When you think of ASICS, most likely the first thing that comes to mind are running shoes. The company, however, recognizes that customers are after much more – and arguably, it has done so since it first started trading.
“Our brand writes its story by itself. The story is amazing. The backbone is strong: how can we make people excited and enjoy life,” says Thomas Wasser, global CRM lead for ASICS. Perception is critical for brands. “As a brand you have a perception of what you’re delivering. We think we are providing the best products, but the consumer experience isn’t matching what we’re thinking.”
ASICS is striving to chip away at that gap to make it smaller. It is focusing more and more on the customer experience through programs that encourage engagement rather than product sales. This marks a shift for the company and demonstrates not only its understanding of a disrupted marketplace, but its acknowledgement of the disruptive economy.
“It’s not really about digital transformation. It’s a consumer-centric transformation,” Wasser says. Consumers switch brands more easily now and their expectations are constantly moving higher. As a result, the biggest threat isn’t coming from competitors, but from disruptors like Uber and AirBNB. These are the companies that set the benchmark for customers by highlighting the benefits of a great online experience.
The challenge, therefore, is for ASICS to get conversations started and build connections with consumers. Wasser refers to this as not storytelling, but story doing. “We need to live the story and ensure it cascades.”
For example, they asked marathon runners what products they buy. Nearly half answered ASICS – good result, right? Further digging revealed that the purchase wasn’t driven by a love of the product, but because it was considered the best. There was nothing wrong with it, but the problem was simply that customers didn’t feel a connection to the brand. “If a competitor comes along with a parity perception that doesn’t even have the same quality, then the customer is gone,” Wasser explained.
ASICS is now working not just to stay in the consideration mindset of consumers but to build that bond. Achieving this starts with self reflection by the brand to be authentic and honest. Instead of asking, “What’s best for the company?”, they ask “What’s best for the customer?”.
Building connections starts with engagement. The idea is to identify a customer’s individual goals and then help them achieve these goals. By engaging customers and helping them find new goals, such as trying a new sport or achieving a faster marathon finish time, ASICS is helping customers, not just selling to them. This is accomplished through the creation of programs such as Pace Club, starting running crews and clinics, and the recent acquisition of Runkeeper.
To make this transformation successful, key strategies have been undertaken around the globe.
ASICS is providing training in very region to make sure everyone understands the intelligence the brand gathers and what it can provide. To do this successfully, they’ve acknowledged that a global approach can’t ignore the need for localization. This means that alignment across regions and clearly delineating the objectives and deliverables is critical.
“Sharing best practice sharing is much easier now,” says Wasser. “We can really start working together as regions, instead of competing.”
For more strategies that create brand advocates, see Bridging The Gap: Turning Potential Customers Into Brand Advocates.