“For something this complicated,” he continued, “it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Just to be clear, I wouldn’t endorse a company that treats research and development like a blind date—and as a brand’s creative, neither should you. But audience targeting often has to make predictions beyond preconceived notions, and in this respect, Jobs painted an entirely new picture of where consumer demand comes from. We’re here to talk about health and fitness, though, and an approach to design that started in computers and has since found its way into a pair of running shorts.
In my last post, I described how STACK’s athletic content earns identity and longevity by trying new things that key off of current societal or budgetary constraints, proving the value of these three things:
To prove the second one, we’ll take a look at Oiselle, a women’s sports-apparel company whose demographic I am inherently unqualified to write about, but whose approach to the industry is beneficial to every content creator.
Although most sports brands have an endless amount of shorts, tights, half-tights, jackets, half-zips, quarter-zips, singlets, and the like for both men and women, their products are rooted in an industry that prioritizes function over fashion. And to a certain degree, there’s nothing wrong with that. But then it gets weird: When your endless stock of all-purpose, often unisex outerwear identifies with an audience targeting everyone, it must be tailored to fit everyone. For those with hips, curves, or petite frames, I can only imagine the inconvenience.
This trend does a few things that work against female athletes, specifically rendering shorts “too poofy, too baggy, too high-waisted, and all wrong in the color department,” Oiselle founder Sally Bergesen observed. More to the point, it makes for a product that just happens to match the average male physique, yielding a double standard by which one can be considered athletic and stylish at the same time. And unfortunately, enough people see it as the norm (Acura reinforced that mindset in a commercial featuring Olympic skier Ashleigh McIvor three years ago).
Enter Oiselle, whose female-specific wardrobe embraces designs that level this playing field. The company even makes appearances at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City, allowing its sponsored athletes to further the brand’s gender and contribution to personal empowerment. Several of them (team pictured here, courtesy of Oiselle.com) also blog on the company’s domain. And as obvious as the problem may have been to Bergesen—who has done branding work for the likes of Nike, according to Runner’s World—it’s easy to be satisfied with the clothing you have, especially if it’s nothing more than a workout kit (angry refutes welcome in the comments below). As one blogger put it, “the Rogas [product line] convinced me it was finally safe to wear running shorts in public,” something that presumably went against routine.
That routine is what made it an opportunity. Oiselle wasn’t necessarily meant to answer an overwhelming demand, just like your written content doesn’t depend on interests users have already expressed. Ideas like the Roga shorts or even the original iMac are valuable not because they make customers collectively think, “Wow, finally,” but because they prompt the feeling of, “Wow, I want that now.” As one designer once said, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
Echoing Jobs’ old philosophy at CMWorld 2014, Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping, said “If you tell the right kind of story, you can send people on a journey where they take action they never expected, or buy something they didn’t know they wanted.” This is where cases like Oiselle can influence brand journalists. Good audience targeting doesn’t just realize customers in need; it gets customers to realize a need as a result. Find something everyone takes for granted and talk about it. Pivot off a high-ranking keyword and add useful features to it. Don’t they say the best relationships are the ones where you basically finish each other’s sentences?