Designing Brand Experiences Online – Brooks Running

Eureka, A Great Brand Experience On-line
Much has been said over the last decade of the opportunities for brands to create on-line brand experiences that draw their tribes together, engage them and create life-long loyalists, all between watching the latest group of Philippino prisoners dancing to Michael Jackson on Youtube and updating your Facebook page to tell everyone about it. But in many ways, the on-line space still resembles a frontier town for brands; plenty of gold rush hysteria, one or two people striking it rich, and thousands more toiling away with little idea of what they’re doing or how to turn the opportunity into¬† a winner. Which all makes it even more interesting when we discover a site that seems to understand it’s role in an integrated brand communications strategy, and deliver an experience that is worth visiting, and more importantly worth spreading the new about.

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Running shoe and gear brand Brooks have created a new section of their site called ‘Running Superfans’, featuring two of their biggest fans; Carl with a ‘c’ and Karl with a ‘k’.

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Using humour as a platform to build brand personality and customer engagement, the brand experience is very much about entertainment with an emphasis on in-jokes from the running crowd. Karl and Carl deliver a site experience more like a hilarious evening of stand-up comedy than branded web messaging. The Brooks Superfans site demonstrates what can be achieved with a brand storytelling mind-set. Karl and Carl have shot a bunch of short comedy skits around running – if you’re part of the tribe, they’re especially worth a view. The personality of the brand voice plays a rich role in creating these little brand gesture gems that are resonating with their audience. The site was spotted and forwarded to me (amongst many others) by a friend of mine who as an obsessive leisure runner is dead-center for Brooks’ target market. In one of the skits Karl & Carl offer free nipple taping as a community service.

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In another, they meet-up with a running group for some midnight cross country action, only to discover there are runners and then there are runners.

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And then there are a bunch of ‘top ten runners lists’ like this one:

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The strength of the site comes from the combination of humour, production quality and running authenticity. The thing about brand appealing to tribes – and the ‘running tribe’ is a great example – is that they have a code of conduct, often a unique vocabulary, and a bunch of gestures unique to that tribe. Brands who are genuinely a part of the tribe, whose passion is tied to the activities of the tribe, who lives, sleeps and breathes the same air as the tribe will always deliver an authenticity that rings true. These brands are the natural tribal leaders. And when those brand leaders understand how to take that natural passion and combine it with pure entertainment in an on-line forum, they invariably produce the type of web site Brooks Running have produced, providing a great jumping-off point for a brand campaign integrated across a whole host of customer touch points.

If you’d like to have a conversation about how to transform your web site into a rich, integrated brand experience – why not give us a call, we’d love to help.

Dave Ansett, Brandamentalist
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Weekend Runner and Designer of Authentic Brand Experiences


  1. Dave,
    Thanks for the heads up re great online brand experiences. There is certainly a lot being touted online which is of little consequence. However, let’s not underestimate the power of the medium because of the lack of noteworthy execution. Surely, the call is for greater clarity around its strengths and better creativity in its implementation.

  2. Great spot Dave. I love how Brooks have differentiated themselves from the other running brands by creating a lighter more fun tone to their brand communication. Nike can have the serious runners, but Brooks is for everyone.

  3. You’re right Lachie. I saw Edward deBono speak yesterday and he believes humor is the most powerful of all the ways we communicate – even more so than reason. This Brookes site has enough running authenticity to hit both nails on the head – a great piece of online brand communication design.

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