Diabetes and Niche Marketing

On Sept. 25, Nike unveiled what it said is the first shoe designed specifically for American Indians, an effort aimed at promoting physical fitness in a population with high obesity rates. The Air Native N7 is designed with a larger fit for the distinct foot shape of American Indians, and has a culturally specific look. The N7 name is a reference to the seventh generation theory, used by some tribes to look to the three generations preceding them for wisdom and the three generations ahead for their legacy.

The design features several “heritage callouts” including sunrise to sunset to sunrise patterns on the tongue and heel of the shoe. Feather designs adorn the inside and stars are on the sole to represent the night sky.

I would call this a great example of micro-niche marketing. I would also call it a brilliant publicity move by Nike.

Biggest niche market ever

Why not be like Nike?

Diabetes and the diabetic population could be considered one of the biggest niche markets today. Everyone and their grandmother is jumping on the diabetes marketing bandwagon. On www.monster.com and www.careerbuilder.com, there are job openings specifically listed as “diabetic marketing managers.” The diabetic market overall is booming.

But what about the niches?

Niche marketing
© 2007/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Although diabetes is a global epidemic, remember, we’ re talking about niches here.

For Native Americans, African Americans and Hispanic Americans – what are the “heritage callouts” you are using when marketing your products and services to these populations? Are your care and use guides in Spanish? Have you noticed and accommodated physical needs and differences – like Nike – and communicated the fact that you are aware of and designed your products and services to meet these needs?

Customer relationships

The American Marketing Associations’ definition of marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.

Health care providers are stakeholders in the care of their patients with diabetes. They are also your customers. Create, communicate and deliver value with your niche marketing efforts.

Who are two primary stakeholders? They are diabetic nurse educators and primary care physicians. Did you know that primary care physicians are the number one provider of diabetic care, managing 90% of care? If the stakeholders are convinced of the value you are offering, you have succeeded. The publicity or awareness generated by successful communicating can be worth its weight in gold.

Case in point. Stakeholders in the Native American community had this to say about Nike’s Air Native N7 shoe.

Kelly Acton, MD, MPH, director of the national diabetes program for Indian Health Services, said she was dubious of working with a corporation at first but said she was delighted with the result, saying Nike “‘bent over backwards’ to design a shoe and respect public health needs.”

John Dickson, a member of the executive council of the Native American Leadership Alliance in Washington, D.C., said in a news report on www.yahoo.com, “The reason I like it is that, even if there is not a big Native American market, it gives people the impression there is a constituency that deserves attention.”

Financial opportunity

According to Nike, the company anticipates selling at least 10,000 pairs and raising $200,000 for tribal programs. At $42.80 wholesale, it represents less of a financial opportunity than a goodwill and branding effort.

Nike gets it. They realize that there are other markets out there similar to the Native American market, like say, the worldwide diabetic market. Don’t be surprised if, after they have ridden the Native American wave, Nike debuts a diabetic sneaker.

Niche and grow rich, right?

For more information:

Elizabeth Mansfield

Elizabeth Mansfield is the president of Outsource Marketing
Solutions. She can be reached at.elizabeth@askelizabeth.net.

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