Credit where credit is due…
For the last twenty years, Nike has paved the way for women’s sports.
They have been untouchable. No one has gotten close to Nike in pushing women’s opportunities and showcasing great female athletic talent.
But just like that, Nike took their own “Just Do It” mentality a little too far and threw the biggest Hail Mary ever in a bizarre attempt to stay relevant (when they already were)…
And in doing so, they have single-handedly done more to damage their reputation online than the past ten years building it.
Here’s what went down:
Rather than staying focused on their vision and principles (and serving their loyal market of sports and fitness enthusiasts), they took a gamble with some misguided marketing advice (probably from millennials who wouldn’t ever wear their gear because they can’t get off TikTok to actually play sport) and decided to make Dylan Mulvaney — the trans influencer, the face of their new Nike women’s range.
Even Caitlyn Jenner is saying Nike has lost the plot… which really is saying something.
It makes me think:
A business that is principled needs to win every time… But the pressure to be woke only needs to win once.
So if we can put Nike’s terrible and dark history of child slavery aside for a minute, their principled position of pioneering opportunities for women — which they’ve done so well for decades — has been utterly eroded by one stupid and mindless lapse of judgement.
And to no one’s surprise, the backlash is deafening. Nike’s full-time content team can’t delete the negative comments (mostly by women) fast enough.
The business lesson:
We should all have a clear vision and set of guiding principles when we don’t need them, so we have them for when we do.
And I bet that somehow, Phil Knight (who stepped down as CEO about 7 years ago) probably didn’t vet this ‘marketing campaign’ before it went live. Because if he did, I’m sure it would have been vetoed faster than Nike’s Vaporfly selling out on launch day.
And of course, you might think that ‘this doesn’t apply to me, because I’m not Nike’…
But I’d challenge your thinking on that for this reason:
What we do, who we serve, and how we do it is just a tiny, minuscule fractal of Nike.
It’s all the same.
Principles are principles, and it doesn’t matter how big or small you are.
A good way to think about it is like this:
Principles, values and vision is like life insurance for your business…
It’s too late to get it when you find out you really need it.
Happy long-weekend folks,
– Karl Goodman