Re: [LA Times] Online Sellers See Unexpected Trend: Loyalty.

Ian Andrew Bell (
Tue, 15 Dec 1998 15:57:31 -0800

Tim Byars wrote:

> This is actually the most interesting thing here. Because what we have
> happening as the new millennium approaches is some pretty interesting
> changes in human behavior. Things like shopping malls, amusement parks,
> parks in general for that matter, beaches, and so on exist because of a
> basic human need for the "shared experience." The interesting thing we see
> happening is humans seem to have less need for the "shared experience," or
> it could be their getting it from things like chatrooms.

That's a good point. The flip side could also be true, though, with a
backlash against non-shared experience. In that case, all hail the res-
urgence of the venerable shopping mall, since that has throughout
been a comfortable place for humans to see other humans. I don't think
that VR or the Web or whatever will kill shopping malls, but it will
force them to redefine what exactly is their purpose.

I'm a firm believer that online shopping is not good for all things.
Cars, for example. You will always need to drive one, see it, kick the
tires, etc. and so therefore the value of the dealership is never lost.
The danger for the retailer then becomes that you go to their lots and
expend their resources testing the car, talking to a salesman, etc. and
just walk away and buy from some online discounter.

What will happen to prevent this is a tightening of distribution within
the car industry and more standardized pricing, a la Saturn. You'd be
stupid to go online
and buy a Saturn for the same price as the one sitting in front of you,
and so Saturn has positioned their dealerships at the back end of the
e-commerce model. Dealer's can't and don't compete with one another,
which also means that their distribution model has changed. Can't find
your colour here, sir?? I'll phone Bob's Saturn in Sunnyvale and have
it dropped off for you!

> The same goes for sports. The idea of a "team sport" and win one for the
> team is increasingly falling by the way side.

Again, a good observation. But there's a difference between what we
play and what we watch. X Games are not particularly highly rated and
literally would not exist were it not for Cable TV and the cheapness
of its programming. With the mediocre ratings they grab it's still
profitable because the athletes work for free, etc. and sponsorship
bucks from Billabong, RollerBlade, et al are free flowing. Hmm.. I
may just contradict myself here.

> Instead individual sports
> like the X-Games and focus on individual players in a team sport, Michael
> Jordon, Mark McGuire become increasingly the norm.

Here's where my back gets up, being a Canadian. Hockey is a good
example where it's difficult to find specific heroes. Gretzky was (is)
about as close as they come to "individual" play, but even he gained
most of his points from assists. Every team has a couple of super-
stars, but if you really watch the game they don't particularly stand
out in the same way that a Michael Jordan or McGuire will stand out.
This contributes to my theory that hockey will never market well in the
US because Americans like sports heroes -- which means they like team
sports that have specialists like McGuire, a mediocre thrower at best.

This goes back hundreds of years where Americans have vilified heroes
in every era, whether it's George S. Patton, Martin Luther King, George
Washington, Charles Lindbergh, etc. etc. Canada really has VERY few
such heroes, as well as a predominantly socialist value system, which
might to some degree explain why the metaphors of the team vs. team
struggles in hockey are more appreciated and more marketable.

A good example here is Nike. Nike bought Bauer and Cooper, two Canadian
companies who make their bread and butter selling hockey equipment to
people like me. Everybody thought that Nike was going to take over the
world of hockey and that swooshes would be everywhere. If you watch
Nike's advertising, it is extremely focused on hero culture. Look at
their athletes: Jordan, Tiger Woods, Deion Sanders, et al -- these
are textbook American heroes.

After the buyout, Nike hastily designed some radical skates (ie. they
had all sorts of gimmickry and didn't "look" like the other skates we
were wearing). They picked a few hockey players and paid them to wear
the skates, and started marketing the players a la Jordan. Ads came
out featuring Sergei Federov (injury, lackluster season), Pavel Bure
(season-long injury), and Mats Sundin (Toronto has sucked ever since).
They found it extremely difficult to build a cult of personality around
these guys because the team dynamic of hockey is so prevalent -- just
picking the highest scorers from last season won't cut it.

Next season they came out with more subtle skates and a campaign that
was VERY funny featuring has-been goaltenders. This was pretty good,
but the message was different from all other Nike marketing. Three
years on, they have yet to find any heroes (if I were them I'd be on
the phone to Gordie Howe, Stan Mikita, and Bobby Orr). No hero worship,
no Nike message. Now they are maintaining the Bauer brand name, and
are focusing on selling apparel (shirts, jerseys, etc.) rather than
actual gear. Their efforts have been diluted, but the swoosh is
everywhere in the game, so there is some success.

By Contrast, Bauer commercials in Canada feature the guy like me who
stays around after the game to skate laps while everybody drinks beer,
because they had a bad game. Team sports are much more revered because
it's the collection of individuals working together as a single unit
that inspires -- not the one guy who scores a goal.

Anyway, back to the point, team sports have never really been alive
in the US, but as long as there's a hero to worship you will always
have lots of people interested, out there buying authentic jerseys and
track suits.

Ian Andrew Bell
Business Development Manager 408.525.8630
Global Alliances Partners Engineering 800.365.4578
Cisco Systems Inc. .:|:..:|:.