Despite being a mega-global brand, Nike has demonstrated an important strategy that would significantly benefit many small businesses: a model that takes a systematic, thoughtful and client-centric approach to build and position its brand over time.
A few years ago, for fashion week, Nike created a “concierge” program to help engage editors while keeping them fit as they went to Fashion Weeks in London, Milan and Paris. This in turn created a unique "experience" that related back to the Nike Brand. The "experience" led influencers to post pictures on social media such as Instagram, building a following and legitimizing the brand (social proof). This was all done in advance of the launch of a new athletic sportswear line, creating buzz before the product even came to market.
The approach is classic good business and small businesses should heed the core steps:
1) Create a plan.
2) Slowly increase the awareness through intentional buzz and outlets.
3) Develop relationships with influencers that play in your target markets.
4) Never forget the actual product (Lululemon learned this the hard way a few years ago with its unfortunate roll out of see-through yoga pants).
5) Remain patient but continue to test, experiment, and pivot in response to what you know and learn about your core market audience.
6) Segment your audience. Nike sells on various social platforms depending on the buyer (ie Millennials, Gen X) and then finds the right marketing mix.
Nike tries to find the experience and cache value which can even drive an established Brand to the "hottest Brand at the moment” status if done correctly and with a little luck.
Building on this backdrop, Nike quietly launched its "Runway Athleticwear" in 2014 by mixing the ubiquitous Nike popular Sports Stars with Runway Models at NY Fashion Week. In this forum, Nike was able to test out the product, material, style and appeal across categories. Nike also opened an invitation-only training facility on Grand Street in Lower Manhattan in summer 2014, where glossy-magazine-ites do yoga and work out with models and other influencers.
On Instagram today, Nike with 86.2mil followers, is successfully tweaking the singular brand voice typically evident in its marketing to allow for access to athletes that feels more real and authentic to fans.
"We have to be just as interesting as Beyoncé and your friend's avocado toast. In the feed you're stacked up all the same," Jackie Titus, the brand's global head of social strategy, said during an Advertising Week session in October. "You can't top Beyoncé, but it's a good goal."*
Nike is moving with the trend, pivoting to stay relevant and fresh, but always ties its products back to successful athletes which are core to its success and legitimacy. Nike never forgets the quality and core drivers of its brand and small businesses would do well to follow their lead.