"A" FOR ABLOH
Hey <<First Name>>,
Tomorrow Nike is revealing the future of their retail vision with the launch of the NikeLab Chicago Re-Creation Center, created by Virgil Abloh. The launch coincides with the opening of Virgil’s Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago exhibit, which details the obsessions of a seventeen-year-old skateboarder from Rockford, Illinois; and his journey from the work Abloh did as Kanye West’s creative director, the 2013 founding of his label Off-White, to Louis Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director.
Mr. Abloh is currently driving the car that’s pushing culture forward in one big collective, generational effort in a way that we’ve never witnessed before. Never has one man’s vision been expressed in so many different mediums of consumption while controlling the DNA of two of the top five most valuable brands in the world. Off-White is in a close race with Gucci to be the hottest brand in the world. He’s breaking down cultural walls through unique collaborations at a dizzying pace and designing water bottles for Evian, Big Mac containers for McDonald’s, and uniforms for his former high school’s soccer team. He’s also worked with Champion, Equinox, Gore-Tex, Umbro, Levi’s Warby Parker, Moncler, Ikea, Rimowa, Jimmy Choo, Kith, Sunglass Hut, Timberland, and the New York City Ballet.
Nike has seamlessly pivoted its core from the brand that Jordan built and is now riding with the vision of a man who is shifting how we see the world. Mr. Abloh is redefining the essence of “brand” for businesses in an era where the ability to gather, store, access, and analyze data has grown exponentially over the past decade and taken over the focus of brand building.
Big data has given companies impressive amounts of information about the buying patterns and transaction histories of identifiable customers and provided them with the ability to gain granular insights into the behavioral economics of their target markets. The results usually are metrics that allow them to reach more consumers at far more attractive rates, with far less financial risk.
Unfortunately, for all the assurances that aggregating and analyzing data provides for companies, they still face a challenge. Short-term data is easy to measure and manipulate but usually results in losing sight of the long-term effects on a brand. It’s challenging for companies to achieve just the right balance between short-term revenue pursuit and long-term brand building. Abloh’s collaborators realize that the means of communication to tell their stories are ever changing. Understanding the brand community is the new differentiation strategy in corporate development.
Analytics and data are relevant to where, who, and how we tell our story, but the actual story is what matters most. And that’s all about the brand. Virgil reminds us that we’ll always be human beings with the insatiable appetite to “feel” and, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters!