Knowing When Your Groundbreaking Idea Needs A Softer Touch

Vibram just wanted change how we think about shoes. They never expected they'd be drawing a line in the sand--with their toes.

The polarizing effect of new products is one of the great mysteries of modern branding. PC versus Mac. Mets versus Yankees. Chunky peanut butter versus that horrible unmentionable goo.

This was not a phenomenon that registered with Peter Von Conta while he was developing the FiveFinger shoe for Vibram. He just wanted to create a great product that re-imagined the purpose of footwear. What he quickly discovered was that FiveFingers have a real "love it or hate it" presence (ew! toes!) for consumers.

"People have a psychological block or aversion, or a real liking for what they see," says Von Conta "It’s not only a functional kind of product, it’s also an aesthetic that’s very different."

Peter Von Conta

Vibram and its growing legion of fans know that FiveFingers are a great idea, but Von Conta now recognizes that a radical first impression is not always the best approach. In hindsight, he says, the company may have done more to convince skeptics, rather than just unapologetically kick them in the teeth with a radical design change.

Bottom Line: When introducing a visually unique product, you need to bridge the gaps in perception.

Related: Why Vibram Took A Flyer On Those Crazy FiveFinger Barefoot Shoes

[Video produced by Shalini Sharma // Camera & edit by Tony Ditata]

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