A Force of Nature: The Nike Free Stride Experience

Earlier this week, I had an incredible opportunity to combine two of my biggest passions. As you’ve probably guessed, shopper marketing is one of them – it’s a field I love thinking, talking, and writing about. I’m also an obsessed runner. So when presented with the opportunity to take part in an innovative launch event for the new Nike Free running shoes, I jumped at it. The Nike Free Stride Speed Run is part product demo, part group treadmill workout, and a completely immersive experience.


To generate interest, Nike kickstarted the Free Stride experience by tapping into it’s NikeNYC Run Club, a training group for runners of all skill levels in major cities across the U.S., by sending members an exclusive early access invitation. Nike also leveraged its local coaches as brand ambassadors, encouraging runners to sign-ups during training sessions and sharinge the experience across social media, a tactic that has proven successful for cultish cycling studio Soul Cycle.



There is no escaping the Free Stride Experience at Nike’s flagship retail store in New York City.  There is amazing stopping power in five runners hammering on treadmills – music blaring – in front of a jaw-dropping, two-story LED screen.  All along the stage, Nike Free running shoes are displayed pedestals and with plenty of room to stand and watch, shoppers gather and turn into spectators.


As I get ready to start my own Free Stride experience, I check-in and am escorted to a changing room and outfitted for my workout.  Nike associates explain the key product features of the new Nike Free and ask questions about my running preferences to help select the best style for me to demo during the workout.


The workout itself, a grueling set of speed intervals, is guided by both the massive LED screen and Nike coach. Sight, sound, and motion work together to create a completely immersive experience for runners and spectators alike. As we move through exotic, environments created by the LED screen, LED lights in the floor change and pulse to the beat of the music while nature sounds are subtly mixed in. I actually feel transported to the places on the screen in front of me and despite the intensity of the workout, I find a huge grin on my face.

The workout ends, high fives are exchanged and we return to the changing area. This is a perfect occasion for Nike associates to chat with us about how the Nike Free’s felt during the workout. It’s easy to forget this is a selling occasion for Nike but throughout the experience, the branding and selling all feels very subtle. I don’t feel pressured, but there are certainly clear buying opportunities and Nike associates made sure we walk away with a fantastic understanding of the product.


Nike is able to extend the reach of the Free Stride experience by “evangelizing” Free Stride participants into social ambassadors. Photographers and videographers capture each session and participants receive a post-event email recap complete with links to download photos and videos from their session. By providing social media worthy assets and encouraging sharing using designated hashtags, Nike can effectively turn the early adopters into the social influencer’s for the next wave of runners.

In the end, it was an incredible experience to have been a part of. The Nike Free Stride Speed Run is a beautiful case study in blending product demos, social influencers, experiential marketing, and retail technology into one integrated experience. It will be exciting to see if this strategy is employed in future launches. The marketer and runner in me certainly hopes it will.


Games, Guardians, and Grumpy Cat @ Toy Fair 2014!

The 112th annual American International Toy Fair came together in New York Feb. 15th – 20th, with more than 1,000 exhibiting manufacturers, distributors, importers and sales agents from around the globe to showcasing their toy and entertainment products. Among the big trends happening in the coming year are hot “mature”  TV shows, such as Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead, supplanting movies as the buzz-worthy toy licenses.

Another ongoing trend is “Boys Toys for Girls”, following the publicity garnered by GoldieBlox last year, many manufacturers are taking traditional boys’ toys such as building blocks and combat weapons and putting a female spin on them to allow your daughters’ entry in the neighborhood Hunger Games reenactments. And we’re always happy to see Grumpy Cat, even if she doesn’t seem particularly thrilled to see us. Check out all this and much more in our recap video tour of Toy Fair 2014!

The Retail Update: New York City

I’m not a native New Yorker nor have I been living in this city for a very long time.  I still gawk at tall buildings and think “street-cart hot dogs” are an acceptable snack.  As a marketer, I also get excited every time I stumble upon a staged PR or experiental marketing experience.  But as a shopper marketer, it’s the numerous retail flagships, pop-up stores, and cutting edge boutiques that NYC attracts that make this a fascinating place to live and work.  This past weekend, while walking around near the Flat Iron district, I stumbled upon two shops that caught my attention.  Check out the photos and summary below.

The Nomad: Wondering Fashion Boutique (www.thenomadtruck.com).  Mobile retail, but in the physical, not digital sense.  While the idea of “mobile commerce” isn’t new, this example was done very well.  Much like the food truck movement, The Nomad relied heavily on social media to update followers with schedules and location details (follow @thenomadtruck).  I also can’t help but point out that the other kind of “mobile commerce” has enabled the growth of this type of retail model.  Mobile commerce apps such as Square have made it easier for pop-up stores to get economic scale by moving beyond “cash only” transactions.

Divine Details: A shop for the [extra]ordinary (www.facebook.com/divinedetailsshop).  I found this space really interesting.  Billed as part art gallery, part pop-up store, Divine Details celebrated the art of design with functional, minimalistic products for the everyday (think MoMa Design Store www.momastore.org).  This was also every copy-writers dream with each item displayed accompanied by an eloquent back-story that would make J. Peterman proud.  Every item was also available for sale-just flag one of the associates walking through the gallery with tablets to order.  In the photos below you will also notice the lone “branded” product-a cup of Chobani yogurt.  This gallery was sponsored in part by Chobani.  An interesting tie-in by the Chobani brand, who clearly wants to be viewed as a design focused company.

Seen something cool in the retail world in NYC or elsewhere?  Leave a tip in the comments section and let us know.


Retail love. This is something I understand and clearly something Zara does, too.

How does Zara show New York Its love? Let me count the ways:

  1. Leases-up a big store on NYC’s Fifth Ave
  2. Creates a chic in-store experience that lets the shopper feel the love simply by walking around (black & white interior, catwalks, etc…)
  3. Is GREEN (motion-controlled lighting in restrooms, biodegradable plastic bags, uses 30% less energy than a conventional shop, and 70% less water)
  4. Delivers new, on-trend merchandise twice-a-week
  5. Pays personal tribute to NYC with an original content movie on it’s website entitled “Dear New York,” that uses all kinds of objects to build and rebuild the city’s skyline.
New Yorkers and visitors to NYC will also love the international flair of Zara, a bit of Spain right here in The Big Apple, the same way they enjoy a bit of Japan at Uniqlo, or Sweden at H&M or the UK at Topshop. It really is a small (retail) world.