Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Saucony: Building Loyalty without a Loyalty Program.

Saucony is a mid-sized running shoe company that’s battling for customers with athletic gear giants like Nike, Reebok and Adidas. So how do they compete? By making an emotional connection with first-time buyers, and then introducing them to an online community that helps turn them into loyal customers.

Now, no one develops a loyal customer base without having a great product—and Saucony does. Their constantly evolving product line generates consistently strong reviews from customer influencers like Runners World magazine. But what really sets Saucony apart, is its engaging and inventive advertising, specifically its Web and social media presence.

Last month I wrote that the key to a great social media campaign is a big idea—and Saucony has one that starts with its general ad campaign, and is then layered into its Web and social media efforts. The campaign theme is “What is Strong” and in TV and Web spots, runners are challenged to define what strong means to them and encouraged to “Find Your Strong”.

The “strong” theme is featured prominently throughout the Saucony Web site. Runners are invited to “Create & Share Your Personal Strong” by entering the things that make them strong, including how they train and what inspires them. You can then share these thoughts via the Web site, Facebook or Twitter—and even have your strong statements made into a T-shirt.

Coolest of all, is the campaign’s interactive online gallery. You can choose to participate in, or just view, a clever and well-designed series of word portraits that show how other runners have answered the query “This is My Strong”. Call-outs include things like “6am Run”, “My Mom” and “My City-New Orleans”.

As expected, the Sacuony Web site is chock full of pages on the latest running shoes and apparel, as well as the technology behind it. But what’s compelling and differentiating here is the online community, where runners can gain inspiration from both elite and everyday runners.

The writing is great throughout, as well. For instance, the Community page greets you with language that runners (like me) just eat up: We all share a common love of running. A common pride in personal bests. A common disdain for potholes and cramping. A common interest in other runners. Welcome, runners all.

Great job, Saucony. And while I must admit to being a long-time Nike loyalist, I’ll be taking a very close look at Saucony the next time I go shoe shopping.

This post originally appeared on Loyalty Truth and was written by writer and creative director Tom Rapsas.