Marketing guru Seth Godin has a new book out, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. As a way to promote and brainstorm the book, he invited an online “triiibe” to make a book of their own. It’s available for free on Seth’s blog.
On page 12 of the user-submitted book, there’s a story about the Newton Running Tribe by Marcus Galica:
“Yesterday I received in the mail my first pair of Newtons. Since I’ve been struggling with chronic knee problems, I willingly parted with $175 of my hard-earned cash in order to buy this pair of running shoes.
They’re rumored to reinforce a mid-foot strike (which is said to reduce impact on the knees). I took them for my first run this afternoon, on a pathway known as the Strand that goes from Manhattan Beach to Redondo.
After a total distance of about 12.5 miles, I still felt light on my feet and no soreness in my knees, so they seem to work as advertised. Wonderful. However, it was one fleeting interaction with another runner on the Strand that alerted me to Newton’s Culting of Brands approach to marketing these new shoes:
1) You won’t find them at your local Sports Authority; only a handful of renowned running specialty stores across the country carry them.
2) Most of the early adopters are intense triathletes. We’re talking the Ironman crowd.
3) They only come in obscenely loud colors like orange, yellow, pink, and green.
4) They’re $175. If you’re buying a pair of these, you’re serious about running. (Or a poseur, maybe.)
What was the interaction? Well, if any of you have run on The Strand before, you’ll know that because of the sheer density of runners and joggers, you typically won’t receive the customary “runner’s wave” that you’d get if you were someplace more remote.
This particular Saturday afternoon, after about 10 miles, I had probably passed close to 500 other runners and joggers, and I did not receive a single “wave”. But as I approached an intensely cut-up, triathlete-looking man, I noticed he was wearing bright green Newtons.”
At the same moment he noticed my brilliant orange pair, and we immediately exchanged a hearty wave. On top of the “wave”, our eyes locked momentarily as we passed each other, and we shared a “nod”. Within this “nod” was a profound understanding: we were part of the same tribe, and this was my initiation. Even though thousands of people were running on The Strand today, our Newtons were the secret handshake no one else knew about.