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Seeing opportunities beyond your frame of reference

February 10, 2009

Good piece in Business Week by Alonzo Canada of Jump Associates about how companies can see expansion opportunities beyond their core area of business.

“Their Explore team was given the audacious task of helping Nike become
a sports company. The team met the challenge by creating a map to
identify the richest opportunities, define a strategy for growth, and
set first steps toward a future vision. The map helped the team see
product beyond shoes, such as sunglasses, watches, MP3 players, and
sports apparel. The data on their map included consumer needs, societal
and technology trends, and Nike’s chief competitors, adidas, Puma, and
Reebok. It also included indirect competitors such as MTV, because it
offers a rival option for what kids can do after school: Nike wants
them playing sports; MTV wants them parked in front of the tube. By
drawing such a comprehensive map, Nike was able to consider new
directions, such as partnerships that marry sports and digital
entertainment like its successful Nike + iPod platform.”

Clearly, looking over the horizon and exploring all the possibilities is a way to see opportunities, but this no test of whether a brand can credibly stretch into these new areas. Much work has to be done to understand the strength and equity of the brand and it’s ability to expand into other areas.

In addition, rather than rely on existing published data about surrounding markets, it would make sense to talk leading edge opinion leaders in these areas and in other fields to get some speculative understanding of how the shape of this map could change.

It’s also further proof that strategists increasingly need great designers to bring their thinking and ideas to life.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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