It has been a while since I had no strong motivation to talk about brands and communications, trying to find my way in the Island of Malta in such an interesting industry. However, I cannot shut my mouth about what is happening in USA with Nike. Because this is not only about Nike, or Trump, or Kaepernick or Serena Williams. It is about a new era in marketing. (For the ones who had no interactions with the rest of the world in the 10 days, here is a summary.)
This may be one of the last attempts to try to make Cultural Strategy win. If Nike did the calculations right, we are about to see a new Hilltop miracle. Nike will build the ‘new American dream’… As genius as Scott Galloway says. Think about it, as the NFL season starts, there will more more and more players contribute to this campaign no matter if they are being paid or not. All the other advertisers will be invisible as supporters on social media accounts will create memes, stakeholders on sports media refer to it in their commentary… We will hear the same slogan again and again: “Believe in something”…
AND… These calculations most probably includes an intel about how many days left for Trump’s presidency. Because if they did chose such a controversial campaign in this era, I assume they did their homework throughly. Why do I assume so? Knowing how these companies function, I am sure that Nike did not burn the bridges with passionate Trump supporters. Of course they are mad now, but they will forget if no one in the White House keeps telling them what to hate. It will just take a couple months after he is gone, and all those boycotters – they will go and buy a pair of new Nike sneakers, since they burned the old one.
But what if they didn’t? What if they just used old marketing world’s measures and hypothesis and they didn’t expect Trump to tweet about just an ad campaign? In a few weeks we can spot it out if we see Serena in a new commercial giving her unquestionable (yes, unquestionable) fight for Gender Equality. There are already so many things to say about the recent happenings and there is also enough awareness behind this cause. So it is still progressive, it rides a popular and UNQUESTIONABLE tension and Serena has already proved that she is not a problematic spokesperson like Tiger Woods or Lance Armstrong.
If it is the case, I am sorry – but it won’t work. I am sorry because, that can put Serena’s cause at risk since people will not buy it. Yes, they won’t buy it. We are not living in the old advertising world, where people were supposed to accept every message you serve. And even worse than that, they are not even capable to get the right message with the highest moral grounds, they are not there to make positive assumptions about your intentions. They are after debates, quarrels, fights… They are after your blood. Because polarity is the new currency. More powerful than crypto currencies with no regulations…
OK, I will not go deep in this matter, I will save it for another post. But I want to conclude this one with one message and some fails in using Cultural Strategy:
The message is: Cultural Strategy does not work in the same speed you want it to work. So it will not make you a marketing legend in 3 years before you are assigned to a new post. So don’t push for it if risks are not very well calculated. And:
1. Be self aware:
Most of the top level marketers in multinational organisations are obviously highly educated people with a much more sophisticated point of view about the human kind and they are very progressive in the way they put their thoughts. However, their assumption of NEW consumers loving them as superior brands is not that accurate. They don’t want you to be arrogant as people or brands, you can only be as arrogant as your product. So don’t smoke weed in public OR don’t let you top level corporate spokesperson to do whatever he wants when you cannot keep up with your commercial promises. So Elon Musk, thinking that he is so cool is not that cool in this era.
2. Don’t fake:
Again those people with high esteem have difficulties to feel empathy towards the common people and they usually pretend as if it is very easy for them to understand others. Those stretch assumptions end badly if they are not authentic, especially when they amplify those assumptions with grandiose campaign messages, it becomes tone-deaf. Remember Pepsi and Kendall together starting a social movement beyond social media?
3. Don’t preach:
I think this is very clear. Please do not be that teacher with full confidence and act as if what you’re saying is not open for argument. Don’t be didactic and remember how this made you feel:
4. Don’t miscalculate just because you BELIEVE IN SOMETHING
UPDATE 9/27/18: There are rumours about Russian accounts backing up the boycott against Nike.