No foot-covering, magic-inducing sneaker has ever looked as good as the Air Jordan 11, Concord blue edition. I can remember watching Jordan rise in ’96 wearing a variety of colorways of this insanely crafted and designed flying apparatus. So when the Jordan Brand chiefs decided to drop the Concord retro edition last night (well, December 23, starting at 12:01 am est), which most of us heard about as early as August, my Jordan retro crack addiction kicked into high gear.
I jumped onto nike.com at exactly 8:58 pm pst – opening not one, but four browsers – to ensure my IP address would be as early in line as possible. Nothing. No picture in the “new releases” tab; no link on the home page. 9:08 – a picture appears in “new releases”…but clicking brings me to a blank page. The site is down. Footlocker.com is down. Hordes are collapsing every possible digital outlet. I can envision millions of snearkerheads hacking nike.com, and I’m lamenting the fact that some, who Jordan brand managers from Beaverton court for their overt enthusiasm online and at sneakerhead conventions, are already in and ordering away. @dabu85 (former Jordan Brand client and one of the coolest people I’ve ever met) tweets “footlocker site down, another one bites the dust”, so I feel pretty good that even he hasn’t been able to get through.
Some perspective. There is more magic here than the mere fact that there are so many people coveting this most baddass sneaker ever invented that the Nike.com site has crashed. The brand sprung from the other-worldliness of MJ’s athletic domination and indominatable personality, and it’s now as relevant and pervasive 26 years later than it ever was. Old white guys like me still wear and covet the sneakers, millions upon millions of younger fans literally in every corner of the world can be found wearing apparel. If you’ve ever experienced MJ entering a room, it’s like the air is sucked out behind him as he enters. Think Neo, twisting around bullets. As a 25-year marketer and media analyst, and now a strategist at a digital marketing agency, [wire] stone, the only comparison I can think of to the Jordan retro phenomenon are lines forming around Apple stores in anticipation of i-anything introductions. I just can’t help but think that every brand would love to have this kind of passion for its products, for its history, for its presence, for its imagination. True, most brands were not birthed by larger-than-life, globally recognized icons. But the strategist in me thinks this is a standard to shoot for. Damn straight it is.
Okay, it’s 9:23, and I’m refreshing four browsers every 15 seconds to “be there” when the content is actually loaded and I can click onto an image that gets me to an order page. Wait – an email has arrived in my inbox from Nike: “Introducing the Air Jordan 11 Retro Concord. Click here to buy now.” Click. Nothing. Blank page. A bad joke. 9:”23”. As in MJ – 23. Now it’s 9:28 and one of the browsers connects. I am in. ordering two size 13’s, knowing I can find a buyer somewhere for the other pair. I get to checkout, click submit, and wait. Purchase denied, session timeout. It was only about 45 seconds, and I’m shut out. Try again on browsers 2,3, and 4. I get in on all three, go through the ordering process on one of them, shut out again. This browser dance goes on until 9:50, when I reboot to change IP’s and I’m back in – yes! Click through again to order 2 pairs of 13’s and…shut out again. Session timeout. Okay, this is f—ked. And I’m pissed. Try another new browser and … wait… I’m in, but no 13’s left. Also no 12’s, or 12.5’s, or any size between 6 and 15. It’s 10:23 and I’m done. I go to flightclubny.com and spend a crap-load more than I ever thought I’d have to. But I have Concords on the way, and I’m pretty damn happy. Poor, but happy.
What I haven’t mentioned is that I’ve gone through this three years in a row. Every December 23rd the Jordan team perpetrates this cruelty on willing fanatics. Lines to buy them in person at FootLockers and other retail stores stretched into the thousands here in Sacramento, and in bigger cities ran ten times longer.
There is nothing like having passion for a brand. I am fanatical about a very small group of things, starting with my wife. Ferrari, siberian huskies, Hendrix, Lance, to name some of the others. But it is an irrational thing, passion. An unwieldy beast. We as marketers spend way too much time rationalizing the metrics and analytics of marketing instead of understanding why people have, or don’t have, passion for the products we are asked to help communicate and sell. Some products are necessities; some buyers have to buy because their bosses ask them to. So passion isn’t always a part of the equation.
But I don’t buy that. Marketers, and the agencies they ask to help them connect with people, are obligated to help people tap into a latent passion they may not even know they have, generate a higher degree of passion than they currently have, or create it out of thin air. Regardless of the route or path, there is no connection without passion.
Hey Sean, Reggie, John, Gentry – anyone at Jordan... Let me into your friggin’ site so that I can feel, again, the passion!