Just don't do it? My take on the new Nike campaign

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By now, I'm sure you've seen this new Nike campaign that's causing a temporary uproar online:

I say 'temporary' uproar because 30 days from now (and that's being conservative — it'll probably be 2 weeks), the people who're offended will have gone on to rally against something else. 

Right now, the 2 popular opinions about this ad are

  • Nike is alienating 50% of its audience by being too divisive

  • It's a smart move because they're marketing to millennials (who generally favor social issues)

There are, of course, pros and cons to either of those arguments.

But for MY take on the ad, I'm going to put politics aside. Here's what's going on from a marketing perspective.

What Nike is really doing here is reintroducing their product to a new market. Eugene Schwartz calls this a "dead market revival" advertisement.

In a nutshell, this is THE type of ad to go with when the masses no longer respond to your advertising. Something new — even better if it's shocking — is needed to make your product the center of attention. In order for you to do this, your ad must resonate with the identity of the people in your market.

The reality is, both arguments are right. The ad is divisive. But at the same time, it's building a bond with the types of people in Nike's market — the younger generation. For Nike to stay relevant for the next 25+ years, this is a necessary move.

If you sell clothing, connecting with the identity of your market is not just optional — it's a requirement. Rarely will people buy a new shirt just because. You need to give them a reason to feel like there's a connection, first. Upon doing so, the item for sale — be it a shirt, magnet, or coffee mug — is just an object that supports their identity.

This is one of the many copywriting topics I cover.

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Tokyo, JapanRaymond Duke