Just Do It: Defining “It” Across Cultures


When I encountered that descriptor for the first time I felt like I struck gold. I finally possessed the string of letters, the five syllables that I could proudly say when someone asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The idea enthralled me, that an advertiser’s final piece was not only a means to solving a business problem, but a way to mirror, mold, or reflect on various cultures.

Turn back the clock a few years- Michelle Obama’s beginning her Let’s Move campaign, news programs are investigating the nutritional quality of school lunches, and headlines emphasize the increase of children with type 2 diabetes.

Nike reacted.

The spot depicted Nike in a fashion that aligned with its other USA based campaigns and nicely tied the brand to supporting efforts to end childhood obesity.

This week Nike began a new campaign aimed at a very similar segment– with the exception of geography; this campaign targeted South Korea. Similarly, the spot piggy backed on a shift in cultural behaviors.

In South Korea academics are prioritized above all, with children dedicating most of their time to schooling even when outside of the classroom. On top of the pressures to succeed, there’s been a rise in gaming addiction. Across the country efforts have been made to limit screen time and encourage children to reprieve through other activities. (Source)

Nike decided to shift away from the tone of power and determination, which is used in its American messaging, to a tone that depicts fun and spontaneity. Very Coca-Cola esque.

I felt a sense of uncertainty when “Just Do It” was revealed. I even experienced minor disappointment as I walked away without the motivation to run a half marathon. As viewers we develop expectations of brands, and messaging can lose it’s power when they’re too varied from the audiences’ frame of reference.

In comparing the two spots you are able to visualize Nike’s strategy of adapting their brand in order to connect with audiences in various countries. Nike chose a strategy similar to Two Dogs Beverage Company – who modified the characteristics of their brand mascots amongst their European and Japanese markets. Each ad resonates with its audience as it creatively communicates the culture’s evolving values.

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