Nike iD Digging?

Hear’s some news via the Mass Customization blog (Link). It appears that Nike is incorporating a rating system into their Nike iD program; though currently it’ll be limited to the shoe fetishists over on the Sneakerplay social network (no offense folks, but when I think of people who get excited over shoes, that kid – the “Baltimore Stomper” – from the John Waters’ movie Polyester comes to mind). Anyway, hopefully you’ll recall my earlier posts concerning Nike iD (e.g. reLink). This is a program I’ve been watching for years, and have suggested others keep tabs on as well.

So the first thing that entered my mind when I started reading about this competition-thing was the same question with which the MC blog entry ends:

Nike takes the community, co-creation, and community evaluation idea, adds an easy-to-use toolkit to enable easier co-design (at Threadless, you have to know Photoshop), but then produces the winning design in a custom manufacturing step just for the winner.

Why not for everyone? Don’t ask me … it seems to be more like a clever PR pilot then a new business model.

I stopped into Cool Hunting (Link), which was the source for the MC blog entry, and noted that there too is the reference to Threadless (another business I follow – reLink):

You know, it’s a bit like Threadless, but with sneakers instead of t-shirts.

Then it occurred to me: this isn’t really like Threadless.

First, irrelevant of the toolset requirements, what’s important imo is that Nike iD goes beyond the two-dimensionality of Threadless or any other primarily graphics-oriented offering. While Nike isn’t asking anyone to literally create a 3D model, they have been asking users to think three-dimensionally. Yes, they’ve been doing that for a while, but it’s worth recognizing this and calling out how unlike Threadless this really is.

Second, this competition reminds me more of Digg than Threadless, because there’s apparently no intention to use the winning entry to create multiples of that product for sale to the community. Why should they? Fact is, the Threadless model isn’t the best model because it’s democratic; the minority invariably gets stuck with the short end of the deal. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tyrannical CEO deciding or the biggest faction of like-minded users, the end result for the disaffected is the same. The *best* model is what Nike already has: individual customization.

So why would Nike bother doing this? I believe they’re crowdsourcing, but with the primary intent being to gather market intelligence (with maybe a little PR thrown in). In some ways this solution is as good as a focus group; maybe better depending on their goals. And the cost: one pair of sneakers. Sounds like a good deal to me.