‘From something you say to something you enable’
Stefan Olander, former vice president of global digital innovation for Nike

‘From something you say to something you enable’

Former Nike exec shares insights on creating human-centric product solutions.

October 1, 2020

Stefan Olander, former vice president of global digital innovation for Nike, offered insights into how credit unions can disrupt the markets they serve by providing human-centric products and services that better their members’ lives during the 2020 CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council and CUNA Technology Council Virtual Conference.

Our expectations have increased dramatically through the advent of technology, Olander says. What’s more, if technology advances in one industry, expectations increase for other industries as well.

“For example, when Amazon introduced Prime, it put pressure on everyone else,” he says.

With the emergence of so many new technologies and influences such as artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, and the coronavirus (COVID-19), virtually anything that can be disrupted will be, putting tremendous pressure on organizations.

But with that pressure comes opportunity. “You have to come at it through a lens that brings meaning and true value to people,” Olander says.

The perfect example is Apple’s iPhone. Prior to the introduction of the iPhone, Nokia was the leader in mobile phone technology.

But the iPhone added features such as music and email access that appealed to consumers and soon dominated the market. “Apple identified a huge opportunity for disruption that made people’s lives better,” Olander says.

Olander also shared insights about Nike’s famed “Just Do It” brand statement, which  the company elevated from “something you say to something you enable” to touch the lives of consumers through its marketing campaigns.

“We had to figure out how to deliver services that help people get better at whatever it is that they want to do,” he says. “A brand is a promise, and this promise became one of a relationship instead of a transaction.”

Olander says Nike used data such as how far consumers were running and the surfaces they were running on to developing shoes. This type of data collection helped Nike better prepare for the digital age.

“I got asked a lot if we were becoming a tech company,” he says. “I said not a tech company, but a tech-aware company that understands how to make the core proposition better, and always done with an athlete focus.”

Olander offers several questions to consider in developing human-focused products and brands:

• Does it make people’s lives better? Companies should strive for minimal increases. Even Nike, as a sports company, couldn’t expect to create major changes in people’s lifestyles. “Small changes mean a lot as long as it’s clear what those changes are,” he says.

• Can it be explained in two sentences? Strip away anything that doesn’t add value, Olander urges.

• Would you use it yourself? “If you can’t relate to it, you’re probably on thin ice,” he says. Think Apple.

 Is it indispensable? Once you start using the product, is it hard to go back to not using it? That’s a tall order he, admits. “But indispensability can be created in small steps.”

• Does it make people feel something? “In a world where people are sitting in front of screens,” Olander says, “we need inspiration.”

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