I haven’t read Guy Kawasaki’s new book Enchantment yet, and I’m told it’s a goodie? There’s a chapter in it that caught my attention a week or two ago, listening to Rod Charlton talk about the Vibram Five Fingers I was wearing. My Five Fingers have been a talking point (from anyone and everyone who feels like you might have 1 second to explain the strange apparatus on your feet) since I began wearing them.
I’m going to have to read Kawasaki’s book to understand the full context, and while Matt’s story below is not necessarily a deep and challenging read, it’s a reminder about a few important elements that make marketing a product, a service and even a person important if you’re looking to get some attention.
My Personal Story, by Matt Maurer
Matt Maurer is an entrepreneur and former venture capitalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. In his personal story, he explains how Vibram launched its unusual running shoe.
I CONSIDER MYSELF AN EXTREMELY SKEPTICAL CONSUMER, HAVING fully surrendered to a product only once in the last decade—to a pair of shoes, of all things. It happened while I was chugging along through the park, nearly finished with a morning run, when another runner passed by in the opposite direction.
He wore the strangest shoes if you could call them shoes which looked like a cross between a toe sock and a flip-flop. They didn’t even cover the tops of his feet, and I could see each toe outlined in its own little pocket.
I thought back to a recent conversation with a friend about how we both preferred barefoot beach running to shoe-clad road running, and something just clicked in my mind. I actually pulled a one-eighty and ran this guy down tapping him on the shoulder and giving him a start.
Apologizing, I asked about his shoes, and he launched excitedly into an explanation of something called the barefoot movement and theories about how traditional running shoes can sometimes over support a per-son’s natural movements, altering the stride and increasing injury potential. At first, I just thought this guy had bought into some marketing gimmick, hook, line, and sinker; but as we talked, he revealed sound logic behind his theories and totally challenged what I thought I knew.
I was so intrigued that I searched everywhere for a pair to try on. No luck— apparently the company was shipping them in slow strategic waves, which made me resolve that if I found them anywhere, I would instantly pony up. Sure enough, two dozen calls later, I found a single pair at a runner’s shop…. in Ohio.
I don’t know what captivated me more, counterintuitive claims against traditional shoes or the perceived scarcity of the product, but I know what sealed it, they actually worked. Not only did these things emulate bare-foot running anywhere, but my come-and-go-again shin splints finally went for the last time.
In fact, speaking now as a full convert, I can say that the only feature of the Vibram Five Fingers that tends to hinder my running is the tendency for other runners to stop me and ask, “What on earth are you wearing?” or now, the more common, “Do those things actually work?”