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Fuelband's failure only the beginning

2 min, 40 sec read
12:30 PM | 24 April 2014

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The news this Easter weekend that Nike is ditching FuelBand was met with varying responses from media commentators. 

These ranged from theories about an Apple-Nike partnership for the rumoured Apple iWatch or future smart band (Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has sat on Nike’s board for nearly a decade), to views on a narcissistic consumerist society that has burned through the FuelBand as if it was a pointless, vanity-led fad. 

"The idea lives on. Even if the hardware doesn’t."

Some have even been at pains to point out that wearable tech should never have been a part of Nike’s business anyway, arguing that the software stacks, user interface design and data management which are associated with wearable tech are a ‘world away’ from the manufacture, supply chain and marketing process of sportswear. 

However, the most interesting thing for me in all of this is the dichotomy between the physical and the intangible, and how it’s actually the latter which is the most important aspect. 

On the one hand there’s the physical hardware – the FuelBand – with its unfussy display and clever clasping device. And on the other you’ve got the essence of what FuelBand stood for. (Which, despite the fact that many naysayers may be heralding this as the first of numerous wearable tech devices that will fall off the radar, did capture the imagination of a great many people.)

Sure, the ‘essence’ was measured in NikeFuel, which did attribute it with a certain amount of proprietary meaningfulness, but it was more than that. 

It was the physical act of ‘doing’ – the process of actual movement being translated into trackable, accountable data – which was the most powerful thing about FuelBand. 

It was the sentiment. 

That was what made it cut through and stand out in the first place, and become an area that Nike could really own. At least for a while.

"The FuelBand is but a campaign element,
a touchpoint."

Focusing on this sentiment, arguably, transcended sports marketing and data, and (for some) narcissism, had allowed the product not merely just to dovetail with the DNA of the Nike brand but to encapsulate what it is to be human: to think, to do, to analyse the outcome and to improve. 

For me, whether or not the FuelBand hardware is totally discontinued will be but a footnote on the evolution journey of wearable tech. 

The FuelBand is but a campaign element, a touchpoint. 

In a way, it’s just a teaser to get a longer-term narrative going. 

And it’s the sentiment – the act of translating physical exertion into information data to analyse and act upon – which does still seem inherently Nike (despite the glut of competitors in the sector).

Up until the release of Nike+ and FuelBand, this whole area was really the domain of professional sportspeople, coaches and niche manufacturers. 

If Apple come up with a superior product to carry this narrative, it’ll be with Nike’s spark of inspiration that they bring it to life. 

The idea lives on. Even if the hardware doesn’t. 

Written by Jeremy Garner. 

Jeremy is the former Executive Creative Director of Weapon7
and is now a creative consultant at Orange Digital.

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