The siren call of marketing

Sometimes, even when I can see through a marketing message, I voluntarily submit to it. If they have not already, academics in marketing should explore this and share the results with their colleagues in practice so that we are all obliged to buy against our own better judgment (ha—wait! That’s not funny).

This is why I own a pair of so-called FitFlops, with their proprietary “microwobbleboard” technology. Please don’t say anything. I know how incredibly stupid that sounds. But these shoes are the brainchild of Marcia Kilgore of Bliss and its cheaper cousin Soap & Glory – both companies that lean heavily on wordplay as part of their brand identity (ie, FatGirlSlim, Sexy Mother Pucker). With that kind of provenance, it’s amazing that FitFlops emerged with a more-or-less innocuous moniker.

Anyhoo. The FitFlop is purported to engage more muscle groups than the average shoe as one walks about. That they’re ugly is the price of fitness. I bought them because I wear flip flops when I walk the dogs and figured that the FitFlop at least had the potential to provide an incremental benefit over your standard-issue flip flop. And in fact, my hips were sore the first time I wore them, suggesting that they’re at least forcing me to adjust my gait. When I chuck them off to go about barefoot again, I experience a fleeting sea legs-type readjustment period. So something’s going on.

Yesterday my trainer showed me her brand new Vibram Five Fingers. Hers are black and pretty low-profile, not like the pale gray/chartreuse versions I was horrified to see some guy walking about in last year. I point this out because more powerful than any marketing message is genuine word-of-mouth. I was actively repulsed by the VFF until I checked hers out. Then I wondered if such a shoe could allow me to safely approximate the barefoot running experience. She said there was a dark pink indoor-only version and I wondered if they would be a better around-the-house shoe than my flip flops.

What?! Just last year, I decreed these the foulest shoes I’ve ever had the misfortune to see on the street. I’m still slightly squicked out by the idea of my little toes forced apart by those oddpockets. But I’m curious. And if VFF would do away with the kindergarten-by-way-of-the-spa color schemes, maybe I’d be even more inclined to buy them.

This, I’m sure, is part of some extensively documented process people go through when confronted with new products: rejection, curiosity, something here, acceptance. This pattern probably goes hand-in-glove (toe-in-oddpocket?) with the early adopter-to-broad-acceptance model of technology diffusion through the marketplace. Right? If I wasn’t running on a significant sleep deficit and all zonked out, I’d go on SSRN or something and put a name to these phenomena. Hell, even Wikipedia’s bound to yield something.

But instead I’m just going to throw up my hands. For a short week, this one’s sure felt long.


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