ultimate example of a professional who integrates a love of relationships with digital technologies.

A deep look into Nightingale’s world and you find a master strategist who loves creating world-class brands and building lasting relationships with customers—With digital data.

I mentioned the widely held belief in the marketing world that what you knew two years ago is no longer true today. Nightingale dispelled that notion with a twist when I asked, “What do you think about the impact of technology on C-suite marketing careerists?”

She said, “It is likely that the CMO role shortly will transition to the Chief Marketing Technologist. But, remember, CMT’s need interpersonal skills and a deep and authentic respect for people. Process-wise, relating to people won’t change.”

Liz Nightingale Profile (PDF)

Liz Nightingale on LinkedIn

New Rules of Branding, Marketing and Financial Performance

Businesses succeed or fail on the connection between branding, customer engagement and financial performance. Here is the formula that I have been discussing with clients recently:

Follow this guideline by understanding the business thoroughly and prioritizing branding as the key component to your business growth. Branding is the foundation of marketing. Marketing fulfills the mission statement and creates the customer experience. The customer experience creates the brand engagement, thus building brand equity. Brand equity contributes to P&L metrics like profitability and stakeholder value.

Brand Contribution Analysis™ for B2B, The Profit Improvement Index

Leaders are in the business of creating shareholder value whether they manage consumer or manufacturing companies. Brand creators are in the business of creating valuable assets; and marketers are in the business of influencing the customer experience and capturing brand value.

If you are focused on valuing your brand, then you have your sights set on improving your P&L. However, as we speak with manufacturing executives about brand equity, few understand its full power and the profit improvement they could gain.

Various indices have been developed to help B2C companies understand the value of their brand. However, most of the measurements rely on soft (qualitative) data. We believe it is important to use a statistically valid method of quantifying brand value in dollars and cents. B2B companies are now just realizing the power of combining price optimization with branding strategies.

The key advantage includes product and value pricing. Enter author, Jerry Bernstein, President, Value Pricing Group, one of the top-tier pricing experts for manufacturing companies with engineered and technology based products. He has a superb understanding of branding and pioneered the now proven "black box" formula he developed, appropriately named, Brand Contribution Analysis™.

Bernstein's quantitative pricing analytics, combined with branding expertise is so powerful, that improvements in profitability are guaranteed. Here is how we overlaid our experience:

Brand Design > Pricing Analytics > Value Pricing(1) > Marketing > Customer Experience > Brand Equity

Result = The Brand Contribution Analysis™ and related services are enablers for quantifying the dollars that pricing and brand equity can bring to the P&L. Fortunately, for manufacturing executives, the knowledge and methodologies for brand value and profit improvement are demonstrable and attainable.

Ref: 1Value Pricing includes analytical tools and processes designed to capture the full value of products and services. The result is measurable improvements in revenue and profitability.

The Customer Experience Model

At Transition Networks, we believe that branding is the foundation of marketing. Marketing in turn creates the customer experience, and the customer experience creates brand equity. Brand equity contributes to metrics that the executive suite understands, like profitability and shareholder value.

Branding > Marketing > Customer Experience > Brand Equity

It's a very simple business model that took us several years to evolve and clarify.

NETFLIX is among the leading customer-centric organizations in the world. How does NETFLIX create and benefit from the customer experience?

The NETFLIX brand is the customer experience. NETFLIX fills the need for media anytime, anywhere in whatever display device you choose to watch your favorite shows. It personalizes the experience for 33 million members in 40 countries. Not only is NETFLIX a media preference, the brand name can be a verb, a noun, or a generic reference (like Kleenex). In other words, NETFLIX is synonymous with people's daily lifestyle.

John Mello of PC World writes about ForeSee's customer satisfaction rating, which scores e-tailers on a scale of 0-100. While NETFLIX's rating last year was 81, it is trending upwards. More important, it has crossed over the magic 80 point mark, which ForeSee calls the "Threshold of Excellence." Scoring at 80 or above is an indicator of superior customer satisfaction performance.

What is the value proposition? NETFLIX is adept in tracking and communicating customer preferences and experiences. This becomes a simple connection and engagement with each and every member. The ease and reward flows both ways.  NETFLIX becomes an emotional lifestyle commitment by the member, who is likely to recommend a film, concert or TV show to someone else.

By comparison, other media delivery models are currently zooming off the cliff (e.g., NBC). These brands don't understand today's customer experience. Network TV's delivery model is likely to die.

NETFLIX overcame its pricing bobble nearly two years ago and today is the on-demand market leader. However, streaming video challengers are encroaching.  According to, NETFLIX is being chased by three competitors: HBO GO, Amazon Prime and Vudu (the new Walmart Partner).  Other competitors include Hulu, Xfinity by Comcast and Verizon's Redbox.  However, NETFLIX currently has the lead with its superior service and brand recognition.

From NETFLIX'S solid foundation of branding and marketing, its interactive customer experience business model is leading to its competitive advantage and profitable brand equity valued in the C-suite and by shareholders. (Nasdaq: NFLX)