marketing lessons

Marketing has dominated headlines during the past week thanks to one ad by one major company: Nike.

The company so easily recognized for its swoosh logo, “Just Do It” tagline, shoes and apparel dropped a bombshell of a commercial last week narrated by controversial NFL star Colin Kaepernick. In a Facebook post, Adweek dubbed it, “The Ad That Changed 2018.”

As of Tuesday, the video had nearly 25 million views on Nike’s official YouTube channel. The ad has generated heaping praise and simultaneous backlash – from people trashing their Nike gear to cutting ties with the company.

Let’s step back from the politics of the ad for a second. Yes, Kaepernick narrates the video. But by my count, he’s in the 2-minute-and-5-second ad for less than 20 seconds. The rest of the spot highlights people skateboarding, boxing and playing basketball, football and soccer; athletes with disabilities; famous and lesser-known athletes; and a mix of genders and races.

Whether your reaction is pride or rage, the ad invokes emotion, which is exactly what it’s meant to do. It tells a story, the importance of which we’ve stressed numerous times and blogged about before.

Maybe your organization isn’t willing to take the polarizing leap Nike did with its most recent advertising campaign, but I still say there are lessons to be learned from the company’s efforts.

Feature people.

The Nike ad spotlights great stories. This article has a great breakdown of everyone featured in the extended ad, beyond just the recognizable faces. Some of compelling people included Charlie Jabaley, who “lost 120 pounds, became an Ironman and reversed the progression of a lifelong brain tumor,” and Alphonso Davies, who was born a refugee and debuted in the Major Soccer League at age 15.

Use a tagline that delivers.

There are several taglines in Nike’s ad I found compelling. It’s labeled the “Dream Crazy” ad and includes lines such as “Don’t believe you have to be like anybody to be somebody” and the controversial “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” What got me was how the commercial circled back to the company’s famous tagline at the end:

So, don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.

It’s only crazy until you do it. Just do it.

Strategize and #justdoit

This particular ad is part of Nike’s 30th anniversary and likely involved seemingly endless hours of planning and development. The video is also only one element of the campaign – there are additional social media strategies, print advertising and more. Having an integrated approach to your messaging and marketing is key to invoking reactions, emotions and standing out in a crowd.