After wasting countless amounts of hours using NikeID as a means of entertainment (and sadly, procrastination), I now have to look at one of my used-to-be favorite things to do online in a completely different way; not as a consumer, but as a marketing whiz. I used to mess around with NikeID all the time in its first stages, although I will admit that I have never visited Puma’s Mongolian Shoe BBQ website. However, once I heard the name for the site, it definitely intrigued me and got me interested to see what the website was all about.
From a marketing perspective, naming Puma’s custom shoe brand Mongolian Shoe BBQ was definitely an interesting marketing tactic; it’s a unique name that doesn’t have any relation to or any resemblance of any other brand name in the market and therefore establishes themselves as something unique, different, and edgy. Not only does the brand name contribute a differentiating quality to the brand, it also is a brand name that is very difficult to forget when a consumer hears it for the first time, therefore upping the likelihood for good brand recall amongst potential customers. Puma also made the interesting decision to almost completely disassociate their customized shoe brand from that of the parent company; the brand image and marketing approaches do not resemble that of the parent company’s in the least besides the products having the same logo and brand name on the actual products themselves. Also, the company’s brand image and marketing tactics are more abstract, alternative, and modern in terms of its artistic approach, which is good in that it is progressive and keeping up with the trends of not only their target market of young adults, but also keeping up with the trends of online businesses and their websites as well. Their adoption of the Mongolian BBQ as their identity seems to carry over a little too strong however; the presence of the concept seems to cloud the actual purpose of the website as marketing, which is to educate the consumer about the products and not to confuse them to actually believe that it is a website for a Mongolian BBQ restaurant. However, for those that are keen enough to get over that millisecond of confusion, I think that Puma’s approach to their customized shoe sub-brand is quite fresh, progressive, and most importantly (in my opinion), quite creative.
Nike, on the other hand, incorporates their own company identity into their customized shoe brand, NikeID. NikeID incorporates a very similar brand image, website design, and marketing as the parent company. This could be a beneficial move for Nike in that the company is very widely known and has a strong, stable reputation that has been successful throughout its lifetime; everything that has Nike’s swoop stamp on it, or is even associated with the brand (i.e. Nike and Apple’s partnership in the Nike+ product line) seems to be an immediate success. Also, NikeID’s marketing and brand image concepts, like that of its parent company, are a little more mainstream and more appealing to the general population than Mongolian Shoe BBQ’s abstract, unique brand image; the look is sleek and seemingly simple, which may seem more approachable to consumers. Also, Nike creates products for almost any type of lifestyle and interest; they have established a reputation of providing shoes for almost every type of consumer need when it comes to athletic wear, whereas Puma is seen as being in the niche of European fashion footwear, or specializing in soccer and tennis shoes. By Nike using the strategy of branding their customized shoe line as a branch of their own existing brand, they are simultaneously attaching the company’s established reputation as well as its brand image.
In terms of the actual experience of both of the companies’ online shoe customization companies, they both offer the same service in that any person can go onto the website, freely design the shoe of their choice through a step-by-step process, and purchase them to be sent to wherever the customer chooses. However, there are differences in the products, the price, and the design of the customization process that causes the customer’s experience to be different on one site than the other.
Mongolian Shoe BBQ’s website starts off with a Flash intro that may be confusing, but it then goes on to the actual website where the customer is shown the options available to him or her, and is guided through the step-by-step process of customizing one’s own shoe. Simple windows are displayed with basic questions and with simple ways to answer them. For example, the first window that pops up to customize a shoe displays the three models of shoe the customer has to choose from in a blank, almost blueprint format, and the customer clicks a check in the box of the shoe of their choice. A downside that consumers might find in Mongolian Shoe BBQ is that they only have three shoe canvasses to choose from, however I believe that all three shoe canvasses have something for any consumer and are equally as stylish, therefore I do not have a problem with the amount of choices available. In the customization process, the actions and options are all displayed and marked accordingly, allowing for little to no confusion as to where to go to do any sort of customization. There are displays of the views the consumer can have by simply clicking on the display of the view of their choice, and there are always written messages to consumers alerting them about which step of the process they are in and what will be coming next. In terms of customization options, Puma has many different types of materials and patterns that are unique to its brand and the market itself. Once a customer is done, there are multiple options displayed at the bottom of the page; a customer can either create an account on the website (which is an easy, two-step, email and password system), save his or her design and move on to the next one, buy the customized shoe in an actual Puma store, add to an online “shopping cart” and make another, or buy the shoe immediately. Quite importantly, the graphics of the products are animated, however they look incredibly realistic so that the consumer has a better sense of how the actual product will turn out. Mongolian Shoe BBQ’s most expensive shoe is $130 and the cheapest $100, and are delivered within 5-7 weeks. I believe that for the amount of customization a customer is able to do with the products, that the price and delivery timeframe are quite reasonable.
Nike has a similar process in that it is step-by-step starting from the customer choosing the model and ending with a customized model of it, however, their website and the actual technology involved in it isn’t necessarily more advanced than that of Mongolian Shoe BBQ’s, it is just laid out in a more complicated way. Since my days of playing around the NikeID website, I have returned to find it quite cluttered and dysfunctional. The amount of choices available to the consumer is overwhelming, and are displayed in funky, crazy, customized colors instead of canvasses, which I believe is distracting from the shoe’s design. Once a customer has chosen their shoe model, they are taken to a customization page with overly simplistic buttons that have no indicators of which button means what and where to go to next. After stumbling around to find out how to customize, it only goes on to more complicated and hard-to navigate steps. NikeID also doesn’t display the shoe model prices upfront, which may be disconcerting to a price-sensitive customer who has no idea how much their design would cost if they decided to make one in the first place. I, for one, could not even customize one because whenever I chose a model, a window would pop up saying that the product was unavailable and would direct me to a page where ALL available products were displayed--mens, womens, kids, and apparel--which all ended up “not being available as well. NikeID also takes much more time to upload onto every page and to do anything for that matter, and customers may have to stop and reload to get to some pages. All in all, I feel that considering Nike’s reputation, NikeID’s clumsy layout and customer experience does not represent the company well.
In summary, I believe that the analogy of Mongolian Shoe BBQ as Facebook and NikeID as MySpace is quite fitting. Mongolian Shoe BBQ, like Facebook, might not necessarily be the first of its kind in online shoe customization, however, seems to have created the more modern and effective way of developing their product. NikeID, like Myspace, may have been the first of its kind, but has gone overboard with the amount available to the customer and isn’t laid out in a customer-friendly way, almost as if they have lost control of their own product. I am actually very pleased with my experience on Mongolian Shoe BBQ’s website, and plan on purchasing my customized model of shoe, when I have enough expendable income that is...