June 19, 2009

Nike and Nambe

Portland, Oregon is home to Nike.  It is one of the most successful marketing companies in the world, it happens to sell shoes.  Outsourcing its shoe and apparel to overseas factories has raised the ire of many humanitarian groups and consumer groups.  Nike is able to offset the negative perceptions through its sponsorships and endorsements.  Their product is good… I would not say it is great.  Nike’s marketing needs to be great, because it is a marketing firm that happens to sell shoes.

Espanola, New Mexico is home to Nambe ware.  As their website states “gifts of Nambé have been given by our governors and statesmen as symbols of New Mexico’s heritage.”  I have both given and received Nambe ware as gifts.  It is unique, cool to look at and very functional.  Outside of the “Zia”, a symbol for Zia Pueblo that is legally and illegally affixed to all things New Mexico, the iconic Nambe is synonymous with the Indian Pueblo north of Santa Fe.

However, Nambe appears to be “In Name Only.”  The Albuquerque Journal revealed last month, the “silver like dishes and house wares made from a special alloy” is actually now made in India and China.  That should not be a surprise seeing that the eight-metal alloy that retains hot and cold temperatures was developed by a former metallurgist with Los Alamos National Laboratories and manufactured Espanola… well before being outsourced in 2006.

Their product hasn’t changed.  It is just made overseas.  It isn’t the first time a New Mexico icon has been produced overseas.  The State’s flag/lapel pin used as a gift and as decorative jewelry is also made overseas.  The double standard comes into play when you have an expectation that something cheap, like a lapel pin, is made overseas.  But high quality Nambe ware is made at home, at Nambe Pueblo. 

Nike and Nambe have something in common, they are now both marketing companies.  But how does Nambe recover from this issue of perception?  They don’t have large sponsorships or endorsement deals.  However, Nambe does have access to the goodwill of New Mexico residents and tourists.

Perception is reality.  Nambe would be well served to stage an awareness campaign with the State’s Key Opinion Leaders and publically announce that it is exploring affordable options to bring some of its production back to the Land of Enchantment.  Building the grassroots support will be more powerful than any endorsement deal Nike can muster.

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