Do Brands Have a Soul?

Do brands have a soul? Do they have values like humans have values?

It’s a great question and like all good questions, there is no objectively right answer.

Nike recently decided a controversial sports person would be one of their brand ambassadors. To read more about it you can view Colin’s Wiki Page as well as the controversy itself.

I don’t want to get into the debate about identity politics and prejudice, though it’s definitely worthy of discussion.

For this post, I wanted to talk about Nike’s decision to choose someone so polarising. Where most brands try to stay away from controversy, Nike has embraced it.

It can be argued that the values of a company are present to serve the highest purpose of profit and growth. If the values competed with the goal of profit and growth, how likely will those values genuinely manifest within the brand?

This is where things get interesting for Nike. With their recent launch of their new brand ambassadors, Nike’s share price fell by 3.2%. Indicating that the initial reaction to the news has been net negative by speculators. But let’s delve a little deeper. A great marketing campaign elicits emotion, and with that comes higher rates of recall and awareness which means a higher likelihood of consideration, but also avoidance.

So was it worth the risk? Time will tell. But it seems like Nike is banking on a net positive gain in long term brand loyalty and revenue, by leading the charge for brands to be vocal on where they stand on relevant political issues. How closely do modern political agendas align with values of brands is also critical. If Nike aligned itself to either side of the gun-control debate, that would make little sense. There is a rising trend of sports stars using their celebrity status as a platform leading to traditional media and their talking heads feeling threatened (see Lebron James (NBA superstar) and a news reporter that wanted him to ‘shut up and dribble’).

I think Nike’s move will set a trend for many other brands to follow suit, but I’m sure only a few will have the same impact. Acknowledging that, this isn’t something new, with many companies toting their stance on environmental sustainability. But this issue is relatively ‘safe’ as there is a resounding majority on one side. Did Nike actually do an analysis on ‘profitability’ when making these decisions? If it was found that it would negatively affect the company financially would they still have followed through?

I’m keen for anyone reading to share their thoughts, do brands have a soul? Do they have values like humans have values?