Jonathan Cude and Mizuno celebrate Mezamashii with the ANA - McKinney

Jonathan Cude and Mizuno celebrate Mezamashii with the ANA

September 18, 2013

At the annual ANA Members Only Conference held in New York last week, McKinney Chief Creative Officer Jonathan Cude and Mizuno USA’s VP of Brand Marketing Ahmet Abaci shared why Mizuno is the most effective brand in North America. That honor, awarded to Mizuno at this year’s Effie Awards, celebrated the Mezamashii Run Project, a word-of-foot marketing campaign that earned McKinney and Mizuno five Effie Awards. Ahmet and Jonathan presented the winning case to a sold-out audience of over 300 marketers.

Ahmet explained that in addition to simply selling more shoes, Mizuno needed to grow favorability among its target of passionate runners or, as he called them, “Running Junkies” — people who can’t live without running. But the little-known brand in the U.S. was also challenged with a less than compelling in-store experience (it’s a shoe that, at first fit, is not user-friendly) and a price tag 35% higher than average. “Add a budget that represents only 1% of industry total, and it’s a piece of cake, right?” asked Ahmet. The audience laughed in empathy. “But necessity is the mother of invention,” he said, citing Plato. Jonathan followed with a pearl from Mark Twain: “Necessity is the mother of taking chances.”

According to Jonathan, McKinney recommended that Mizuno not try to win in-store or use traditional advertising. In fact, we encouraged Mizuno to eliminate ALL paid advertising and to instead use the entire budget on a shoe trial program. “Why? Because Running Junkies know a great run from an ordinary run,” he proposed. “If they know that Mizuno’s entire reason for making shoes is to engineer more of those moments, they would be predisposed to give them a try. So our idea was this: Don’t try them on. Try them.”

Ahmet then explained the plan was modified so that the paid media budget would be cut in half. “The first half would be spent putting Mizunos on consumers’ feet in a program we called the Mezamashii Run Project, the word “mezamashii” being Japanese for exhilarating, inspiring or brilliant. The second half of the media budget would be spent making people aware of the project and get them buzzing. We know running has become increasingly social. Runners like to share, and we needed them to become our media.”

And so they did. Mizuno put 600 free pairs of Mizunos on running junkies’ feet and created a thriving community of over 42,000 brand ambassadors. Sales were up 37% in the first six months of the program, a three-year share high for Mizuno.

So what did we learn? “It’s important to give consumers a chance to meet, play and share,” said Jonathan. “By that I mean provide a platform for the audience (meet), give them an engaging experience (pay), and then impel them to talk about it (share). Remember, people are media. Pick your target — not only who is likely to buy your product, but also who is likely to tell others about it.”

Ahmet and Jonathan surprised the ANA audience to join the Mezamashii Run Project and receive a free pair of shoes. Both the client and the agency will hope to see many new Running Junkies sporting their new Mizunos at the upcoming ANA Masters of Marketing Conference in Phoenix. Here’s to brilliant runs at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa!