In 2017, if you were to walk into any given public area, filled with people, and asked the simple question of “Do you know who Kanye West is?”, you’d not only get a majority vote of ‘yes’ but you’d also get a wave of different responses with regards to opinions of him. Kanye, (also known as Mr. West, Pablo, Yeezus, Yeezy, Ye, KanYeezy, The Louis Vuitton Don, and the list goes on…) has an eclectic reputation that he has built up for himself over the years. Nevertheless, everyone is familiar with him one way or another.
Now, the husband of Kim Kardashian, father to North West and Saint West, rapper and performer by day, turned fashion designer by night (with some mental breakdowns mid-afternoon), has not only given us a complete fashion line of earth colored, partially tattered or destroyed garments but also a great example of how to utilize your social following to create hype around the most coveted sneakers of all time.
Adidas x Kanye – Yeezy Boost 350
A little background, these bad boys are part of a limited edition collaboration of apparel and footwear that Adidas contracted and allowed Kanye to have complete creative freedom to design. Some say this collab was an attempt to boost sales, as Adidas was falling behind in US sales against its competitors, Nike, whom they had steadily been losing ground to, and their newer rival, Under Armour. The firm’s revenues had been dropping beginning in the year 2011, deciding that the superstar’s reputation would bring some traction. At a whopping $10 million price tag (for Adidas), Kanye designed some of the coolest, most comfortable yet incredibly hard to find and completely overpriced sneakers I’ve ever seen; they range from $300 up to $1,500 for trainers. The sneakers run on a limited release sales model – the limited quantity makes for extra limited time when so many people want them. That is, however, the million-dollar question: why does everyone really want this insanely expensive grey or black sneaker?
Because you gotta have them!
These sneakers became a sensation basically because you can’t have them, and you have everyone from the Kardashians to Jay-Z and even Anna Wintour raving about them.
Mr. West is in the Buildin’
The limited quantity model approach was one taken so as to create immense hype around the launch and subsequently the demand for the sneaker. However, there were no billboards or magazine spreads announcing the launch – it was all via social. Everyone knew about the collaboration and was already excited, because as much as he is a personality (bad connotations intended), he is an extremely popular celebrity with and immense community of fans and therefore the potential to promote the endorsement came by word of mouth. It becomes especially noteworthy when A-listers like Chrissy Teigan, Zoe Kravitz, Kim K, Kylie Jenner, Tyga and many others are acting as influencers. Not only was hype created, but with Kanye himself, in addition to all these celebrities, acting as a brand ambassador, an aura of exclusivity was built around the shoe. Moreover, the product was always in the media’s eye because these popular and frequently photographed individuals would sport the shoe and Kanye would utilize his social feeds to release previews of the line; coming from someone with 18.6 million followers, that is a lot of coverage. Upon release, the sneakers sold out in about 12 minutes (on average between Adidas stores worldwide and individual retailers).
“Yo Adidas, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish but..”
So what returns did Adidas see from their business venture? Traditionally, Adidas’ endorser structure is looked at through the lens of a fashion tech startup (with a substantial amount of funding). While the celebrity has creative freedom, they leverage data from the secondary markets to manipulate and create marketplace hype with strategic release timing and quantities. The end goal of this is to increase their relevancy in the sneaker culture market while driving 95% sales.
To achieve their goal, they build a relationship with the celebrity much like that of the music industry; there is a 360-degree deal structure where the artist has skin in the game, so to speak. They provide the artist with a support system to fulfill their creative desires, to leverage passion and ultimately a product that they care about enough to carry the brand as an ambassador. Secondly, by creating a dialogue on social media through the celebrity endorser there is a lot more traction as well as a greater ability to take creative risks (data-driven ones, of course) without really damaging brand image. Leaking images through the celebrity’s handles allows for higher potential reach than if Adidas did it themselves. Similarly, Kanye was given creative freedom on all fronts, including presentation. His fashion show launches of the last 5 Yeezy seasons are all technologically driven, using 360-cameras and other featured technologies to present the products innovatively. These initiatives have translated to the sneakers selling for thousands of dollars on the secondary market, in addition to the subsequent increase in Adidas’ market share by about 3000% in the last year.
It all seems crazy to me, as does Kanye, however, the guy has the creative knack for getting people to buy things, no matter how beige everything is.