Music Wars: Converse vs Nike

Above: The making of the Hifana+Nike Music Shoe.

In August last year Converse stamped a giant Chuck Taylor star on the Chinese indie music scene with its hugely successful Converse Love Noise campaign, engineered by Shanghai agencies W+K and Split Works –and awarded Ad Age China’s Top Marketing Campaign for 2009. The campaign was centered around local artists in five key cities across China and incorporated live music, live art and a filmed documentary, featuring two of China’s buzz acts, P.K.14 and Queen Sea Big Shark.

Nike are the latest brand to step up and attempt to erode some of the market share Converse have established in the music industry (driven out of Asia) –introducing the Nike Music Shoe, made in collaboration with music producers Hifana, Rhizomatiks and GROUNDRIDDIM.

Nike’s ‘FREE’ Music Shoe is a great campaign. Here are just a few reasons why:

Simplicity recontextualised:
The technology fitted to the show wasn’t enough to impress the Wall Street Journal and their electrical engineer. But the beauty of this campaign (like most well executed campaigns) is its simplicity –there’s no need for fancy technology. Importantly there’s a clear cross over between the touted product benefits and the way the artists interact with the shoe. Nike found a legitimate fit between running and electronic music.

Room to riff:
There is potential for personal investment by the artists involved to extent and grow the idea beyond the expectations of Nike and W+K. Nike have selected artists they can rely on to play with the product and challenge the idea what’s possible with this simple technology/concept.

Replicatable:
Not only can this experiment be reproduced live (i.e. on stage), but as the WSJ’s expert said, it’s accessible to “every undergrad music class”. I think there’s more than a slim chance that there will me a wave of amateur footage appearing on video platforms like YouTube, featuring home made versions of the Nike Music Shoe.

The music audience targeted by the Nike campaign is distinctly different to Converse Love Noise audience. But as discussed in the article I posted last week, tribes with homogeneous interests simply do not exist. There will be a large segment of the Nike campaign audience who also associated closely with Converse –while also associating with other ‘tribes’ like runners, artists, geeks, gamers etc., in an infinite number of combinations.

There have already been secret shows and mobile download promotions through the Hifana MySpace. Where too next for the Nike Music Shoe? Will we see these shoes appearing with more artists on festival stages? Who is winning the battle for the pocket change of music fans?

Free download of the Hifana+Nike music video and audio track.