The Australian Open entourage swaggered into Melbourne this week. Suddenly the rather dowdy advertising we’ve had for the Australia/England cricket has been washed away by big brash sexy tennis ads. Uniqlo, in a master stroke of endorsement, back the Serbian warrior Novak Djokovic, Adidas have the brilliant but never very comfortable looking Andy Murray, meanwhile Nike have the V Twin power of Nadal and Federer.
Most noticeable for me though was the reemergence of Nike’s classic slogan – ‘Just do it’ - surely the most powerful and perfect slogan there has ever been?
‘Just do it’ was first coined 25 years ago by Nike’s advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy. Dan Wieden, the agencies founder, said the inspiration for the slogan was the last words of notorious American murderer Gary Gilmour. When asked if he had anything to say before he was executed Gilmour said: “Just do it”.
Whether this is true or just a great story to grab attention doesn’t matter, it is a brilliantly clever association. ‘Just do it’ helped redefine Nike from being a sports wear company to a company that represented rebellion and youth. While all the other sports companies in the 80s were focusing on.. well, sport. Nike was focusing on renegades and heroes.
What I always loved about ‘Just do it’ was that it perfectly encapsulated everything that the brand is about. It is a call to action both for athletes and street kids. “Its freezing cold, I don’t want to get up and run” Just do it. “Shall we shoot hoops?” Just do it. “How do I get to be a rapper?” Just do it.
And it isn’t just a slogan for the kind of people the brand represents and wants to attract, it talks to the way Nike actually operates – “We have an idea for an edgy product”. Just do it. “There’s a hip new Basketball star on the radar but he comes with baggage”. Just do it.
‘Just do it’ is as much a mission statement and credo, as a slogan.
The world is cluttered with slogans and taglines, all vying to insert themselves into our brains, short cuts that advertisers hope we will associate with the brands they represent. The majority really don’t work though. At best they are evocative lines, at worst they are just lame. Usually they are something clearly cooked up by a bunch of copywriters brainstorming and their potential association with the brand is based more on hope than reason. There’s a gossamer thin line between a great slogan and a cheesy one and 99% fall firmly on the wrong side.
Just do it though shows the power of an authentic slogan. They are few and far between but if you can hit on one, you’ve hit gold.