The superhero way of marketing shoes

By afaqs! news bureau, New Delhi, April 11, 2018
A former Nike designer uses 'The Batman Effect' to great effect while making shoes for children.
Photo: courtesy Super Heroic

Super Heroic is a company founded by Jason Mayden, the former global design director of Nike, last July. Mayden walked out of Nike when his young son developed health problems, determined to find a way to fix the problem of childhood obesity and the rise of anxiety and depression in children.

After a few years of working in start-ups, Mayden started Super Heroic, a design-led company that sells children's shoes with a unique goal: to convince every young kid who puts on a pair of its shoes that they're a superhero, capable of solving problems and saving the world. It set up what looks like a lasting love affair with children.

Mayden based his strategy on various findings, one of which came from Hamilton College and the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers there recently found that kids in costume tend to work harder and persevere more. The 2017 study, published in Child Development, coined the phenomenon the "Batman Effect."

The attraction starts at the packaging stage. The shoes arrive in the mail inside a large cardboard cylinder. Pull on one end of the cylinder, and the shoes emerge as a video game-inspired sound effect plays. Holding the cylinder under one arm and pulling the shoes out mimics the motion of unsheathing a sword from its scabbard. But the best part? The shoes come with what Mayden calls a "utility cape": a drawstring backpack that includes a cape emblazoned with the company's lightning bolt logo. The entire experience, even for an adult, is utterly delightful.

The shoe testers have impeccable credentials. Chief among Mayden's product testers are his two children. His 14-year-old son is his "pseudo head of research and development," while his younger daughter is his wear tester.

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