Almost two years ago, I wrote about the rising toning shoe category that Skechers created with their Shape-Ups brand. Back then, I wrote how it was great strategy by Skechers to create the sub-category and I also applauded Nike for not, pardon the expression, running into the mix despite the category exceeding $1 billion in 2010.
So just like the consumers who bought the shoes, unfortunately I neglected the obvious questions in 2010, too busy praising them executing a great strategy that I ignored this miracle shoe's too-good-to-be-true claims.
However, consumers learned quickly that toning shoes were built on promises they couldn't keep, thus leading to Skechers recent $40 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission to exonerate themselves from charges of false advertising. Meanwhile, Reebok settled their false advertising claims for $25 million. The empty promises made were that toning shoes somehow activate key muscles differently and that people wearing the shoes could "shape up while they walk." An investigation into such claims also lead to the discovery that a chiropractor who supported these claims in a independent (wink!) study was married to a Skechers employee.
Legendary ad man Doyle Dane Bernbach famously said that "a great campaign only makes a bad product fail faster." So will lying about what a product can do. That creates lawsuits which only accelerate the failing process. Lawsuits get products pulled from shelves and employees fired without hesitation. Although, Reebok said they still believe in the toning shoe category.
I just don't know if I want to believe them. I too wouldn't want to relinquish category leadership so easily. But without the promise of building a great butt without breaking a sweat, all they have is a really ugly pair of shoes. I think it's going to be very interesting to watch where Reebok and Skechers take the toning shoe category next.