The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Knowing Who You Are Means You Know Where You Can Go …

After my post about Nike/Jordan, here’s another.

But before we get there … I need to take you on a little story.

Years ago, Wieden Tokyo were doing some research for Tabasco Sauce.

As part of the adventure, we went to the American south and interviewed chefs from the region.

One of them told us something that had a huge impact on me.

“The more confident the chef, the more simple your dish”

I love it.

For me, it communicates everything about belief and confidence.

Saying and doing exactly what needs to be said and done and not a sentence more.

Sadly this is a lesson that seems to have been forgotten.

Nowadays, companies have endless pages of terminologies, explanations and behaviours … often to disguise the fact that they don’t really know who they are or what they are here for.

I recently met a Venture Capitalist who told me the biggest mistake companies make is not knowing what business they’re in.

They think one thing but are something else.

And by not knowing this they undermine their present and their future.

However recently I saw something that showed me a company who ‘gets it’.

A company who has always ‘got it’.

Similar to the Apple memo I wrote about recently, this is a celebration of knowing who you are.

As you will have already worked out – mainly because I said it in the first line of this post – it’s NIKE.

Look at this document from the 70’s, entitled ‘Principals’.

One page.

Clarity and direction.

Fight and function.

All you need to know about what how the company behaves, what it values and what it believes …

I love it.

I love how it is so simple yet says so much.

I love how it acknowledges what it can control and what it can’t.

I love how it conveys the attitude of the brand through the battle it is undertaking.

I love how it celebrates the ugly reality of hunger, ambition and commitment while also advocating integrity and responsibility.

But most of all, I love how it acknowledges that they’ll make money as a byproduct of what they do rather than that being the focus.

And while they don’t mention the words ‘sport’ or ‘athlete’ anywhere in this page, it’s not hard to see what they are describing are the principals of building a team.

One that has a common goal, a common fight and a common belief and reliance on each other.

All on a single page.

Which is still their single page [albeit with an updated swoosh]

Because they are confident in know who they are and what they are about.

In these days where companies churn out endless pages about who they are … endless statements about what they do … endless updates to their terminologies, platforms and positioning statements, I find it interesting the companies that attract the most loyalty from audiences and the most jealousy from corporations are the ones who have been fiercely consistent about who they are, what they believe and what they stand for.

All expressed succinctly, yet passionately.

From Apple. To Nike. To Wieden.

Because the more confident the company, the less they need to say about themselves.


29 Comments

This is great. A really insightful post. Not sure if Nike or Apple are following the same rules or if they’ve just blunted their edge. They feel like the video game industry. Their initial power came from focusing on infectious gameplay then as technology advanced, this made way for hyped up visual realism. Both Apple and Nike are still miles ahead of the majority of the competition, but imagine if they doubled down on these principals while bringing the heat and scale of their execution.

Comment by George

You would say that, wouldn’t you? I still recognise Nike in this. The hunger, the fight. It’s as clear as day. They may have evolved as an organization but the heart of the company is still beating loudly enough to be heard and to be felt.

Comment by Bazza

I agree with you Baz. Nike is still Nike. Just older. The challenge will be to not get too old, at least in attitude and behaviour.

Comment by Pete

It can be done. Look at Rob.

Comment by Bazza

I get why you say that and I’ve seen Baz has identified where he thinks the difference is. But I can say that the core principals of Nike – as I’m sure are the case with Apple – remain the same. The language may have evolved and there may now be multiple pages whereas before there was just one, but there’s a reason you can tell an Apple or Nike product before you are know for sure, because the voice of the brand – from what it makes, how it speaks, how it behaves and how it communicates – is undeniably them.

Of course it’s more than just that – their commitment to innovation is another one for example – but for me, the fact you feel these brands rather than just rationally understand them is maybe the best proof of a brilliantly managed and marketed brand.

Comment by Rob

I get Nike’s innovation, but does Apple innovate anymore? Only teasing Baz.

Comment by George

you should smash auntie in the smug fucking face for that baz.

Comment by andy@cynic

The other reminder is simple wins.
That should be obvious but simple appears to have encountered some sort of industrial inflation, because what many organisations claim is simple, is complex.

Comment by George

I agree with this. What simple was in organisation’s is no longer what simple is today. Strange how that change matches the rise of the management consultancy.

Comment by Bazza

Yes. Absolutely.

The inflation term is great because simple is seen by companies as being simplistic whereas complex (read: what the company wants to bore people into submission with) has become simple.

But what I can’t understand is why there is still a ton of stupidly simplistic stuff being made … stuff with no idea and treats their audience like idiots. What do the companies behind that think they’re making or is it simply these are companies that are revealing how little they know about anything?

Comment by Rob

They don’t get it.
They don’t understand it.
They don’t want to understand it.

Comment by Pete

theyre mba pricks who are well read but not fucking smart.

Comment by andy@cynic

If you didn’t know Nike and you read those principals, it would scare you away. It sounds brutal except to one group. Jocks.

The people they were making products for was built by attracting and hiring the people they were making products for. Obvious but so rarely done.

Maybe that is the difference you were mentioning George. Same company. Same principals. Different employees. Marketers not athletes acting as marketers.

Comment by Bazza

Yes. That’s it. Nike were famous for taking athletes and putting them in marketing roles because they wanted to speak athlete to athlete. Now it feels they’re full of marketers pretending to be athletes speaking to athletes.

Comment by George

Imagine what they’d be if they didn’t have Wieden+Kennedy? That’s not to say Nike aren’t incredibly smart, but it seems to me WK stop them turning into an FMCG.

Comment by Pete

You’re being a bit hard on Nike. I’m not saying that because they’re still my client – but because a lot of what they do is pretty spectacular.

Have they made mistakes?
Sure.

Do they rely on some great agencies to help them stay ahead?
Totally.

Is Wieden the driving force of their cultural influence?
Definitely.

But you don’t stay ahead this long while maintaining your cultural and sporting credibility without doing a lot of things right internally.

It’s definitely changed. It’s definitely got older. But it remains a brand for athletes by athletes … which is why they’re greatest challenge isn’t competitors, but keeping sport at the forefront of culture and keeping themselves hungry and fresh.

Comment by Rob

Crawler. ; )

Comment by Pete

Saying Nike would become an FMCG without Wieden is a bit much. I believe Nike work with a range of agencies and their brand is always clear and distinctive. I know much of this is because of the guiding hand of WK and I am in no doubt the creative would suffer immeasurably if they didn’t continue producing it for them. But Nike will never be mistaken for an FMCG unless there is a collective aneurism. And I do realise I have just undermined my original comment on this post with this comment.

Comment by George

What this post and your Apple one says to me is the discipline and influence of marketing is no longer respected by C-suite. Ironic as they have never needed it more. I wonder if this is because they don’t value it or because their ego won’t let them accept the public may not want whatever it is they’re selling.

Comment by Pete

Oh yes. Definitely. To all the points you raise.

Comment by Rob

It’s not respected, as the practice of obfuscation by agencies combined with cheap juniors and second-hand car salesmen … has led to the C-suite rightly denying agencies a seat at the table.

Comment by OML ... ordy

Funny, I could throw the same insult at much of the c-suite. Egotistical, arrogant and out of touch with the needs of their people and customers.
For all the reasons you mention why agencies have lost their seat at the table, it could also be they don’t want to hear the truth they would be told.

Comment by George

As bad as many agencies are, I would say there is an equal amount of C-Suite.

Comment by Pete

Both brands get more things right than wrong, which is still rare these days.

Comment by bereavedandbeingasingleparent

This is all very well, but they didn’t have to worry about brand architecture, onions and purpose back then. All they had to do was make stuff people wanted and then sell it to them. They had it easy. No wonder they could just do it.

Comment by John

and there were no consultant fucks to pay 20 million bucks to get lame shit back from. it was a terrible fucking time back then.

Comment by andy@cynic

Anyone else notice Lee has been quiet for a while. Mr B is giving him a headache.

Comment by Bazza

I don’t think there is enough tylenol to get rid of that headache.

Comment by Pete

[…] And while we hear people all talking about being the next Apple or Nike, they have to understand you don’t get there with a playbook, you get there with a singular focus on what you believe, what you value and what you are going to destroy to create. […]

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