Branding 101: How did Nike Take Over the World with Its Swoosh?

Published on:
July 13, 2022

Are you into sports? Honestly, that does not matter a lot this time. Nike is no more just sportswear. It's a lifestyle. Well, try counting the number of swooshes you encounter while going through your favorite sports page from Instagram or watching a basketball game. It's everywhere!

Strategy in branding

And, do you know what's interesting? It might surprise you, but your latest pair of Nike shoes or the t-shirt you just bought does not carry any brand identification, except the swoosh. The brand's symbol is so popular that it often runs campaigns without mentioning its name.

As defined by David Ogilvy, our advertising guru, marketing is "the place where the selfish interests of manufacturers coincide with the interest of the society." So, it is beyond just buying or selling. One needs to look into the market and analyze its role and responsibilities in society. 

While it's never easy, the power of the standalone logo demonstrates Nike's extraordinary marketing skills and impact. Then, how did the sports brand do it? Let's get back to that. 

Nike Swoosh

History of the swoosh- what does it stand for?

Evolution of Nike logo

So, what's in a logo? Sometimes the little voices in our head whisper back, "Maybe the brand does not need a logo at all." It is about the business and how good the products or services are, what problems it can solve, and what solutions it provides. Right? But this is one of those times when you need to sit back and rethink.

Your logo is not your brand! Your brand is more of a blend of the story, experiences, perception, and reputation that you build through your services. But being one of the first steps to customer interaction for your brand, the logo is crucial to communicate your values, ownership, and your brand's story.  

While you imprint it on your products, website, cards, and social networking platforms, the symbol gets imprinted on your customer's minds too. And we all agree that a solid first impression is essential to building a strong community and bringing out your brand personality, brand identity, and visual identity.

You would always create a logo that aligns with your brand's identity. Nike's swoosh communicates a story too. Designed by a student named Carolyn Davidson, the brand's symbol was initially known as 'the strip. Being simple, the symbol is easy to remember yet unique. But, how can a logo be so significantly recognizable? What is the story behind it?

History of Nike logo

The Greek goddess of Victory inspired the brand's name, Nike. In fact, the logo's shape is that of a wing of the goddess. The logo has also borrowed its design elements from mythological and cultural references. So, people can easily engage with it. Now popularly known as the swoosh, the logo reminds us of a fast sound, activeness, and speed.  While you already know how beautifully crafted the symbol was, "Just Do It" is an add-on.

The evolution of Nike's strategy.

Nike swoosh

Nike has always followed a very strategic approach to building its brand. They had designed a well-thought-out pattern for their promotions. They created superior quality products around the famous athletes in their respective fields. It is now a proven strategy and has changed the face of marketing in the sports industry forever.

Check out this article by Harvard business review to understand how the high-performance marketing strategy paved the way for the brand:

The association with the big names builds trust and value. What more do you need to attract and retain consumers? Thus, Nike spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year on big-name endorsements and ads that attract the right pair of eyes.

Well, do you have a favorite sport? Then you must check out your favorite players too. And there's a great chance that at least one of them wears the Nike swoosh. 

Nike and the innovation drive- blending a simple product with technology

Nike innovation drive

When you ideate a venture, you base it on the core purpose of rendering an innovative solution to an already existing problem. Simply put, you fill in the gap. But, even after you have established yourself as a leader in your industry, you can go out of style if you stop innovating.

The advancement of digitalization has shifted the focus from spending tons of money blindly on tv advertising to building, protecting, and maintaining a brand through a strategic and clever marketing gateway. And to stand out, your brand needs innovation in all spheres - branding, marketing, advertising, and product development.

Brand analysis

Marketing is not just hyping up a product or service through promotional events. Nike focuses on providing real value to its customers. Do you know what pushed Nike's initial success? It is not just "collaborating with popular athletes, contrary to popular opinion for this, we need to understand the foundations of Nike’s brand development. Because consider this: Why would any popular athlete collaborate with a nameless brand?

So, Nike played an intelligent game. They introduced technical superiority in their basketball shoes and pitched them to the players who were already frustrated by the absence of innovation in the sports industry. The athletic equipment was outdated, and the brand stepped in to fill that gap. The idea worked, and now you know Nike as a leader of the sports industry in product development or innovation. 

'Nike has always known the truth - it's not so much the shoes but where they take you"- Redefining the power of the brand image.

A good product. Or consider the best! Is that it? An excellent athletic gear sounds perfect, but as the brand notes, "Nike has always known the truth- it's not so much about the shoes but where they take you." Nike markets their products as a way of life, with a "Just Do It!" attitude. Lace-up your Nike shoes, and you automatically link yourself with their values of passion, pace, and determination.

Over the years, marketers have successfully built a relationship between their customers, the athletes, and the brand. When you associate yourself with the brand, you feel the intense drive of Michael Jordan, the fiery passion and consistency of Ken Griffey Jr., and the attractive confidence of Tiger Woods. And Nike ensures these images pop into your mind with consistent visual marketing efforts on all platforms.

Nike logo history

And above all, Nike cares! As a brand, it not only promotes its products but also sports as a lifestyle that benefits everyone. For example, take the "If you let me play" campaign promoting sports to girls and young women. People recognize genuine efforts, and it pays off pretty well.

How can you apply Nike's Branding and Marketing strategy for your brand?

Branding Strategy

Do you listen to podcasts? It is incredible how we can connect with the best minds around the world through an audio app. Knowing a leader's experiences, success stories, and failures helps us understand what we should do and, most importantly, what we should not.

Although there is no prescription to success, these stories inspire us and help us with our journey. MarsDevs brings you the learnings from Nike's successes after our extensive research so that you can build a successful brand too.

Your brand is unique, and so are its purpose, stories, and experiences. But, Nike's excellent marketing and branding techniques might help you create and maintain your brand's presence in the industry. 

Work with the right people.

Startup team importance

What do we mean by "wrong" people? Great question! It is not about the celebrity status, but whether what they do align with your brand's purpose or not. Say you are a marketing firm. You want to enlighten the general public about the importance of a marketing plan. So, you collaborate with a famous tiktoker who makes music content. No matter how famous the person is, how would people trust your brand? You might get some leads, but it is crucial to building a sustainable plan to survive long term.

What is it that Nike as a brand has done? As we mentioned earlier, Nike built products that the market had a need for. Then, they pitched those products to the best athletes who were already upset with the lack of innovation. Thus, Nike added value to them and the market. In turn, the players marketed the product by using it.

Well, you are not a sportswear brand. Plus, the time has changed. So what should you do instead? Let's get back to the example. As a digital marketing firm, you can pitch one of the influencers who post informative content about marketing. Create a proper plan on how a marketing firm can simplify the process and collaborate with the influencer to engage more people interested in your purpose.

Create an impactful presence on Social Media.

It would be best if you were where your consumers are, and according to the Kepios analysis, about 4.55 billion people are on social media. That equates to about 57.6 percent of the global population. The first step to making your brand's presence relevant is building a community.

Social media branding

Being an influencer and creating reels with trending songs can help you get recognized. But, for a brand to shine, you need to stand out. Why would people follow you?

Create content that engages, entertains, and adds value to your audience. Being a digital marketing firm, think of creative ideas to make people stay. A reel that helps them understand a marketing term or a slide that provides them a solution to a stagnant feed or an infographic on content ideas, etc., works fine. 

Build a brand with a purpose.

Let us first understand how Nike has put forward a purpose for themselves. As already mentioned, Nike promotes both its products and sports to choose a better lifestyle. The products they launch, the campaigns, everything revolves around this central idea.

Brand purpose

Do you remember when Nike forced us to reconsider the stereotypes using the pre-Olympic campaign with the disabled athlete Peter Hull? Every step they take, they gather people who share the same purpose. Read:

Do you want to create a better landscape for businesses by helping them with the marketing initiatives? Let them know. Make them aware of how important marketing is for their business and then present your ideas. Your purpose is to help people build firms, and you hold the key to it, 'marketing.' Make it visual and keep up with the trends.

Key takeaways from the brand.

Staying relevant needs effort.

Brand relevance

Change is the only constant. Thus, you must keep introducing something new to the company, whether a product or a better strategy. Innovation promotes growth and new values. It is a brutal statement, but you will soon be left behind if you do not keep up with the world and its pace. As a leader, you need to develop creative ideas and strategic plans to execute them successfully. 

Nike knows the game better than anyone else. It has been ruling since 1978. And with new competitors like Adidas and Puma coming up, the brand would have lost its place long back if it did not keep up with the market. There's a price that you pay when you claim the best position in the industry, i.e., the threat of losing it.

Nike understands this challenge and has constantly launched new lines of sportswear, shoes, and more attuned to the modern sportspersons’ needs. In marketing too, their social media handles, website, video marketing strategy, and even billboards stand out from the competition.

Tip: Following trends may feel like a cliche, but sometimes that is what you need to adapt to the changing markets. 

Emotive Branding.

But, how can you create a brand personality?

Emotive branding

Well, right now, for building communities, the magic bean is "storytelling." Through the designs, the service, and the journey, every brand is telling a story. Some stories matter and people relate to them. People feel connected to these stories more than a product. Emotive branding taps into your customers' needs and aspirations, builds a strong connection through that purpose, and eventually builds customer loyalty.

Nike puts forward a story of the hero. Think of a typical " hero" story. There's a guy who fights with external foes and eventually wins. Nike takes this story and makes you believe you can be that hero. The only difference is that this time, your enemy is not external. It is internal, i.e., your laziness, and Nike knows we would relate. We all create a goal and fall back due to this enemy.

The battle begins and continues until we stop. So, Nike used these emotions and executed an emotive marketing strategy, and inspired us with an urgency to "Just Do It!" This is how they won over their customers' loyalty. And no wonder it worked.

Every campaign, Nike's purpose, values, everything is centered around this story. We all want to be and are heroes in our own stories. Starting from a humbling beginning, fighting a stronger enemy, and winning against the odds- that's our story. Nike has just identified it and reminded us what we could do with it.

Recognizing opportunities

Branding opportunities

Apart from the brand's superiority in product and branding strategies, Nike was swift to grab the social media platforms' opportunities as they stepped into the market. The advent of social media opened up a new door of limitless possibilities for growing brands. 

The brand could now engage with a broader range of customers to make their name and swoosh unforgettable without worrying about the physical boundaries. That is how they went on building communities.

Nike has always worked on being a pioneer in many investments and strategies. With virtual reality taking over the world, the brand knows what to bet on. So, it hopped in and built its own world as soon as it came across the new door of possibilities, the metaverse. Just as Nike did, you need to look out for these doors too.

Nike today has a foot in the proverbial door of the metaverse world too.

Wondering if NFT marketing and designs will work for your brand as they did for Nike? Check our guides on NFT and NFT designs for a broader overview.

To conclude, Nike has been pushing boundaries since the start. They were creative with their products, introducing innovation and technology in a stagnant market, away from the race and its competitors.

It evolved swiftly to understand the need for gadgets in everyday lives and started combining its products with high-tech solutions to stand out as a leader. These creative solutions, in turn, provided unconventional power to their consumers. They were not "one of the options" for sportswear. They became "the option." 

Still winning in everything the brand touches, some express their fear that its global exposure might result in losing their focus on their purpose and identity. Nike would have to deliver a consistent image of superiority in quality and value to prove this statement wrong. As we can never know what the future holds, let's sit back, study and marvel at Nike's branding strategies for now.

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