Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

The brand truth: ‘You are what you do’

Last night, in a rugged NBA playoff game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets, LA’s Kobe Bryant was sent sprawling to the floor after being tripped by Denver’s Dahntay Jones. After seeing the TV replay, the ABC announcers all believed Jones intentionally tripped Bryant, although the referees missed the obvious foul. Play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, in an apparent defense of Jones, said the Denver player was not considered “a dirty player” in the NBA. To which analyst Jeff Van Gundy responded, “You are what you do.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter whether Jones is considered a clean or dirty player, because that was a dirty play. And if he continues to make plays like that (in an earlier game Jones pushed Bryant in the back as Bryant went in for a layup), he’ll earn an undesirable reputation as a dirty player. 

Maybe only an NBA fan and branding consultant like me would offer Van Gundy’s words as a caution to those who oversee their firm’s brand. All of our carefully researched and cultivated efforts to develop a certain image among our stakeholders are only as effective as the collective behavior of our organization. That’s why I believe managing your business’ brand or reputation is not simply an exercise in marketing. Who you say your business is in your marketing counts for far less than what you do as a business. 

Logos and slogans do not define your brand. Actions do. When the spotlight is bright and the pressure to perform is great, how do the executives and employees of your organization behave? That’s where you’ll find the truth of your brand.


Playing with green Air Jordans in a dead-end game

Say what you will about Nike, they know how to market and sell products. And they seem to take seriously the challenge of becoming a more sustainable manufacturer. Witness the 23rd version of its most high-profile product, the Air Jordan basketball shoe. It’s said to be Nike’s “first premium product designed according to the company’s sustainable standards.”

My question for Nike, and virtually any other manufacturer, is how do you square your boundless desire for growth and its associated requirement to make and sell more products with your stated objective of reducing your environmental impact.

Isn’t it a bit like exercising madly while eating ever-increasing amounts of low-calorie foods, and still expecting to lose weight? You can only exercise so much. Meanwhile, your caloric consumption steadily increases and eventually so does your weight. At some point, you have to start eating fewer calories.

Nike, and consumer products companies like them the world over, must at some point realize that selling ever-increasing amounts of products, no matter how low-cal (green), is an environmentally dead-end game. The earth’s natural resources are finite. Using them in smaller quantities per unit ultimately changes nothing when unit volume is always increasing. And that’s to say nothing about the carbon footprint of companies like Nike that continue to expand office space, send growing numbers of employees on countless airline trips around the globe and ship their products thousands of miles from where they are manufactured to where they are consumed.

Whether Nike or anyone else wants to admit it or not, there’s nothing sustainable about an economy dependent upon growing material consumption. Something has to give. And right now, Earth is doing all the giving. You won’t hear that in the new Air Jordan commercials.