Is this ‘True’ Corporate Responsibility, Nike?


BeTrueNike1Nike’s (NYSE: NKE) 2008 “Be True” campaign, showcasing local designers with an urban aesthetic is a new take on the brand’s “Dunk” campaign – part of Nike’s effort to lure and retain an audience that demands increasing authenticity from the brands with which it chooses to truck. The Be True campaign’s informal design grid and individualized graphic narratives create a pastiche that feels original and spot-on for the capricious millennial crowd. The campaign website provides a broad, all-encompassing look at product and design, while a four-part series of magazines dropped on street corners surrounding college campuses makes up a guerilla street marketing approach. While we were initially moved by of Nike’s “Be True” magazine campaign, upon reflection, we’re not sure it’s quite so true at all. While the brilliant design execution demonstrates that Nike’s firmly in touch with the Dunk’s roots (whether real or imagined), some of the implementation seems a little too old-school.

How many trees does it take to create all these copies of the 11×17 “Be True” magazine? Who’s left to deal with the leave-behinds? And does “Be True” belie Nike’s recurring challenges and criticism across its global manufacturing reach? Recently, Hannah Jones, Nike’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, defended breaches of Nike’s Code of Conduct at the Malaysian Hytex factory only after “…an investigation revealed workers living in substandard housing and wages being garnished.” Does “Be True” really reflect Nike’s roots, or is another flex of the brand’s marketing muscle? Our belief is that while customers may embrace this campaign, they’ll do it while demanding more accountability – and more truth – from the corporation.

Now It’s Your Turn
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  • Dan Harris
    Dec 1, 2008

    You asked for my thoughts on your post to-be-true. So here you go. Nike has a brand culture that has millions of stories circulating in market. This “Be True” campaign screams “Loyalty”. They want current, and former customers to come home to the brand. They are trying to appeal to prospects and current customers with a campaign that tells a story. That’s what brand is all about. The tactics they are using based on what you’ve presented are a bit outdated. Print and websites fine, but Nike needs to reach out to influencers in the market, tell thier story via blogs, video, voice, and get the word out via shortcode campaigns and promotions that take what they have printed and send them globally via viral methods. Instead of sending out magazines that go to waste and are expensive to print and waste paper, send out a dozen of the newest shoes to the influencers on campus and have them talk about them, write about them, show them off. Word of mouth is very powerful. As far as the crisis managment overseas with labor laws, I believe Nike has been proactive, continues to communicate it’s efforts and based on my limited research has not neglected thier corporate responsibility. They seem to have embraced the idea that Nike can be an agent of change in helping those employed by overseas manufactuers. The only thing they could do is bring those jobs back to the U.S. and help our people in our hour of need.

    I appreciate the forum.

    Dan Harris

  • BrandCultureTalk Blog
    Dec 11, 2008

    Thanks for the comment Dan. Good food for thought. Welcome to BrandCultureTalk!

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