Saturday, June 28, 2008

Deconstruction – Bad

Join me in a weekend thought experiment. Here’s a fairly notorious Nike outdoor board. Note the slogan, lower right: JUST DO IT – now 20 years old. Dan Wieden of Wieden + Kennedy is widely credited with creating this famous theme line, which Advertising Age chose as one of the 20th century’s Top Five ad slogans.

Next, let’s presume that your team is assigned to construct a new Nike corporate brochure. In a creative session, one of the top designers says something like: Why don’t we do a separate two-page spread for each of the words? We could explain each word and detail what it really means. We’d carefully explain ‘JUST,’ then on the next spread we’d say what ‘DO’ really means. And we’d finished up with ‘IT’ as the final piece – then, when you see all three spreads, you’d actually see JUST DO IT.

Would you say – Yes! That’s a great idea. Or would you gently suggest that perhaps this process would destroy the intrinsic integrity of one of the Nike brand’s most critical components?

Deconstructing a slogan or a brand statement that has this much accrued meaning would, IMHO, be quite a Bad Thing. You’d spoil the mystique that the slogan has gained over the years, you’d take away all of the visualized meanings that Nike and its agencies have put into building a crucial brand element. In fact, one of the beauties of a slogan such as this is that it is never deconstructed.

Really, the designer’s suggestion is one legitimate approach to creating new concepts. I propose it’s just not a good idea in the case of a strong brand line that resonates deeply with stakeholders.

Deconstruction – as a tool for literary analysis – has caused much more harm than good since the concept was invented by Jacques Derrida back in the early ‘60s. It has destroyed professors’ careers and been the “philosophy of the moment” on far too many college campuses.

In marketing, I urge caution when you try to extend explanations of your brand elements in public media.

Treat your theme line as a unity, whether you’ve got a 20-year-old stunner like JUST DO IT or a more recent slogan such as KEEP ON TURNING (shown here and my thanks again to Wood Group for maintaining its currency). By deconstructing such a strap line, you could confuse rather than enlighten. When you’ve built a slogan that “works,” let your stakeholders envision what it means for themselves. Let them help you create your brand image and meaning – it’s part of the marketing conversation. No deconstructing here, please.

Above: 2006 Nike outdoor ad featuring England player Wayne Rooney. Everything related to Nike, the “swoosh” and the slogan belongum Nike – no poaching.

1 comment:

S Reeves said...

CONNECT. IMPACT. SHINE. This is the 2+ year old tagline for Gamma Phi Beta International Sorority.

At our recent convention, close to 800 members met for workshops on leadership, philanthropy, recruitment and organization. Each presenter and member actively defined those 3 tagline words from their perspective and experience. It was amazing to see and hear how the stakeholders have adopted this.

No de-construction needed by us marketers. Just stand back and watch the movie.