Brooks Fall 2010 – Neutral Cushioning Anyone?
Time was when Brooks was known as a motion control company and the Beast defined the company. Along came the Adrenaline GTS line which opened the brand up to more runners, but the Adrenaline offers up some serious support which did little to alter the perception of Brooks as a company for over-pronators. Then something happened. Maybe it was Berkshire-Hathaway’s investment that forced the company to look up and see that there are all kinds of runners out there to sell products to. Under-pronators, over-pronators and everyone in between can and should be your customers. Well they should be if the CEO of your parent company is listed by Forbes as one of the wealthiest man on the planet. Warren Buffet seems like a nice guy, but you gotta figure no matter how nice he appears, he still needs to see a serious ROI from his holdings which basing your profit largely on motion control and support shoes while leaving the neutral cushioning crowd largely untapped is not the best strategy to have for long term growth. Better to expand the consumer base with greater product offerings.
Over the past few seasons Brooks has introduced several models that addresses a slightly different niche within what was a fairly large gap in their lineup to see what the market responds to. In the last 2 years, Brooks has introduced the Defyance, the Ghost, the Ravenna, the Summon, the Launch, the Wire and the soon to be released Green Silence racer. This is on top of the annual updates to the old stalwarts like the Beast, Adrenaline GTS, Dyad, Addiction, Trance, Glycerin, Cascadia, Mach, Racer ST, T Racer.
If anyone is keeping track, the bulk of new introductions are targeted at the neutral crowd. The lone support intro over the past two years is the Ravenna, a model targeted at the Asics 2100 line and certainly on the lighter side of the support scale so a bridge between the Adrenaline 10 and the other neutral trainers in the line.
The Launch is the lightweight neutral cushioning model, the Ghost and Defyance are geared toward the more generous neutral cushioning crowd, the Green Silence to the environmentally conscious competitive runner looking for a neutral racer. No other company has attacked as many potential runners within a single category with as many new introductions in such a short period of time. Asics come to mind as a company with a similar philosophy of having a suitable model for nearly every runner out there, but they’ve done this gradually over many, many years. Brooks is on the neutral category NOW.
An area that needed to be addressed by Brooks in the past was clearly establishing a good, better, best story, meaning a customer could look at a shoe on the website and see design cues that make a $130 look like it is worth more than a $100 model. An important area to help establish this difference in the customer’s mind is by developing the same category of shoes at the same time so various key design elements are called out to a greater extent on the more expensive models. This has clearly been done by Brooks for Fall 2010. The shoes look great and you can see a difference between the $130 Glycerin 8, the $100 Ghost 3 and the $85 Summon 3. Additionally, the neutral shoes look like they are from the same family and share similar DNA. Is it coincidence that Brooks newest cushioning technology is named DNA? I think not.
Brooks’ DNA is pretty interesting stuff. DNA reacts differently based on the amount and velocity of the forces applied to it. Theoretically DNA provides a personalized cushioning system for each runner. For a heavier runner running at 9 minute pace, DNA would provide less resistance and absorb a greater degree of shock whereas for a lighter running moving at 5 minute pace, DNA would offer a firmer, more responsive ride. Intriguing idea. DNA finds it’s way into the higher end models for fall including the Glycerin 8 and new Beast/Ariel.
The Ghost 3 and Defyance 3 are targeted at the same crowd, similar to the Cumulus/Landreth relationship. Two really similar models in the same town means one either has to change or if not, it has to pack up and leave. No real point in having 2 models with very similar features at the same price point. It’s pretty clear that Brooks has decided who stays and who packs up between the Ghost and the Defyance. The nod goes to the Ghost 3 which receives all the nice upgrades including a super slick upper treatment, a decoupled heal tying nicely to the Glycerin 8, full length MoGo, 3 widths and 2 colors for men and women. The Defyance 3 get’s shoved to the back of the catalog with no changes. No worries really as the Ghost 3 is a very nice update. Before it seemed as if Brooks wasn’t sure if the Ghost was a lightweight trainer or not. Now the Ghost is a lower cost generously cushioned alternative to the Glycerin leaving the Launch to serve the lightweight neutral crowd. The Ghost 3 looks much better in person and is the kind of shoe that seems worth more than the $100 MSRP asking price.
Now anyone who has looked at the Dyad in the past has probably had the same thought as me, it looks like the Stay Puff Marshmellow Man of the running shoe world – heavy, puffy and slow. I gotta hand it to the people at Brooks because the new Dyad 6 looks good. It received a very nice face lift that ties in well with the rest of the line. From Wallflower to the Red Carpet just like that.
The Beast/Ariel receives a long overdue update. Gone is a shoe that screams “brick” and is instead replaced by a great new upper and midsole treatment that is much improved. DNA runs the entire length of the midsole, the Catepillar crashpad introduced in the Adrenaline 10 shows up here to improve cushioning. What hasn’t changed is the serious pronation control devices on the medial side. The Newest Brooks/Ariel should maintain it’s position as the king of the hill for the motion control category. This is another example of a Brooks shoe tying in cosmetically with the rest of the updates. While many are calling motion control shoes the worst thing ever, there are a large number of runners out there who have benefited from the shoe and given the fact many brands are leaving the motion control category, Brooks should increase sales in this shrinking category with the updated Beast/Ariel.
The Adrenaline ASR 7 is updated with the same basic design features as the Adrenaline 10 versus the Adrenaline 9 which the ASR 6 was based on. The ASR 7 receives a really cool looking water resistant upper and an aggressive outsole that should work very well for trails or for many, looking good walking around town.
The final new update is the Mach 12, available in spiked and spikeless versions. This $65 racing flat is a fantastic improvement over previous versions. The midsole height has been lowered, the upper lightened up and given an aggressive treatment, they new outsole is light and flexible. One of the better cross models coming to market next summer.
Overall, Brooks get’s a happy face for their new Fall ’10 shoes. The shoes look super, there are many new models to help meet the needs of a greater cross section of runners, there is an exciting new cushioning technology, the cosmetics and materials on all of the shoes is great. In every case, the shoes look like they are worth more than the MSRP. Brooks is building a lot of momentum. This lineup should certainly help them increase marketshare and ROI, Mr Buffet should be happy.