The One Reason Nike’s Just Do It Campaign is Brilliant

There are a lot of pundits out there trying to explain Nike’s new campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. The problem with most of them is that the optics are all wrong. They are looking at it in the context of politics. But that is not why Nike and their advertising agency, Wieden + Kennedy chose to feature the polemical NFL quarterback.

The reason is cultural leadership.

Nike has not exactly shied away from controversy in the past. They embraced bad boys like John McEnroe and Charles Barkley. They used Spike Lee in commercials to promote Air Jordans. And they are highly aware that athletes can be polarizing. They dropkicked Micheal Vick in less than a day of learning about his dogfighting ring.

Thanks to the folks at Nike’s agency of record, the shoe brand has learned over the years that it pays to be part of the cultural conversation. It’s why they began embracing women as women in their communications and product design. It’s why they are leading in addressing working conditions in overseas manufacturing facilities. And why they are among the few large companies to formally address workplace discrimination issues.

Nike is an athlete’s brand. They have one of the most succinct mission statements in corporate history, “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” And as one of their founders once said, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

Nike supports athletes. And it is no secret that a majority of athletes recognized Colin Kaepernick’s right to protest during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games.

Where do the majority of Nike’s customers reside? In large metropolitan areas— the same areas that are bright blue on the electoral map. So the ad featuring Kaepernick wasn’t very controversial with most of their customers. In fact, they likely did a few focus groups to test this idea. I doubt they were surprised apparel sales jumped 31% after the launch of the campaign.

The cynics will say that Nike is exploiting a controversial issue to sell shoes. But in an era of contentious opinions, where everyone has a platform to express those opinions, publicly deride and defame individuals for the slightest provocation, and declare a boycott on brands who do not meet their cultural standards, Nike showed leadership.

And it made them more relevant than ever.

‘Burstiness’ is the key to the most innovative teams

How do you get the best ideas out of a group? The key is a concept called Burstiness. It’s when your group creative brainstorm is bursting with ideas. Maybe people are talking over each other. It’d like a raucous family gathering. And it results in some of the best ideas in a short amount of time.

How do you get this in a team? There are a few keys to the creative play session.

  1. Psychological safety. There must be a sense of mutual respect. And that comes with feeling safe to express a really dumb idea for someone else to launch from. This safety should come from the leaders of the team.
  2. Welcome criticism. Despite the old concept that all ideas are good ideas, the welcome criticism concept allows for standards.
  3. Lowered inhibitions. Studies show that the teams with the best innovations have lower inhibitions. In the paper clip study, two teams competed for the best new ideas for the use of a paper clip. The teams with the most creative ideas, like an emergency suture and a new form of art, shared embarrassing stories with one another first.
  4. Task bubbles. The creative process has to move along like a well-oiled machine. Each stage of the creative process, from conception to the finished project must have clearly defined task bubbles, where team members are very clear about their role in the end result at any given time.
  5. The right mix of people. Diverse groups are more creative.
  6. Practicing together. Regular brainstorm practice helps to solidify the team.
  7. Think team first. Instead of looking for creative individuals, think of creative teams as the solution and hire creative teams as a unit. Or try to create a complete unit.

Many of these ideas come from the group psychologist Adam Grant, who has an excellent podcast called WorkLife. In this particular podcast Mr. Grant follows the Daily Show and discovered how they do it four times a week, every week. You can find it here along with another fine podcast on “The Problem with All-Stars.”

The Last Hot Lick

Jaime Leopold
1946 – 2018

Music Legend, Ad Man, and nascent Movie Star, Jamie Leopold has died. Together with Jerry Ketel, Terra Spencer, and Bob Macer he created Leopold Ketel & Partners. But Jaime had a legend behind him as a stand-up bass player for Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks. He was a raconteur of the Haight Ashbury in the late sixties, rubbing elbows with the likes of Alan Ginsberg and Neal Cassidy. He fled the scene in the late 70’s and came to Portland to become a respectable advertising executive and family man. After retirement, he returned to music and wrote enough songs to record two worthy CDs of what he called “American Quirk.” His final act was to become the star of a film loosely based on his later years as a singer-songwriter entitled, “The Last Hot Lick.”

He will be remembered for his charming personality and disarming sense of humor. And his ability to get you to tell him your innermost secrets.

We miss you, Jaime.

No beans about it.

The Rock and Roll Chili Pit opened a week ago today. This restaurant is only a few blocks from our office and had been under construction for months. The anticipating was killing us (well, mostly just me). And like any obsessive fan, I was there opening day with high expectations in tow.
menu
I ordered a cup of the Red Zep and a cup of the Iron Flamin’. Let me rephrase that: I ordered a bowl of steak bites in a chili sauce and a bowl of pulled pork in a chili verde sauce. So. Much. Meat. To many, this would be a home run. But I was missing the beans. I suppose I should have done my research on “Texas-style” chili and I could have better prepared myself. There ain’t no beans in Texas chili.

I’d order the Iron Flamin’ again, but the Red Zep was just too much beef for one sitting. I’m also anxious to try the Motley Stew, a chipotle beef and pork chili with potatoes and carrots, and the ZZ Slop, a vegan chili with BEANS.

A few other fun tidbits: All of the employee shirts have old rock song lyrics, the bar is in the shape of a guitar, and the lights are drum heads. They’re definitely reppin’ the rock and roll brand.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Rock and Roll Chili Pit.