Have you ever heard of Bill Bowerman? Probably not, but chances are you know a lot more about him than you think. In fact, many of us interact with Bill’s legacy every single day.
Bill Bowerman is most widely know for his role as the co-founder and inventor of Nike shoes.
From Wikipedia: “In 1964, Bowerman entered into a handshake agreement with Phil Knight, to start an athletic footwear distribution company called Blue Ribbon Sports, later known as Nike, Inc.. Knight managed the business end of the partnership, while Bowerman experimented with improvements in athletic footwear design.”
Bowerman is also credited with inventing the waffle iron tread design that graced the first Nike shoe, and is still being used today.
There are so many things that we can learn from Bowerman. As far as product development and business is concerned, he certainly knew his stuff. He built his product out of what he knew best, something that he was passionate about, and he ended up with something that became epic. Nike has earned it’s right as one of the most infamous and powerful companies on the planet.
But, that is only part of the story.
Bill Bowerman is also credited as the man who brought about the jogging craze that swept America in the late 1960s. While it would seem like jogging wasn’t something that needed to be invented, at this time in history, it really wasn’t very popular. Bill’s work, and research, truly brought jogging to the forefront of our minds.
After observing a jogging club in New Zealand, Bill began to understand jogging’s value as a traditional fitness routine. Bill immediately began writing articles and books about jogging and how it could be used as part of a fitness program. His first three page pamphlet was called the Jogger’s Manual, and was later expanded into a 90 page book that he wrote along with a cardiologist.
When Jogging Becomes Marketing
Now, I don’t really know if Bill ever saw jogging as a marketing tool for Nike, but from this vantage point it certainly looks like one. Nike was created as a sportswear company, particularly one that sold shoes. It is not coincidence that the only thing you really needed to start jogging was a good pair of running shoes.
Bill sold shoes, and he needed to sell more, so he promoted sports that required more shoes. Really, when you look at the history of Nike’s advertising, nothing has changed. Nike doesn’t promote its products, it promotes sports. Rarely do we hear about the benefits on the Nike running shoes. Sure, they are there, but most of the time we are just being encouraged to do more sports.
Just do it – as it goes.
Nike knows that as they sell more sports, they sell more Nike. More shoes, more hats, more golf balls. Nike, for many of us, is sports. Bill Bowerman didn’t just invent a shoe company, he invented an entire reason to have shoes in the first place.
This strategy isn’t all that different for many of the major companies out there. Google is another great example. How does Google win? Well, they promote the Internet.
Google Docs, Google Chrome, Google Plus – all of these are products that encourage us to use the Internet more. And, if we use the Internet more, who is that good for? Google of course. The more Internet we use, the more ads we see, and the more money we make for Google.
Promoting Your Customers
Sometimes, when talking about our products, we actually need to talk around them rather than about them. Rather than talking about Nike shoes, Bill talked about running. The more running there was, the more shoes he sold.
Online, we have an opportunity to do this like never before. Content is truly the guiding light of the Internet. It is how millionaires are made. Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ basically survive on the idea of sharing content. Blogging, SEO, and YouTube are all built around content. Content is the life-blood of the Internet.
Let me ask you this, what would happen if you started creating some of that content? What if the millions of online personalities, and profiles, actually started sharing your content with their friends? Not necessarily because you make a great product, but because you took the time to create something that they wanted.
Sometimes, most of the time, marketing isn’t about shoving your product down your customer’s throat. It’s about promoting the activity that you serve the most. If you sell shoes, help them run more. Running feet will always need a new pair of shoes.