Now’s the Time to Be Like Nike

by Sep 25, 2018Branding

Nike Shoes by Dorian Hurst

Now’s the Time to Be Like Nike

by | Sep 25, 2018

Nike’s Kaepernick ad shows us that it’s okay to make bold statements through what you do and what you say. But it’s not a strategy move that’s about ignoring the opinions of others. It’s really about whose opinion you prioritize and whether you’re committed enough to weather the storm.

This is hard for me. Personally, I don’t want to give Nike credit for this. I have my own thoughts about kneeling for our national anthem, and they don’t align with Colin Kaepernick.

But Nike’s smart.

If we want to be sophisticated lesson-learners, we need to absorb the lessons learned from their strategy with objectivity. No matter what you think, pay attention to how Nike handles the criticism. Listen closely, and you’ll find out how the biggest brands turn controversy–and possibly a mistake–into glory.

They Bet On the Narrative

In fact, Nike already did. They knew there’d be backlash, and they counted on polarization to make them an even stronger brand.

Put simply, your brand doesn’t have to please everyone. It only has to please the audience in your target market. You can even actively offend or “alienate” people. You just have to make sure your core audience…the audience you serve best…is in your corner.

From Nike’s perspective, the narrative is this: things aren’t fair. Colin Kaepernick stood up to that oppression and suffered for it.

True or not, that’s the narrative. Nike supports their tribe’s belief in this narrative. If you’re on the side of the narrative, you now feel like Nike stands with you.

If you feel that the narrative is false or misconstrued, Nike doesn’t care enough to lose much sleep over it.

The lesson? Let every move you make polarize your ideal audience even more in your favor.

They Listen, but Don’t React

If this controversy was about sweatshops, like it was in the ‘90’s, Nike would apologize. In that case, protesters at university campuses heavily influenced their target audience and put pressure on athletic programs. That was bad for Nike’s target audience, so it brought about apologies and damage control measures from the brand.

This time, however, it’s not about Nike using sweatshops. Instead, Nike sees itself on the other side of the issue: standing up for the little guy who’s being oppressed. Knowing their stance is inflammatory, they simply watch and learn from the public reaction. They don’t react quickly and they won’t apologize.

As a brand, Nike has grown enough to know that this is a fight worth fighting (and a storm they can weather). The narrative is firmly in place and is not likely to change soon for their target audience.

The takeaway? Your brand should watch and listen. You must resist the temptation to react. When you do, make your position sound reasonable. It’s best if your position doesn’t offend your core audience.

They Won’t Apologize

Nike thought through the campaign before they launched it. They knew there was no way things were going to turn out badly for them. They didn’t need the popular vote. They just needed their fans. That’s why you won’t hear them apologize.

Making an apology for something that fits your brand actually hurts your credibility and fails to quell the PR problem your created. It calls into question your entire brand. If you do something that’s on-brand, and then you apologize for it, you’re saying your brand is built on a false foundation.

It can be an expensive mistake, and it steals your focus until you put out the fire. Unless your brand is based on something that’s morally wrong, don’t apologize.

Brands Don’t Turn on a Dime

A brand is like a ship. And Nike is a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. Basically, it’s not going to change positions or stop its momentum on a dime.

Nike didn’t decide on this Kaepernick campaign yesterday. As a brand, they have a history of supporting or taking principle-based positions for a long time. Maybe they waited and watched to see which narrative would help them make their next move. The foundation of their strategy was in place for years. They just needed the right socially-relevant moment to launch it.

What’s the lesson here? Use the momentum of a solid strategy and authentic identity (brand) to navigate the deep waters of marketing. Be a big, heavy ship that won’t get buffeted by constantly changing winds. Even though you won’t be able to turn as fast, you probably won’t want to when your audience starts to identify with your brand’s consistent direction.

That’s what Nike did. Maybe it’s a good time to be like Mike them.

If you’re interested in building your “heavy ship,” consider reaching out to us. We’ve done things like this before.

Resound Newsletter

Get more industry-leading branding and marketing insights like this delivered to you monthly.

Our Book Is Here!

Unlock the power of authentic branding to become a better marketer and business owner.

Latest Posts

The Key to a Smooth Branding Experience

You’ve decided to pull the trigger and invest in your brand, setting aside the budget and time needed to get things rolling. Your workshop is scheduled and you’re getting excited about the future. Or maybe you’re nervous about the investment and the process. Here are...

The Simplest B2B Funnel Strategy to Get Started

In B2B marketing, we're often supporting business development funnels. Basically, we're sending traffic to sales. Those are different from B2C funnels in that we're not trying to get people to buy. Instead, we're trying to get people to get into a conversation that...

Can Authentic Brands Be Canceled?

Last month, I wrote about how authentic brands that last and endure build a loyal community. This month, I’m tackling a logical, highly relevant follow-up question. Given the polarization that’s put everyone in our country under increasing pressure to take sides, can...

Don’t Improve Your Marketing Processes (Let Your Team Do It)

With the right marketing team, and clear process improvement objectives, you can change the entire culture of your organization and get a ton done…if you know how to ask questions. Many of us are doers or at least planners. We know how to get things moving. And hiring...

To Build an Enduring B2B Brand, Start Small

A strong, healthy B2B brand builds a community.  If a B2B brand is serving customers well and consistently, and guiding its employees with a strong vision, then its community will see the B2B brand through ups, downs, and adaptations to a changing marketplace. Of...

Brand Foundations Course

How to Unlock Your Remarkable Brand

Discover Your Brand Values, Brand Personality and Brand Story to get you and your team thinking about what your authentic brand is and how to manifest it.

Brand Webinars

Learn how to develop your brand’s foundation to get a competitive edge.

Unlock Your Remarkable Brand

Want to build unlock your remarkable brand and lasting relationships, but aren’t sure where to start? Set up a call and talk about it with Mike.

Your organization is remarkable – now start acting like it.

Our new book, You Are Remarkable, helps businesses and organizations unlock their authentic, genuine, real brand identities and express them effectively to their customers.