Nike’s marketing team decided it wanted to be edgier, or some such, and approved its advertising agency’s move to use Colin Kaepernick as the centerpiece of a new campaign. Nike understands that Kaepernick is fairly well loathed across America, but decided we needed to be taught a lesson in bravery and tolerance.
Nike’s stock price immediately dipped so badly that one estimate put it at $3.5 billion. It’s been trickling up since the remarkable September 4th plunge, but as of this post, it’s back where it was in mid-August. And that could well be a correction (given its crazy August 20th jump), but perceptions matter a hell of a lot in marketing and the stock market. Even if 99% of the people dumping Nike stock this week were utterly unaware of the Kaepernick ad, he will be forever linked in marketing classes to the price plunge. Colin Kaepernick is the New Coke, the Buy-Starbucks-Get-A-Free-Lecture-on-Racism coffee, and the Chevy Nova in Mexico…the professors will explain these are more myth than reality, and that the companies weren’t truly hurt by the stunt, but…yeah, there was genuine damage done, forever linked in the imaginations of Americans.
Today on Twitter, the Czar mused that if he sat on Nike’s board of directors, he wondered how much it would cost to fire and replace the entire marketing department, and get a new advertising agency. Probably a lot less than $3.5 billion. Of course, an educated reponse occurred:
Wieden & Kennedy has handled Nike’s brand ads forever, and is responsible for “Just Do It,” Mars Blackmon, etc. Both companies based in the Portland area. They’re not firing W&K anytime soon.
— Chris Pippin (@ChrisPippin) September 6, 2018
No, probably not. But if the Czar’s favorite serf did almost four billion in damages wiping up blood from a carpet, the Czar would easily get himself a new serf to clean up that blood. Actually, something like that did happen, and we recall the cost of damages was something like eight dollars.
But here you go. Another company has decided to lecture Americans on the need to embrace Leftist idiot politics, and is paying a hefty price in doing so. Here’s some advice, folks, and you don’t have to go to that marketing class or listen to a professor explain away the Edsel. That advice: SELL YOUR PRODUCT, NOT LEFTIST PHILOSOPHY.
Dick’s Sporting Goods decided to ignore that advice, and announced that at some of its stores, it would stop selling some firearms. Soon this escalated into an anti-gun campaign by Dick’s, and they began to drop all firearm sales from all stores. This might hurt the business a little, initially, its leadership announced, but would attract more customers soon after. Most of this turned out to be wrong, as sales were hurt a lot, and while Dick’s has blamed Under Armour for poor sales of its insanely popular line of clothing, most analysts aren’t buying it, and some comments from inside Dick’s admits the gun thing was a bridge too far.
Next time, Dick’s should say “After careful analysis of firearm sales, Dick’s Sporting Goods has concluded that this product line is not sustainable in the long term, and we will begin closing out existing inventory and focus on other ventures.” Americans of most stripes would say “Hmm, well, okay. Sorry to hear about that.” No controversy, and you’re done. But instead, Dick’s decided to attempt capitalizing on the Parkland, Florida, tragedy and not surprisingly, most Americans (rightly or wrongly) considered Dick’s move a…well, a dick move. Rather than downplay it, Dick’s decided To Teach Us a Lesson. And it created a worsening slide in their sales.
Levi Strauss is considering an equally stupid move, with CEO Chip Bergh calling for widespread gun control. He must figure that’s okay, because they don’t sell firearms. But he should be looking at Nike to learn if Americans appreciate large corporate entities dictating moral lessons. Instead, he is forming Everytown Business Leaders for Gun Safety, a political action group to which they will donate a portion of their sales. Buy some jeans, fund an anti-gun group.
Any guess what’s going to happen to their sales? As they’re privately held, there’s no stock price to indicate public reaction, but let yourself not be surprised what happens in short order.
As Michael Jordan indirectly reminded Nike years ago, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” [He never said it, but his response after Nike management requested he become more political in his ads was substantively close. And he was totally correct.]