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Mismatch or By Design?

My diverseimages™ colleagues were "movin’ through Harlem" recently, and observed this young woman motorcycle rider (photos courtesy When you look at the photo of her on her bike, every thing looks fine. She appears to be in pink and white from head to toe.

When you look at the photo in which she's standing, you might wonder, "Why is someone so meticulously color coordinated wearing mismatched shoes?" To understand, you must engage her in conversation to discover and appreciate the mindset of a style conscious rider. You’ll also learn about the growing numbers of inner city riders and a little about their riding experience.

The left foot for most riders is used to change gears. Since you have to shift up and down, the tops of your shoes can quickly become worn or dirty. This leaves one clean shoe and one scuffed shoe. A problem! This is especially the case when looking good is important.

She solves this problem by wearing a Nike boot on her shift foot and an Adidas shoe on her right foot. The Nike is dark colored to better conceal the scuff marks. When she parks her bike, she is then able to put her other Adidas shoe back on her left foot when it's time to style again.

That she’s wearing a Nike shoe on the left foot is probably less a specific statement about the brand. She happens to own a pair that can address the scuffed shoe problem.

If thinking with an open mind, there is a business opportunity here. Imagine if Adidas, or Nike, Puma, or any other brand, came up with a booty or a sleeve that one could slip over the left shoe to protect scuffing. They could even put a little coating on it while maintaining flexibility. Seems like a no brainer …?

What if an Adidas branded sleeve is placed over a Nike for riders? Are you following me? Could be a huge opportunity, for not only motorcycle riders but also bicycle riders. What an easy way to get consumers into your brand even when they already own a product of a competitor? As proven repeatedly, where there is need is the place to seek opportunity.

A lesson from the visual cultural observers: The more we actually see, ask and engage differently, the more we’ll stop selling consumers what we want them to buy, and more of what they need.

Anaezi Modu
Founder, ReBrand
Recognizing the world's most effective brand transformations.