Adidas on failing fast and creating a ‘kick-ass’ customer experience

Adidas is moving away from trying to “fix everything”, instead working out where it can add the most value to the customer experience both online and in-store.

Adidas’s casual sportswear line Adidas Originals has a brand ethos of fail fast, ‘fess up and be realistic about what you can actually fix. That is according to its global director of digital and retail marketing, Swave Szymczyk, who returned to Adidas last summer to make sure the German brand is creating a “kick-ass experience” for its customers built on the big ‘t’ word: trust.

What that translates to in reality is testing a lot of things quickly to figure out what works and what doesn’t, being honest when you screw up, and focusing on a fewer specific things that the brand can do better, rather than trying to make everything work.

“We will mess up as brands. It’s like communism; great in theory but you add humans to it and it’s never going to work. Some things will work brilliantly, some will fail miserably and that’s OK,” Szymczyk told Marketing Week at an event in London this week, hosted by Adidas’ creative agency Intermarketing.

“What that means for us is being consumer-centric and consumer-first and being able to personalise messages and have a personal relationship with the consumer. It’s knowing enough about them to be relevant to whatever relationship they want to have with us.”

The challenge is that the relationship Adidas has with its customers, as with many brands, is no longer on its own terms. And that companies such as Amazon are raising the bar on what that relationship looks like.

READ MORE: Adidas on the power of using micro-influencers in long-form video

“Because of the Amazons in the world, customers are expecting that we become more and more personal. But if we’re being honest with ourselves – especially companies that are going through digital transformations – it’s really difficult for us to get to that level of personalisation customers want,” said Szymczyk.

“I’d love to say that for us as a brand we’ll get there tomorrow. We have mountains of data, but it’s going to take a bit of time for us to sort out.”

Using technology as an enabler

Szymczyk believes technology will play a crucial role in Adidas’s future both on and off the high street. That shift comes as people increasingly shop online, meaning brands vying for scarce consumer attention need to ensure the in-store experience offers something engaging and meaningful.

Ultimately, Szymczyk said the successful retailers will be the ones that have a consumer-centric point of view rather than a brand purpose point of view.

“Stores will change, there will be less products, there will be more interactions in stores. For bigger brands like Adidas it will be about providing more and more of those interesting, creative experiences that actually mean something to the consumer,” Szymczyk explained.

“And we will genuinely use technology as an enabler for that, but we won’t use technology for technology’s sake. It should be there to help and be the full experience.”

One thing Adidas won’t be doing is cutting prices to compete, focusing instead on its brand and customer experience “to win”.

“We know on our site and in our stores we’re never going to be the cheapest but that’s fine because that’s not where we’re looking to win. We’re looking to win with experience, telling a genuine Adidas story from start to finish – that’s our playground and that’s where we need to win,” Szymczyk said.

“Some retailers will trade on volume and that will be it, but other retailers will be more premium in that space and they will really look at how they can make people’s lives easier and build affinity for their brand.”

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