Loyalty Lets You Run with the Elephants

Oct 25, 2004

By John Hennessy

In Cool News of the Day, at Reveries.com, editor Tim Manners covers an interview on loyalty with Saucony CEO John Fischer.

Saucony (SOCK-a-knee) is a $136 million running-shoe company. While small compared to $12.3 billion Nike and $7.9 billion Adidas, it looms large in its ability to “create a little
charisma and ask for loyalty,” according to CEO Fischer. He says the key is “to define your industry… Find a niche. The loyalty component is more important with niche players
than it is with a large player.”

Fischer continues, “We are not just in the athletic shoe industry, but in a tight and defined subset: the specialty running shoe. In that subset, we are probably in the top five.
If you’re No. 5 and your slope lines are approaching No. 4 and No. 3, yes, you can compete. Otherwise you’ve got real issues.”

Fischer wants his mega-rivals to do well because that means the industry is healthy for Saucony too – and fears not Nike because Saucony’s customers are, “extraordinarily
loyal.” “Smaller companies” says Fischer, “can compete by … doing a lot of grass-roots and guerilla marketing.”

Moderator’s Comments: Can anyone find a niche and create the kind of loyalty enjoyed by Saucony? Who are some retailers
who are unafraid of the big boys because of the loyalty they have engendered with their customers? How’d they do it?

Saucony’s CEO offers a very interesting take on loyalty, namely, that it’s more important for the little guy than the big guy. It certainly appears that,
as firms grow, too often the practices that fed the growth and fostered customer loyalty are discarded or watered-down. The focus turns to efficiencies and cost cutting, and away
from personalization and superior products and services. Smaller companies seem to keep better watch over customer-related issues.

John Hennessy – Moderator

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