Nike Just Does It, while others don’t

Allan Dib
By Allan Dib | 3 June 2020
Allan Dib

Allan Dib, strategist and champion of consumer centricity

Nike has done it yet again. They have authentically responded to a cultural protest movement in record time. The response was so good that even Adidas retweeted the video.

I am always in awe of how quickly they can respond to an ever-changing environment– this video was released just days after the riots began (most brands would still be thinking about writing a brief).

Every brand aspires to respond to cultural moments in real-time. Who does not wish to have a show-stopping response like Oreo did during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout?

Every agency pitch talks about the importance of immediate response and action, but somehow it never ends up in the actual plan. Why? The rollout is not easy.

Planning for Cultural Crises
80% of crises are known. Brands that want to respond quickly need advanced planning. Companies are often over prepared for a product, brand or corporate crisis, yet many fail to plan for a cultural one. The cultural crisis management blueprint should include several scenarios and outline who needs to be involved, pre approved messaging and how to directly go-to-market.

Racism in the United States is, unfortunately, an ongoing issue and is displayed throughout its history. Prior to now, Nike had already supported those that take a stand against police brutality and the killings of innocent black men. Therefore, as a brand, Nike was ready to immediately implement a strategy to respond to the riots and protests.

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Know your customer as humans
Brands do not have time to test messages with consumers. Understanding customer buying habits is crucial for a brand.

However, knowing your customer's core values and aspirations is essential for growth and long-term success. This knowledge is critical to minimise any risk in alienating customers, especially in a response to cultural moment.

There are two sides to racism. Nike's messaging aligns with their customer's values; they knew they would defend the brand in social media. 

Living through your brand purpose
Every brand has a brand purpose. Therefore, all messaging should align with the brand purpose. If the messaging does not support the brand purpose (i.e., trying too hard), it will not be considered authentic, and the public will view it as trying to profit from a crisis.

Unfortunately, Pepsi learnt the hard way.

"NIKE's purpose is to unite the world through sport to create a healthy planet, active communities and an equal playing field for all. These are more than aspirations – they are foundational priorities that shape decisions across every aspect of our business."

Several companies in the US have come forward with statements in the past few days supporting diversity and inclusion.

However, the statements felt dry, like the corporate affairs (and the legal team) talking to the American people. But Nike's message felt compassionate, as though the entire company stood behind their customers during a time of need and uncertainty.

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Is this activation going to change racism in the US? Probably not, I don't think people expect it to.

Will this change people's attitudes towards Nike? Probably not – this messaging aligns with the core values of their brand.

Is this going to strengthen their customer-brand relationship? Yes. Why? Because they are giving their customer a meaningful voice in a time when people feel their voice does not matter.

The majority of Australians want brands to respond to cultural crises. There is definitely a first-mover advantage for brands that do. There is an opportunity to "own" the conversation.

Nike and brands that respond to cultural crises are those who "own" the conversation during a crisis. We have seen that in Australia during the COVID-19 crises and with the bushfires over the summer.

The time to prepare for your response to a cultural crisis was yesterday. But now is a better time to start than tomorrow.

Allan Dib, strategist and champion of consumer centricity

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