In this guest post, creative and strategy director at WE Buchan, David Coupland (pictured below), takes a look at the fallout from Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign and says what it also does is show the importance brands now play in our lives…
Nike’s decision to feature Colin Kaepernick as the face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign has ignited a worldwide debate: ‘should brands take a stand?’ This debate has entered the mainstream and become memetic, spilling across the globe, funding hours of TV debate, online chatroom disputes, social posts and watercooler chat (I’d suggest that nowhere more so than in communications agencies).
However, the campaign itself didn’t surprise me, rather the ongoing intensity of the debate. Given the steady shift in our culture where consumers are increasingly demonstrating their preference for brands to stand for something bigger than simply producing products, why has this campaign been so shocking?
Yes, Nike selected the face of a rightly contentious and sensitive issue (racial inequality) within the context of a particularly divided society (the US) led by a contentious celebrity president, but this isn’t new from Nike who has championed contentious issues in the US before. In fact, this tactic is baked-in to Nike’s original principles drafted by the late Rob Strasser, Nike’s first head of marketing, in which he declared: “This is as much about battle as about business”, “It won’t be pretty” and “If we do things right we’ll make money damn right automatic.”
What has surprised me, is how this campaign demonstrates the complex role that brands now play in our lives, and how reliant we have become on our favourite brands to provide stability in an increasingly turbulent world. The geopolitical landscape, hidden recession and changing social and racial landscapes may scare me, but at least I know my Nike shoes will make me look cool or provide me with support as I run; I can at least rely on that!
And so, for many people, their reaction to Nike’s campaign was more akin to trauma, or hurt, than it was a reaction to political offense. It was like hearing a beloved friend say something you didn’t want to hear. And as such, reactions were based on passion, not reason, creating a polarised response. Some ripped the ‘swoosh’ off their socks and burnt their trainers; others wore their Nike jersey’s as a statement-uniform.
So as communicators, how do we make sense of this? What can we learn from this reaction? Well, our recent Brands in Motion study of 27,000 consumers across eight markets identified that more than ever, our relationships with brands is increasingly fluid. A majority in six of the eight markets we surveyed said they prefer to support brands that strike a balance between functionality and purpose — brands, in other words, that know what they stand for, and act like it.
We also found 72 per cent of Australians want brands to take a stand on important issues (up four points since 2017). If an issue important to your customers becomes a topic of national conversation and a brand sits on the sidelines, you’d better believe that those customers will notice.
As such, consumers’ relationship with brands is delicate; love you today, shame you tomorrow. If a brand oversteps or underperforms on their emotional and rational duty, their consumers will happily shame them. Conversely, if a brand behaves as we expect, and takes stand on issues we identify with, their consumers will shower them with love and support.
This means the expected notion of traditional consumer loyalty, or brand positioning, is evolving. We must work harder to earn and retain customers love, be more agile and competitive in our insights, and be prepared to counsel clients on why it’s important to stick to a core belief even when the repercussion may offend those who do not agree.
Which brings me back to Nike.
It wasn’t surprising that they took a stand on a contentious issue, but more so that they did knowing they would lose the support of customers who disagreed. But then again, who would they be if they didn’t believe in something at the risk of sacrificing everything. They just did it.
Levi Slavin, former CCO of Colenso BBDO, has been appointed Howatson+Company’s new chief creative officer following the sudden departure of Ant White in August. Slavin will join the Sydney-based agency in January. Chris Howatson (pictured below) commented: “Levi is a wonderful human being first, brilliant creative second. He is renowned for his empathy, his commitment […]
Spikes Asia has announced the appointment of Jenny Lau as events director. Based in Singapore, Lau will take overall responsibility for Spikes Asia. Lau (pictured) has worked within the Asia-Pacific advertising industry for more than 20 years and brings a deep understanding of the trends and issues affecting the regional advertising and marketing industry. Lau […]
Global ecommerce and marketplace specialist Pattern has ranked a group of 50 brands selling on Amazon.com.au based on a set of best practice criteria it has developed. Pet brand Zenify topped the ranking in Pattern’s Amazon Australia Benchmarking Report, scoring 82 per cent of the possible marks against a set of criteria designed to measure […]
Fifth Dimension Consulting has announced the expansion of its executive leadership team in response to the organisation’s significant growth over the last 18 months. Lyndall Spooner has moved from the position of managing director to the role of chief executive officer (CEO). As CEO, she will lead Fifth Dimensions’ innovation arm, as well as the […]
GoDaddy Inc. has today announced the Australian launch of GoDaddy Studio, a new content creation tool designed for small and medium businesses to create beautiful visual content for their business for all platforms. Compatible on both iOS and Android mobile apps and desktop, GoDaddy Studio includes thousands of customisable templates and easy-to-use tools, providing small […]
Seismic has announced an expanded New Zealand (NZ) presence to support the transformation of sales and marketing teams, and enable the nation’s employers to focus on upskilling their workforces to overcome a digital skills shortage. The company has also signed NZ-based specialist consultancies, Fresh Perspective Sales (FPS) and Jumping Fox Interactive, as its first two […]
Alex Huntley, Booktopia’s head of customer experience, recently appeared at software company Freshworks’ recent digital CX summit RE:SOLVE. During the summit, Huntley shared his thoughts on future-proofing customer service architecture.Huntley sat down with B&T to discuss Booktopia’s partnership with Freshworks and how it has helped their platform develop. B&T: Why did Booktopia first decide to partner […]
The Edison Agency has made four new appointments in its Sydney office to service the continued growth across key account The Arnott’s Group and the recent appointment to Nestlé Oceania’s strategic packaging design roster. Over the past 12 months, the culmination of strategic and creative work across the Uncle Toby’s brand and continued growth of […]