Craig Heisner, President of Newton Running: the RunBlogRun Interview, by Larry Eder

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As we get closer to the most important week in run specialty's business calendar, the Running Event, December 3-7, 2013, RunBlogRun.com will be providing a series of interviews of key players in the business, for your reading pleasure and edification (this lessens the frustration of lots of time spent in airports over November and December). 

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Craig Heisner, courtesy of Newton Running

Craig Heisner is the President of the Newton Running company. Craig started at New Balance in the 1990s, with Joe Preston, then went to Reebok. After Reebok, Craig worked with Brooks, and then entered the brand consulting world. Last spring, Craig Heisner was named President of the Newton Running Company, one of the more fascinating cult brands in our sport.

Craig calls the followers of Newton, the tribe. It makes sense, as the devotion of this consumer is well known. 

With investments from Paul Fireman, former owner of Reebok and his son-in-law, Dennis Baldwin, Newton Running is looking to bring in new consumers: and that is Craig Heisner's job:  to keep the tribe interested and grow the tribe, all at the same time! 

We hope that you enjoy the interview! 



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RBR, # 1. How is Newton different from footwear companies that you have supported in your career?


Craig Heisner: I see some similarities and differences to my prior experiences with both New Balance and Brooks.  Jim and Anne Davis really set the tone for the culture of New Balance and being a part of that family feeling is very similar to the culture here at Newton with Jerry Lee leading the charge.  With Brooks, there was a great opportunity to turn a brand around and grow it and I was able to contribute to its significant success.  


Both experiences have helped me to realize what is necessary to grow a brand through patience, focus, great product and strong brand management.  The advantage we have at Newton is our unique point of differentiation from a product standpoint, our unique approach and ownership of an evolving consumer need, and our amazing tribal following.  

 


RBR, # 2. What do you find exciting about Newton?


Craig Heisner: I've never worked for a brand that has such an amazing tribal following as Newton.  Newtonites are everywhere and the stories about how important we are to them and their ability to stay healthy and run are just plain awesome.  I see more opportunity for this brand to impact people and our industry than any other that I've been a part of.  I find that exciting.



RBR, # 3. Some retailers that we speak to tell us how great Newton does with you, why is that?


Craig Heisner: First, we're focused on specialty retail and everything we do is about supporting them in their everyday needs.  Second, we're a very profitable brand for retailers.  Margins might be comparable to other brands but the profit dollars are 1.5X to 2X in most cases for every pair of Newton shoes that are sold.  Lastly, retailers who are more open-minded to the future of running and specialty retail recognize that we're a brand that aligns with where things are moving, not where they've been.


RBR, # 4. If you were speaking to retailers, why should they give Newton a try?


Craig Heisner: I honestly believe that we are the only established running brand truly committed to the running specialty channel.  The shoe walls at running specialty are really starting to look like the GSG down the road.  


To keep the "special" in specialty retail, it's important to support a brand like Newton that is evolving how consumers consider the sport of running.  


We're the originals when it comes to promoting efficiency in gait and the knee-jerk reaction all the way to the extreme of barefoot has started to settle back down to what we offer with a unique product architecture, technology platform, and brand story.


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RBR, # 5. What is changing with Newton product?


Craig Heisner: More product with a clearer merchandising story that addresses the needs of runners of all levels.  Our price points and our shoe designs have addressed efficiency and natural form running on a more aggressive platform.  While we adhere to that approach, we think there are ways to evolve the action/reaction technology to accommodate runners who might be new to the brand or new to running by offering more products that are more familiar in feel, but unique in what they offer in a Newton ride.


RBR, # 6. I understand you have brought in a new marketing team, tell us about that?


Craig Heisner: We're complementing the talent that we've had at Newton with added experience and perspective from new members.  We're also expanding on our experiential marketing in select markets by emphasizing a more one-to-one touchpoint with runners and our products and brand.  We'll launch a mobile campaign in 2014 that we think will be very unique to the industry. 


RBR, # 7. I understand that you have had changes in the design and product team, tell us about that?


Craig Heisner: Danny Abshire has been working on evolving the action reaction technology platform for quite some time and we've been able to invest in our innovation and add additional resources that are helping us to commercialize the new platform and introduce in Q1 of 2014.  We've also invested significantly in overall product designs, advanced materials in both uppers and bottoms.  We'll see more new products introduced in the next 12 months than we have launched in the prior 6 years of the company.  It's an exciting time.


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RBR, # 8. Tell us about product in 2014?


Craig Heisner: We're offering fresh new looks that adhere to the DNA of the predecessor styles, only better.  All of our shoes launching from Q1 '14 and beyond will include 5 lugs in the forefoot.  Offering a more stable platform in the forefoot in a smooth, responsive ride offered with the extra lug and evolved design.  We'll have a huge in-store campaign built around the 5-lug story in February.  We think our core consumers will love the evolution and we expect many new runners to check us out.



RBR, # 9. The Newton story is pretty technical, how do you get retailers to tell the story?


Craig Heisner: It was important to simplify the lexicon of our product positioning and technology and build a merchandising story that was more intuitive for both retailers and consumers.  To do so, we launched our POP platforms - a nod to the "pop" sensation felt while running in Newton shoes and an acronym for the true "Point of Power Power" at mid stance and toe off in an efficient gait.  We launch with the POP 1 platform  found in our new Q1 '14 products, which offers a more dynamic and aggressive ride via lugs that are accentuated more in the toe-off region.  POP 2 and POP 3 shoes will follow with unique performance characteristics that will clearly separate the collection while still offering the integrity of the Newton ride.



RBR, # 10. What kind of runner should try Newton?


Craig Heisner: Anyone can run in Newtons, but not everyone should necessarily run in Newtons.  I think many people still feel that they have to run a special way to wear our shoes.  The truth is, anyone can and should, run in our shoes.  And you don't have to run on your toes to wear our shoes.  In fact, our action/reaction technology exists in the heel of most of our shoes too, so it really is a "full foot" technology.  However, to best take advantage of our design platform, you really would evolve your gait over time - our shoes and the communication that is provided can help to do so.



RBR, # 11.  What do you want to tell runners about Newton?


Craig Heisner: Put our shoes on and run.  It's really as simple as that.


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Product shots courtesy of Newton Running


For more on the brand, please go to www.newtonrunning.com 




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