Mental model message

mental model message

Just Do It.™” Three concise words that not only comprise one of the most recognizable slogans in advertising history but have transformed Nike® into an emblem of athleticism. According to Nike company lore, the slogan was coined quite unintentionally in 1988 at a meeting hosted by Wieden and Kennedy, Nike’s advertising agency. Dan Weiden, speaking admiringly of Nike’s can-do attitude to a group of Nike executives, reportedly gushed, “You Nike guys, you just do it.” And the rest, as they say, is advertising history.

Twenty years later, juxtaposed next to Nike’s indelible “swoosh,” the “Just Do It” slogan is still deeply imprinted on our collective brand consciousness. I felt the sway of Nike’s brand as I eyed a new pair of cross-trainers during a recent shopping trip. “You’ll like them,” the salesman assured me, “they’re really athletic.” Really athletic. My mind raced with images of Sporty Me. Suddenly, I was transformed into a vigorous jogger. Or perhaps the shoes would morph me into the aerobics maven who lurks under professional clothes and demeanor. Maybe I could “just do” the physical lifestyle that hectic real-life keeps me from pursuing. My mental model was seized with possibilities.

It is this mental model, mine and countless others, on which Nike has spent millions. Through each well-orchestrated media campaign, the company reinforces this mental model. Energetic, healthy Nike athletes sweat across the television screen. Countless print advertisements capture moments in athletic lives, each subliminally reinforcing the brand identity that Nike is trying to forge.

The idea of mental model is not unique to marketing. I was first introduced to mental models while working in user experience design. In design as in marketing, a mental model is the composite set of impressions and assumptions that form a user’s view of an offering. Our mental models are the prime targets of identity-oriented marketing strategies.

In the case of Nike, its brand has become an emblem of athleticism. Through the repetitious use of well-placed media, Nike has increased the chance that a consumer who self-identifies as an “athlete” will prefer Nike’s products in the quest for a sporty life. To capture our mental models, Nike has linked its brand with our respective identities in such a way that the company’s shoes, sportswear, and accessories not only help strengthen the athletic self-identity but communicate it to others as well.

My new cross-trainers now safely sit in their shoebox in my home, locked in a world of unrealized images of an athletic me. I keep promising myself that I’ll soon take them out of the box, strap them on, and head out to “just do it” so I can unleash the athlete that Nike knows I am.

Neena Needel is founder and Principal of Point2Point Group (www.point2pointgroup.com). If you would like to continue the conversation, post a comment or send a message to neena@point2pointgroup.com.

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about neena gupta needel

In marketing, a brand touchpoint refers to every opportunity a company has to impress its brand upon its consumers. I hope my thoughts on these pages will help to connect my ideas with others who share a passion for marketing and communication.

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