How the Jordan Brand Is Remixing for the Future

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Photo courtesy of Nike

Jordan Brand isn’t what it used to be. It doesn’t carry the same weight as its parent brand, Nike, anymore. Its flagship products are slowing down; gone are the days where folks would wait in line outside in all types of weather for the next Jordan release.

Instead, consumers are doing their shopping online. They’ll spare a few clicks to enter a raffle for a pair of solid Js. If they don’t get them? It’s fine. They’ll try again on the next pair. The struggle consumers once faced to acquire a pair of Jordans no longer exists. The brand was supplanted by Adidas as America’s second-biggest sports footwear retailer last year. The brand’s sales are still down as of August.

Times and trends have certainly changed. However, don’t expect Jordan Brand to go away anytime soon. The brand is attempting to find a new identity for itself outside of the shadow of Michael Jordan and the original Jumpman line.

That’s going to take time, but they’re working toward it. How? They’re taking the brand’s classics—the ones that put Nike on the map—and remixing them into new, innovative products. They’re revamping the brand in three steps to bring back the cool it used to have.

Less Is More

First, for Jordan Brand, less was always more. The brand got big on exclusivity—a pair of Jordans back in the day was the ultimate social currency. That exclusivity disintegrated with an increased quantity of Jordans being shipped to sneaker stores. They’d sell, but they’d also sit on shelves and, both literally and figuratively, lose their shine. In 2018, they’ve cut back. And though their sales numbers are down, the brand has a more, exclusive product.

Move into the Women's Market

They’re also expanding their market to women in a way they never have before. Rather than just producing cliché colorways normally marketed to women audiences, the brand is giving them new models entirely with classic Jordan colorways mixed in. Think the Jordan 1 Rebel XX and the High Zip. And while they’ll create new models for women, they’re not afraid to reshape classics like the Jordan III and Jordan IV into new, bold colorways.

This was planned. Nike CEO Mark Parker talked about reshaping the brand last year in an interview with CNBC. “I think we move forward through the rest of the fiscal year and into the next fiscal year with the expansion of categories within Jordan,” Parker said. “In women’s sneakers specifically, and in apparel, we’re quite bullish on the opportunity for Jordan going forward.” The brand has capitalized on that in a major way, expanding its audience and creating a new path for itself through a market that had been waiting for the right product to get behind.

Take the Shoes Off the Court

The ultimate goal for Jordan Brand is to remove itself from Michael Jordan’s shadow. How? You take the product off the court. While Jordan has always been focused on making innovative products for their guys on the court, it feels like now, more than ever, they’re embracing wearable shoes that have nothing to do with performance. It starts with Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten” collection with Nike. There are three versions of the Jordan 1 available—one in the original Chicago colorway, another in the Carolina blue colorway and a final one in all white, exclusive to Europe.

The shoes have taken off, to say the least. They’re reselling for thousands of dollars, are on the feet of your favorite athletes and celebrities are wearing them. They can’t get enough of them and there may be more coming down the pipeline.

It’s not quite the same as Jordan hitting his final shot in the 14s or him dunking from the free throw line in the Jordan 3s, but the cultural cachet is still there for the brand. The shoes matter, even if they’re selling in a limited quantity. They’re making a difference for Nike—it’s how the brand recaptured the momentum it lost from Adidas in 2017.

The question most people have for the brand is whether its biggest days are behind it or not. The answer is unequivocally yes. The glory days Jordan once enjoyed are gone. Things likely won’t ever be the same. As they say, all good things must come to an end.

But it’s not dead—it’s just changing. It couldn’t live off of Michael Jordan’s legacy forever. To most of Nike’s market, that man is nothing more than a meme these days. The brand had to pivot, and so far, it’s done well for itself after a pretty steep fall.

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