I want to know what Under Armour wants to know

I’ve long been fascinated with Under Armour, despite the fact that I own only a couple of their products. In my athletic pursuits, I typically use competitors’ more specialized gear. But I’ve long loved two things about Under Armour:

First, their brand imagery is so compelling. It evokes power, determination, even a “win-at-all-costs” desperation that seems to slip to the harder-edged, more raw side of the friendlier Nike.

Second, the founding backstory is the stuff of legend, with former college football player Kevin Plank maxing out a slew of credit cards to start Under Armour. He struck gold just before bankruptcy. Now his $4-billion company continues its 20-year ascent and is taking on the Nike behemoth head-on.

It’s not enough just to understand your customers a little bit


 One way they hope to outsmart Nike is by better understanding how consumers use their products, after purchase. From Inc. magazine:

Early on, “the secret of our success was that we were the consumer,” Kevin Haley [Under Armour’s head of product and innovation] says. “Kevin was a football player. He just knew. But slowly, we got older than our consumer.” The company stopped bragging about not using focus groups and started tapping its sponsored athletes for product insights, sending researchers to look in people’s closets, and running online surveys. What Under Armour didn’t know with much precision, though, was how people used its products after buying them. “You just know if a person swipes a credit card or not,” as Haley puts it — and even that only happens a couple of times a year for any customer. “We call something a basketball shirt, but is the guy wearing it to football practice? Is the boyfriend shirt he gives to his girlfriend something she wears as pajamas?” But armed with data from Connected Fitness apps, Haley says, he can take design cues from 150 million people who, having downloaded a fitness app, are exactly the target audience: “There’s unbelievable data in there. You know their running pace, how far they go, how often they go. You literally know what brand of Greek yogurt they use.”

To what end, this understanding? Well, for starters, armed with running distance insights, Under Armour has developed a shoe spec’d for that distance. More such products are coming.

In other words, they’re able to use these deep, post-sale insights to provide a better experience to their consumer.

Caring about donors like Under Armour cares about customers

 Shifting from athletes buying athletic gear to supporters giving time, talent and treasure . . . what do supporters do with their giving, after the gift? You know what I mean? We see that they have made the gift, but what do they do with that experience? When? With whom?

Yes, there’s all the research showing why supporters give, how they feel, whether they’d recommend a given nonprofit to a friend, and how to improve a giving experience, and all that. I’m not talking about that. I want to know how a supporter expresses the giving to a friend, or to their spouse or child. And how the gift enters into their thought process as they watch or read the news. And how it enters into their time with God, in prayer, in the Word.

Because — we must never forget this — their giving is exceptional. It is incredible. It is — I must say this as a proud GenXer — awesome. I want to know how to extend, and even enhance, the awesomeness of that experience. I want to create awesome experiences for these exceptional supporters, so that they experience the fullness of joy that they should experience, so that they encounter God in fresh ways, and so they can’t wait for their next opportunity to give again.

How then, like Under Armour, can we understand the post-sale? How can we understand — really and deeply understand — the “post-gift”?