Special Edition: On Nike's New Boring-Campaign
An example of a promising idea lacking creative and brave execution
On June 10, Nikecraft – the collaboration between Nike and sculptor Tom Sachs – is releasing their lastest product, the General Purpose Shoe (GPS). The campaign is already hailed as a great advertising example of the post-Covid zeitgeist of simplicity and life meaning, sure to be used as a case at advertising agencies and ad schools.
But in 2022 the campaign falls a bit short of what we should expect from a very influential global brand. Eleven years ago Patagonia told their customers “Don’t Buy This Jacket” on Black Friday, November 25. Their campaign finished their copy with “Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything” and encouraging us to only take what nature can replace.
Don’t get me wrong, I support every initiative to curb mindless consumption but Nike’s campaign just feels like slapping lipstick on a pig. Nike have the opportunity to really take the lead in sustainable clothing and practices but choose not to. Their new general purpose shoe is a welcomed 180° degree turn in their otherwise hyper specialized flora of products and the message “own-less” is commendable.
But the whole campaign lacks creativity and is actually, just as the title of the campaign says, boring. When they had an opportunity to really innovate they fell way short, choosing safe over bravery. Here are a few things they could have done:
Make shoes that are made of 100% recycled materials.
Offering product repairs to encourage people to keep using their things as long as possible.
Introducing trade-ins of used and unused products for gift certificates towards new or used Nike products. These products can then be either resold, recycled or freecycled.
Exchange "It's not what you do, it's how you do it" for “It’s not what you wear, it’s who you want to become.”
Put a stronger emphasis on essential needs and only buying what you really need and frequently use.
Create youth programs that encourage personal growth and reaching their innate potential over endless consumption.
And maybe even introduce the idea that you only need one pair of sneakers to bike, run, skateboard, play, climb, and travel.
But Nike is not alone in making this mistake, despite evidence that we are now in a full-blown climate crisis and cultural overconsumption. Most organizations across the world are too careful when switching from the old to the new. Executives play it too safe, lack courage, and fail to recognize that what’s inevitable should be immediate.
The same type tsunami that hit companies like Blockbuster, Kodak et cetera during the digital revolution decades ago is now going to hit corporations that don’t make a quick shift towards mindful consumption and sustainability. What might be unimaginable today is what will define our future tomorrow on this planet.
We are at the chasm of early adopters and the mainstream for sustainability and conscious consumption and by failing to see this new paradigm shift (again), playing it save, and not rocking the boat these companies risk committing the same mistakes as with the digital revolution: doing too little, too late, and eventually becoming obsolete.
About Fewer Better Things
This newsletter is about how to declutter and simplify our daily lives, only owning the essentials that we frequently use to reconquer wasted time, money, and attention. It’s a for-pay newsletter, with occasional free editions, to stay independent and ad-free.
I’m an advisor, speaker and writer on sustainability, technology, and innovation. Previously I developed and managed digital products in Silicon Valley. Today I live and work in a small surf shack in Southern California, practicing fewer better things.