Consumers love something different, at least some of the time. But then other times, it is difficult to get them to switch their buying habits. On average, consumers buy the same 150 items fairly consistently. That means it is difficult for new products to get buyers to shift their buying to another product.
Think about it. What are the brands you buy regularly? Now, what might it take to get you to buy an entirely new brand and substitute it for one of your beloved products? It can be tough going to gain acceptance for new products, particularly products that look as different as Hoka shoes.
In 2012, sales of Hoka shoes were approximately $3 million. A little over a decade later, Hoka shoes sales in the past fiscal year were $1.4 billion. That’s a huge jump in sales and loyalty for a very peculiar looking athletic shoe.
Everyone who buys Hoka shoes seem to like them – runners, waiters, workers, teens, even grandparents. Why? Well, the first thing is that the shoe has to be comfortable and perform as required. Hoka shoes also come in vibrant colors and have a hefty foam sole. But still, it’s a big departure from the sleek-looking Nike shoes that dominate the market.
One of Hoka’s main strategies was to grow slowly. Yes, you read that right. Slowly. The company deliberately grew slowly by keeping supply below demand and maintaining selective distribution.
The company founders also deliberately made the shoes bigger than most athletic shoes. The shoes have been described as clown-like, bloated, bulbous, wacky, and just plain ugly. But, the shoes performed. Running stores couldn’t keep them in stock. And the company maximized on direct-to-consumer, skipping the big-box stores. When the company did move to stores such as Foot Locker and Dick’s Sporting Goods, it waited until consumers already knew about Hokas.
They may look clownish, but are you ready to run in them?
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Poll students: What athletic shoes do they have? What do they like? Dislike?
- Does anyone have Hoka shoes? Why or why not?
- Show Hoka Shoes website: https://www.hoka.com/en/us/
- Why did a slow growing strategy and limited distribution work for Hoka?
- Discuss competition for Hoka.
- What are the direct competitors? Indirect competitors?
- Divide students into teams. Have each team compare Hoka shoes with a competitive product.
- Students should also develop a positioning map for athletic shoes. Where in the map would Hoka shine versus competitors?
- What are the key points of difference?
- How should Hoka be marketing its shoes?
Source: Cohen, B. (22 June 2023). The ugly shoes now worth billions of dollars. Wall Street Journal.