Who invented the running shoe?

“On”: How cut garden hoses became a global brand of running shoes

Nine years ago three Swiss founded the running shoe brand "On". Behind the fire is a new technology that should allow runners a soft impact and still explosive propulsion - the first tests were still carried out with the garden hoses cut. In the new OMR podcast, co-founder David Allemann explains how the brand managed to establish itself worldwide despite huge competition and why Will Smith even ran his first marathon in On shoes.

The story of “On” starts like this: In 2010 the former triathlete and close friend of Allemann, Olivier Bernhard, came to him and Caspar Coppetti and took a shoe with cut garden hoses glued to the sole out of his pocket. After several runs with the “Frankensteinen” christened by the founding team, the three start their company On together. “The central point at On is the product. We didn't just want to make another running shoe brand, we wanted to reinvent the feeling of running ”, says co-founder Allemann in the OMR podcast. "Back then, we were already wondering who actually needed a running shoe brand from Switzerland."

The three founders name their technology "CloudTec" and patent it worldwide. This gives On shoes their very own look. The soles have between 9 and 14 cavities and should provide a different walking experience. "The sole causes a slight impact, but then the shoe still becomes explosive," says Allemann. Today, according to the co-founder, over five million people around the world wear On shoes. But how does it work with competitors like Nike, Adidas, Asics & Co.?

Retail partners and testimonials - so classic?

“You can't just put something into the world against the big brands that is only based on marketing,” says Allemann. “In every country we asked ourselves, 'What are the top five running stores that are seen as absolute experts?' And then we went running with them.” There are now over 5,000 stores around the world selling On shoes and because many local sales experts are fans of the technology themselves, Word-Of-Mouth is doing extremely well. "So much marketing has already been done with running shoes that customers don't believe anything anymore," says Allemann. "We didn't build the brand through our own word, but through the opinion of the experts."

That is also the reason why On is not available on Amazon. The company only works with retailers who can guarantee advice from an expert - either in-store or via chat in online trading. On attracts attention for the products with athletes who wear the company's shoes in competitions and through accompanying content marketing. “We don't go out and buy athletes. We wait until athletes are enthusiastic on-runners and come to us, ”says Allemann. Ironman world record holder Tim Don landed at On, for example. After a serious accident, he had to undergo a painful procedure to fix his broken neck. On accompanied the lengthy recovery with the camera. The documentary has over 450,000 views on On's YouTube channel alone.

You can hear on the OMR Podcast why Will Smith chose On shoes for his first marathon, how the brand has gained over 200,000 Instagram followers and how the market for running shoes could develop in the next few years.

Our podcast partners:

We have the absolute grandmasters in matters of CRM with us as partners in the podcast. Crossengage has been with us for a long time as a “Company To Watch” and founder Manuel Hinz was also a guest on the OMR podcast himself. His company supports you with all questions relating to customer relationship management: How do you send the right message to the right target group at the right time on the right channel? CrossEngage links the various marketing sources and intelligently networks your customer data. Do you want to find out more? Then visit Crossengage at the OMR Festival 2019 - it is best to make an appointment here at your booth. Or you can stop by the Crossengage Masterclass.

For the first time, influence.vision is a partner in the OMR Podcast. The company approaches influencer marketing from a different angle. The platform lets brands set their marketing intentions, influencers can then apply for the planned activities with a pitch. In the end, the company decides who is best suited to the planned campaign. The good thing for you: You get a 20 percent discount on your first campaign at influence.vision under this link. Just try it out.

Now we have to go directly to the men among the podcast listeners. As you may have already heard, the drugstore chain dm has just launched a new care brand for men called "seinz". The whole thing is a mixture of information platform and shopping destination for men who like to buy high-quality care products. On the internet and in almost 2,000 dm branches, you can get products for beard, hair and face from its own brand and other well-known brands such as L’oreal, Brooklyn Soap Company, Wildwuchs and many others at seinz. As a podcast listener you get a ten percent discount on your first purchase!

At the end a little reference to our friends at the Hamburg Media School. On May 29th, the colleagues are organizing the Paid Content Day - and on one day they will provide you with all the relevant information about digital content that users pay for access. You get an overview of which paid content models are available on the market, how users win and which technologies are necessary in the background - including speakers who have established successful paid models themselves. You can get all further information and tickets here - and with the code OMR_Paid you get a ten percent discount.

All topics of the podcast with On-Co-founder David Allemann at a glance:

  • The sports week at the OMR Podcast and what's happening in terms of sports at the OMR Festival 2019 (from 01:33)
  • On has been around since 2010. How did the brand become a global running shoe brand? (from 03:52)
  • What is the product innovation of the On shoes? (from 05:23)
  • Where are the shoes made? (from 08:34)
  • How did the short and simple brand name “On” come about? (from 09:07)
  • What other products does On have on the market now? (from 10:15)
  • How big is On's annual turnover now? (from 11:41 am)
  • With what levers were Allemann and his co-founders Caspar Coppetti and Olivier Bernhard able to make the brand so big? (from 12:22)
  • How exactly does the selection of retail partners work at On? (from 17:40)
  • What role do testimonials play? And why does Roger Federer suddenly wear On shoes? (from 22:15)
  • How did On build his 200,000 followers on Instagram? (from 25:17)
  • How many of On's customers are runners and how big are the fashion buyers? (from 29:02)
  • Was On able to patent his product? (from 30:49)
  • Is On trying to actively promote its shoes as a fashion product? (from 31:45)
  • What did David Allemann actually do before founding On? (from 34:43)
  • How big is the fear that On could even be a fashion figure that will eventually pass its zenith? (from 36:02)
  • Which competitors will the rise of On hurt the most? (from 37:45)
  • How big can On be in the future? (from 40:20)
  • Who were the first (secret) supporters of the company? (from 42:24)
  • Is On growing with its own resources or are further investments necessary? (from 43:45)
  • The margin for running shoes is estimated at around ten percent. Does that roughly fit? (from 44:32)
  • How big is the sales share of the online shop at On? (from 45:30)
  • Why is On not present on Amazon in the US and Europe? (from 46:34)
  • What is the strategy on other digital sales platforms? (from 48:42)
  • On has brought online marketing in-house. How is the team set up? (from 50:23)
  • Is the squeaking of running shoes a real problem? (from 52:32)

As always, you can listen to the current OMR podcast on Soundcloud, iTunes (if the current episode is not yet visible, just subscribe) or via RSS feed. You can also find us on Spotify, Stitcher and Deezer. And now there is also an Alexa Skill! Have fun listening - and thank you for every positive review.