Online or offline?

I’ve been reading a lot of articles in the last few days on the movement away from traditional advertising media (print and TV) into the online space.

It’s happening subtly – large companies are creating spaces that will appeal to their clients, and if they can create a community then the dollar benefits follow.

An example of this new trend is Nike+.

This beautifully crafted site is aimed at the runners amongst us (I’m not included) – you might have heard about the sensor that goes into Nike running shoes and links with your iPod allowing you to track your progress. When you arrive home you ‘dock your pod’ and download your efforts to the Nike+ site, thereby keeping a record of your efforts, and at the same time collaborating and sharing with other runners – building an online community locally and internationally.

This is advertising. It may not require a click on a banner, or a commitment to purchase – but the Nike swoosh is ever present nonetheless.

There are forums, challenges, questions, support, discussions about new products… runners can join distance clubs – 250, 1000, 2000, 4000, 6000 kms…you can run alone or set targets with other runners…and users can link to their favourite running music tracks via the iTunes store…

The smallest and less distinct link on the site is the store locator…the confidence from Nike is that if users come and engage and form a habit then sales will follow.

“It’s a very different way to connect with consumers,” says Trevor Edwards, Nike’s corporate vice president for global brand and category management. “People are coming into it on average three times a week. So we’re not having to go to them.”

Nike has reduced it’s traditional ad spend by 55% over the last ten years. And from 2003 to 2006 it increased its nonmedia ad spending 33%.

So will this trend happen in New Zealand as well? From a personal perspective I’m watching less and less TV, and reading fewer and fewer newspapers (that I can hold). So marketers will be looking at new ways to encourage me to spend. How they do that will need to be smarter than banners and text links. They need to discover, then pique my interests and get me to join a community of like minded individuals…from which they can sell – without looking like they are.