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Many times brands veer off path from the core on which they are founded. A variety of aspects come into play from wayward acquisitions to loss of focus on the pillars of what created the brand in the first place.

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to a Harvard Business Review interview with Phil Knight former chair and CEO of Nike.

During his interview, Knight talked about co-founder Bill Bowerman’s attitude was that “Nike makes the worst shoes in the world except for everybody else’s.”  This drive for excellence was derived from the passion of its founders to allow athletes to be their best through continued innovation. Additionally, Knight’s and Bowerman’s passion to create a culture that believed in the brand is what still drives Nike to be a powerhouse based on these convictions.

In recent years, Nike has reverted to its core idea of allowing athletes of levels to “just do it” by providing them with shoes and clothing to accomplish their goals.  The sale of its hockey division and most recently, the closure of its golf equipment business, demonstrates Nike’s contraction back to its core of shoes and clothing in virtually all segments.By reverting back to its core, Nike solidifies its message to support its history.

Businesses from small to large have this same challenges.  By being true to the brand’s core make it possible to center the brand on a sustainable path.  Brands today have a variety of proactive methods to demonstrate their brands importance and how it’s impact can influence an audience.  The channels allow a brand to create followers that become brand ambassadors and communicate what the brand stands for. This also provides a platform for relationships to contribute to the growth of the brand through collaboration as well as the sharing of knowledge.

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e5e5e22a-be43-4edc-9a5c-85caccefdb3aRecently, the business community across the United States is finding it more difficult to attract and retain talent. While some businesses have tried to create a better work environment, others have tried to create a vision of their company that is at the intersection of brand and culture.  What results is a company that has purpose beyond sales figures and performance reviews.  These companies start by internalizing their brand to ensure that not only can they realize their goals, they also create a culture that resonates throughout its environment.

Many successful companies focus on developing a purpose that drives their brand, develops followers and creates powerful relationships.  This strategy is then capable of being leveraged into communities through a variety of channels including social media.  This is especially true in engaging with prospective employees.  Candidates are increasing looking for the intangibles that companies bring to the plate beyond compensation and benefit packages.  This is where purpose becomes critical to the recruitment process.

Brands like Microsoft have implemented this strategy with great results.  Other companies like Patagonia let their brand culture did the recruiting for them with a strong following of like minded individuals that are immersed in the culture the company advocates.

In a recent Forbes article, “Three Unexpected Brands That Are Turning To Storytelling To Drive Recruiting” companies like KPMG demonstrate how they are “linking the impact of a company’s higher purpose on attracting and retaining talent.”

It is this commitment to internalizing a strong, dynamic brand culture that creates community.  It all starts by creating a brand that engages with a purpose that is relevant to the marketplace and community rather than just the bottom line of a business.

Brands continue to look for breakthrough innovations. It is possible to look to the past for design inspiration as well as human behaviors that can be used in the future.

Here are two examples of how the past became the future.

4590121947_85c801b070_bThe retailer Service Merchandise existed from 1934 to 2002 and developed a system to complete customer orders via computer terminals, and later through phone orders. They even tested drive-thru locations for added speed and convenience. Was this process the fore runner of buy online, pickup in store processes we see today? I am sure that components of it are in fact what many consumers do today. A company before its time, not hardly. But the fact is that they could have been influential in IKEA’s shopping process of showroom and centralized pickup. Can you imagine what influence they would have on the big box store like Home Depot and Best Buy today with their model? An experience that would align with today’s time crushed lifestyle.

tucker-1003Processes aside, design innovators such as Preston Tucker had visions that were before their time. The Tucker 48 boasted many safety innovations that became standard in the future including disc brakes, fuel injection and self-healing tubeless tires. The “Tucker Torpedo” was also futuristic in its design as well including a central headlamp that followed turns and magnesium wheels.

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Continuing to demonstrate his vision for the future, Tucker with a group of Brazilian investors later designed the Carioca. Many aspects of the design have been discovered in the Chrysler’s Prowler fifty year later.

As history continues to repeat itself, it’s how we embrace these opportunities that makes them important for brands. There are many other visionary examples of ideas before their time. It’s a matter of being able to look at history and implementing into today’s experiences to make it relevant. It’s this ability that provides the vision for brands to engage with consumers.