Runners are some of the most loyal and particular consumers on the planet. We know what we like, and we know what we don’t like. Show up to any group run or ask your runner friends about shoes and you’re guaranteed to hear “I really wish the old version was still around. I loved that shoe! It fit really well on my foot and got me through my first marathon.”
If you are familiar with the running industry, you are probably no stranger to losing your favorite shoe. In fact, only a few staple models within each brand are likely to last longer than seven or eight years of production, turning runners into hoarders that stock up their trusty trainers in bulk. While there are many reasons why shoes are discontinued, usually the main factor considered is total sales. Simply put, if a shoe model receives abundant purchases, it is far less likely to be dropped. Manufacturers must consistently impress the consumer crowds while also providing a product that holds up to performance standards. Throw in a dash of flare, eye-catching colors or new innovative features, and you may just create the next industry leader. So, with the constant pressure to innovate, impress and sell, why would any brand want to keep a model unchanged for years?
Enter Brooks, a nearly 100-year old company that has produced some of the industry’s top-selling footwear models to date. In late 2009, Brooks debuted the Launch model as a neutral, lightweight daily trainer suitable for long runs and fast-paced training. Prior to what some call “the lightweight boom”, many runners had trouble finding a shoe that was under 10 oz for men\9oz for women, that offered enough cushioning to handle distance training and racing. At $100, the Launch fit in perfectly between the Ghost and T7 Racer models within the brand, giving runners a third option that functioned as a hybrid trainer. The Launch was quickly awarded best debut by Runner’s World the following winter of 2010, giving Brooks another touted model in the industry. As the model’s success soared at initial launch (see what I did there?), Brooks decided to embrace the philosophy “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and left model completely unchanged for the next four consecutive years. Although the admirers of the Launch appreciated the consistency, after a few years, popularity of the model declined and the brand was forced to assess if the model was worth producing.
Due to inadequate sales volume, Brooks announced that the model would be discontinued in early 2013. How did a shoe that had so much promise become so stagnant? At the same time, Brooks continued to find success with the Ghost and Adrenaline models, which left little incentive for the brand to please a small corner of their consumer market. Sad, yes, but hold your head up, this where the hero enters the story.
With an overwhelming passion, the Launch faithful blogged, tweeted, and emailed in staggering numbers. There was even a hashtag (#savethelaunch) created to spearhead the campaign. Although the shoe catered to small group, their passion for reviving their favorite trainer spread to many other runners, creating a wave of requests to keep the model alive. The voices of the devoted finally made it to ears of CEO Jim Weber and swayed the decision to drop the shoe. The Launch was promised to be reinstated. (Imagine: loud cheering and triumphant score in the background of a slow-motion action shot). Impressively, the model only missed one quarter on the market. Not only was the shoe resurrected, it received new colorways in 2013 and its first update in 2015.
As runners, we are empowered by our commitment to the sport we love. Often, the same passion that motivates us to keep going in training or on race day is redirected towards the products we love. The story of the Brooks Launch is a testimony to the passion of runners everywhere, whose voices kept the model alive and continues this day with the second version. Who knows, maybe in ten years, we will be reviewing the Brooks Launch 12!