How Nike make branding look so easy

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Nike. Does that name ring a bell?

If you answered no to that question, then perhaps the famous ‘Just Do It’ mantra will jog your memory. 

If you’re still in the dark, then I’m sure the swoosh logo will give you a clue:

Does that tick look familiar to you? Of course, it does.

We’ve all ran into the swoosh logo before. 

You’ll find it stitched on to one of your old, dirtied trainers. You’ll find it lovingly marked on to a hoodie. A jumper. A backpack, t-shirt or sports water bottle. 

Wherever you look, there you’ll find the famous swoosh.

And whenever  only one name comes to mind: Nike.

At the tip of the iceberg, the Nike swoosh design is very plain and simple, but at its core, it’s one of the most powerful brand design out there.

1/ The art of simple design

Simple, straightforward logos are easier to remember than complex ones.

That’s why we can identify Nike’s famous swoosh from a mile away, and why the McDonald’s golden arches were forever-buried into your memory since the day you ate your first Happy Meal.

Your logo tells the audience a great deal about your business without you even muttering a single word. Be intentional and meaningful when you choose the way it looks.

For example, the Nike swoosh represents motion and speed, an arc of movement. Swoosh is the sound you hear when LeBron James bolts past you enroute to a thunderous dunk.

The swoosh logo goes hand in hand with Nike’s brand; it compliments Nike’s action-focused ‘Just Do It’ culture.

The father of graphic design Paul Rand once said:

"Design is the silent ambassador of your brand."

He wasn’t lying.

Think about the design of your brand’s logo. What is the silent message that you want it to relay

2/ Why not start with the why?

In his book Start with Why, Simon Sinek applies the Golden Circle model to explain why legendary leaders such as Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright brothers can inspire and motivate people so well, where others can’t.

There are three separate stages to the Golden Circle:


First, comes the what: without a shadow of a doubt, every business should know what they do with 100% clarity. Business owners should have a good overview of their industry; they should know about the products they sell, and who their competitors in the market are.


Then there’s the how: businesses should know how they carry out their work. The employer and employees should be completely aware of all the little processes and operations involved at every turning point of production.


Last but not least, there is the why. Not a lot of businesses have mastered this one. 

The vital question for any business is why. Why do you do what you do? And by ‘why’ we don’t mean to make a profit. Profit is a result, and it will always be a result.

By ‘why’ we mean, what is your purpose, cause and belief? What philosophy stirred you to invest your life savings into your business? People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

When promoting a business, we can get carried away playing the salesman or saleswoman. In a desperate attempt to win the love of customers, we fall into the trap of ambushing them with expensive promises.

But facts and figures are not the only things that drive behaviour.

To turn followers into advocates, take a step down so you’re on the same wavelength as them. Make a determined effort to relate with them on a personal level.

Start by honestly telling them why you do what you do. If your philosophy resonates with theirs, chances are, they will feel that much more motivated to allow your brand into their lives.

3/ The crossroad between story and culture

The art of storytelling has been around for thousands of years; storytelling predates writing. Some archaeologists even believe that rock art may have served as a form of storytelling for many ancient cultures.

We tell stories to make sense of the world around us and to share our understandings with others. Compelling stories are more than just a marketing strategy – they are about forming lasting bonds between people. Hence, the reason why brand storytelling is such an effective way to persuade customers to connect with your brand personally. Customers resonate more with stories than they do with statistics.

It’s harder to rationalise someone into believing in your business because faith comes from the heart, not the mind.

Stories can allow you to tap into a customer’s heart, to tap into what drives their whole being.

It is safe to say that Nike have mastered brand storytelling to a fine art. Time after time, the Nike brand has never failed to pull our heartstring with one of its story-driven marketing campaigns.

Nike brand storytelling almost always focuses on the ideas of heroism, unbroken determination and the achievement of greatness.

In a Nike advert, you will always find a hero.

A hero who rises from the ashes of humble beginnings. A hero who defies all odds, no matter how bad they may be. A hero who challenges the status quo and boldly attempts what many before have failed to do.

Nike’s brand storytelling is very action-focused and is a friendly reminder of their famous ‘Just Do It’ culture.

To be a better marketer:

  • Use visually simple design
  • Ponder the question ‘why?’ 
  • Find your story

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