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5 lessons in marketing from Nike

Nike tick logo sign

Founded in 1964, Nike is one of the most recognisable brands in the world. From its famous Swoosh logo and ‘Just Do It’ slogan, to its renowned advertising and long-term partnerships with legendary athletes, Nike’s marketing is revolutionary and remains a brand powerhouse to this day.

And while you might not be running a multi-billion dollar athletic company, there are some things even an SME can learn from Nike’s marketing strategy. Let’s look at five of them:

1.Engage on social media

Nike’s Instagram (172 million followers) and Twitter (8.6 million) pages are incredibly engaging, with fresh, colourful and socially relevant posts that encourage engagement and sharing. They are also quick to respond to comments, both positive and negative, the latter being particularly important. If someone posts about a defective product or poor service, someone at Nike HQ generally responds with an apology and a solution.

2. Be alert and fearless in support of social issues

Nike has long positioned itself as more than just a footwear brand. It has a record for supporting the underdog and being unafraid to weigh-in on the sociopolitical zeitgeist. For example, Nike were pushing sustainability long before it was cool. In 1993, it launched its Reuse-A-Shoe programme, which collects old athletic shoes and repurposes them into basketball courts, running tracks and playground surfaces. The programme continues today.

One of Nike’s most notable recent campaigns was its support of Black Lives Matter, starting with a controversial advertising campaign with NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2018. Kaepernick famously took a knee during the US national anthem before a game. In response to Nike’s support, some people set fire to their Nike-branded clothes and shoes or cut the Swoosh from their apparel. The following week, Nike’s stock price fell by 2.2% but online orders were up 27%; over the following three months Nike reported a rise in sales.

Nike advert showing black and white portrait of Colin Kaepernick with the slogan 'Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.' written across his face.
The Nike advert with Colin Kaepernick.

3. Collaborate

While it’s unlikely you’ll be collaborating with Michael Jordan or Kanye West anytime soon, there are ways you can partner with other people and companies to enhance your brand. Whether it’s through using an influencer to endorse your product or working on a meaningful project with another brand that shares your values, combining forces with someone with a lot of reach or to make great things shows an openness to bold ideas and will also challenge you to think in fresh new ways.

4. Tell stories

It’s not enough for a product to just be a product—there has to be a story behind it, something to relate to and perhaps stir up some emotions. Nike has been great at this from the beginning, revealing and often delving deep into its sponsored athletes’ backstories, their triumphs and struggles and what they stand for.

Social media and affordable video production has made telling customer stories both cheap and easily distributed. Did you hear back from a client who valued your product in a very unique and particular way? Why not get them to tell you their hows and whys on a short video clip, or write a little blog post about how your product enhanced their life.

Another great way to tell stories is through your own podcast—insightful conversations with compelling guests is really effective at driving ‘feeling’ into your brand and strengthening its identity.

5. Be sustainable

As mentioned, Nike were pioneering sustainability long before it was a buzzword. With the effects of climate change ever more apparent, you can no longer afford to be silent or inactive when it comes to sustainability.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive, complicated campaign, taking some simple steps in your office to reduce waste and energy, and becoming a B-Corp are simple, affordable ways to get your brand behind the cause. Studies show that, for the new generation of spenders, a brand’s sustainability and principles form a significant part of whether they choose to buy into it or not.

So, just do it…

Black and white image of man wearing Nike cap.
Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

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