Thank you, ignorance.
Thank you for starting the conversation.
Thank you for making an entire nation listen to the Rutger’s (sic) team story.
And for making us wonder what other great stories we’ve missed.
Thank you for reminding us to think before we speak.
Thank you for showing us how strong and poised 18 and 20-year-old women can be.
Thank you for reminding us that another basketball tournament goes on in March.
Thank you for showing us that sport includes more than the time spent on the court.
Thank you for unintentionally moving women’s sport forward.
And thank you for making all of us realize that we still have a long way to go.
Next season starts 11.16.07.
Well done, Nike.
Contemporary brands must be made to stream with meanings. Only thus can they remain responsive in contemporary cultures.
Usually, these meanings come from the three levels of culture:
1. deep foundations
These are meanings that have been in place, defining our culture, for sometimes hundreds of years. Some of our notions of gender and status have this status.
2. long term trends
These are meanings that are more recently arrived and still forming. With its "curatorial" approach to the soccer world, Nike has taken a strong position here.
3. short term trends
Nike has been active here too, associating itself with the athletes of the moment.
But by taking on the Imus affair, Nike is actually reaching into a stream of meanings that is brand new. Naturally, this is strategically challenging. It is not yet clear exactly where this development will "net out." So there is an element of risk. (Though, pretty clearly, most people are quite happy to see the last of this guy. I know I am.) And the risk is not just that there might be some residual loyalty for Imus, but also that some will accuse Nike for "piling on."
The trade-off is pretty clear. The more current the event, the more powerful the meanings and the less stable the proposition. But as brands come to understand the value of constant renewal, and source more and more vivid meanings to accomplish this renewal, tapping contemporary events may be the coming thing.
I for one hope so. Branding was once a "keep it simple, stupid" undertaking. Dumbing down, and repetition were the order of the day. Happily, brands that persevere with this backward approach are made to pay for it. I think it’s a good thing that currency is joining complexity as an important instrument for those interested meaning manufacture. Thank you, Nike.
McCracken, Grant. 2004. Brands as Shadows. This blog sits at the intersection of anthropology and economics. November 18, 2004. [for the "sailing ship" concept of three levels of meanings for the brand.] here.
McCracken, Grant. 2005. Nike, new branding approaches. This blog sits at the intersection of anthropology and economics. March 11, 2005. [for the curatorial approach by Nike] here.
McCracken, Grant. 2006. The Artisanal Movement, and 10 things that define it. November 9, 2007. [as an example of a recent meaning] here.
Thomaselli, Rich. 2007. Nike builds ad campaign out of Imus Controversy. Ad Age. April 17, 2007. here. subscription required.