Under Armour reported its first quarterly sales decline since the company went public in 2005. Media, insiders, traders, etc. are having a field day anticipating the demise and citing the causes: Discounting, declining category interest, political party affiliations, competition, the Internet, etc.
Research often focuses too much on rational thinking and thereby misses the deeper insights that come when human feelings about a topic are uncovered.
Mind The Brand
It has been said that people use products but they buy brands. Feelings are the “Invisible Language of Human Engagement” and understanding them accurately is key. When a brand is operating in an Iconic Category (that is, the brand helps buttress consumer identities), it must reflect a symbol that speaks directly to ‘The Collective Unconscious’.
The Power Within
The greatest athletes, artists, inventors and the like, have a deep comprehension of how the unconscious and conscious mind work. When an athlete or artist is “in the zone”, they are often described as being “unconscious”. They are said to be “playing out of their mind”.
Such moments have been called “peak experiences” by the humanistic psychologist Dr. Abraham Maslow.
Researching the common characteristics of persons having such experiences, he reports the following descriptive phrases: “He feels more integrated” [the two selves are one], “feels at one with the experience,” “is relatively egoless” [quiet mind], “feels at the peak of his powers,” “fully functioning,” “is in the groove,” “effortless,” “free of blocks, inhibitions, cautions, fears, doubts, controls, reservations, self-criticisms, brakes,” “he is spontaneous and more creative,” “is most here-now,” “is non-striving, non-needing, non-wishing … he just is.” Excerpt From: “The Inner Game of Tennis.” W. Timothy Gallwey, Pete Carroll & Zach Kleinman.
“Today no one pays attention to what lies behind words … to the basic ideas that are there. Yet the idea is the only thing that is truly there.” – CG Jung
Iconic brands serve as a modern talisman – a magical figure charged with the Force which it is intended to represent.
In 1996, Kevin Plank founded Under Armour in his grandmother’s basement. ‘Basement’ signifies the foundations we build upon – evolutionary, developmental, instinctual, and physical. A house is often used as a metaphor depicting the human psyche. Different rooms and levels represent different levels of consciousness and aspects of an individual. The basement represents the unconscious.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Under Armour’s most successful piece of communication happened in 2003 when it launched commercial advertisements based on the motto “protect this house.” The house is an embodiment of home – a feeling and state of safety, belonging and contentment.
Inner Stability, Higher Ground
Perhaps this is why it is said that great poetry is born in silence. Great music and art are said to arise from the quiet depths of the unconscious, and true expressions of love are said to come from a source which lies beneath words and thoughts. So it is with the greatest efforts in sports; they come when the mind is as still as a glass lake. Excerpt From: “The Inner Game of Tennis.” W. Timothy Gallwey, Pete Carroll & Zach Kleinman.
The search for more meaningful ways to connect with customers is at the heart of brand strategy. Where is the category emotional high ground located? What does it feel like when it’s as “good as it gets”?
Much of what Under Armour has done to this point resembles Nike too closely. The last thing the world needs is another “me too” brand. If Under Armour wants to expand beyond sports, rise to Icon, and potentially surpass Nike and Adidas, it must understand, reinterpret, and reimagine what it means to ‘protect the unconscious’.
Here is a hint…