Nike’s Marketing Approach with Sustainability Efforts

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By Gavin Write
Orange Nike Logo On Sustainable Wooden Panel At The Company's Business Office

Globalization has led to many manufacturers focusing on increasing their revenues and profitability. However, there are global organizations like Nike that believe without sustainability efforts no business can grow to become successful and sustain that mindshare from the public.

In fact, Nike has gone on record to say sustainability is one of the key components of success and no forward-thinking company can survive without sustainability efforts. Everyone usually wants marketing tips to grow sales fast, but a great marketing tip is to look at the long-term vs short-term, and ensure that you have a foundational plan that aligns with your brand's vision and position for future years.

These beliefs have guided Nike from its inception until today. It takes CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) very seriously and is continually striving to reduce the negative impact its manufacturing practices have on the environment.

Sustainability is incredibly important for any brand. People are growing increasingly aware of what brands are doing and how they affect the rest of the world. If the brand isn’t showing any effort and progress, then they risk losing customers. This has to do with everything from bioplastic packaging innovation, to the way they source their materials for manufacturing.  Employees also want to work somewhere that they can believe in and feel they can make a positive impact.

But not only does sustainability have its advantages, but it’s also a great way to look at the future of a company's decision making processes - setting the bar for how they buy, use, and distribute products.

So, How does Nike do it? Here is a glimpse into the brand.

Nike’s Vision

Nike has revised its environmental strategy and this was explained in-depth in the company’s annual sustainability report. The company’s vision is to reduce its environmental impact by sustainable use of resources, such as materials, water, and energy. So, they have joined hands with their material vendors and contract manufacturers to reduce the negative impact on the environment and they hope to achieve a goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals into the environment by 2020.

Nike has established a new Manufacturing Index, a rating system to evaluate its contract manufacturers worldwide and select the ones that conform to its sustainability efforts.

Developing your own accountability system is crucial in the sustainability journey. Everyone starts somewhere and by developing goals and metrics, brands can improve. When brands make sustainability part of their vision, they are recognizing that we need to be stewards of the earth and make a difference for society and the planet we all share. 

You can develop your own vision by studying how your brand is doing now. Establish goals of where you want your company to be in the next few years.

Nike’s Marketing Approach

Nike has realized its customers are gradually becoming more environmentally conscious and are questioning retailers who do not have sound sustainability practices in place. Nike has always put its customers’ interests first and this has been the basis of all its brand marketing strategies. This time too, the company is doing the same.

It does not leave any stone unturned to speak about the changes it is bringing in its manufacturing practices. Just like when the company introduced Nike Moon shoes when consumers were beginning to understand and digest jogging was good for health. Now that consumers realize saving precious resources and reducing (or doing away with) hazardous discharges are a must, Nike has gone beyond CSR to highlight its endeavors.

When Bill Bowerman, one of the co-founders of Nike, wanted to promote jogging as a sport, he believed in this idea completely. This laid the foundation for all the company’s marketing efforts. In modern times, the company once more realized the importance of protecting and saving the environment and fully believes in this. So, efforts are ongoing to make its manufacturing partners and vendors compliant with its sustainability practices.

By clubbing its sustainability efforts and marketing, Nike has broken the shackles most sports shoe and apparel manufacturers face. The company is all set to explore sustainable business practices and has not made any attempts to hide them. This has further endeared the brand and consumers are more than willing to shell out money to own a lightweight pair of Nikes with waffle tread.

Nike’s customer-first approach goes beyond a great product. They put customers first in their own vision by finding out what is important to them and how it can be applied within the company. In your own business, you should know your target audience better than anyone else; this applies to email marketing, product packaging, footwear marketing as a whole, and your company's over-arching position on sustainability, just to name a few.

It's what your customers truly care about. What are the things they associate with your brand? Sustainability is a great place to start because most people want their environment to stay healthy. Define what sustainability measures would be the most meaningful for your customers, then implement a marketing strategy.

The Bottom Line

The “Just Do It” tagline and Air Jordan may be imprinted in most consumers’ minds, but Nike is more than just branding design. It takes its responsibilities towards the environment quite seriously and this has become a focal point in the company’s marketing approach. The company is focusing less on compliance to standards, though it is still important, and paying more attention to rewarding factors for continuous improvement, management practices, and having the right performance controls in place. By taking these steps, Nike is seeking locations and manufacturing partners who can offer higher quality, which, in turn, will yield higher sales.

The elevated appeal of the new brand position is also now attracting a new breed of social influencer submissions from users looking to promote responsible brands, regardless of the products they carry; as long as they are doing the greater good, this new subset of social media influencer is leading the pack in promoting the overall idea of doing good.

As you think of how you can implement sustainability initiatives, it can feel daunting at first. You might feel too small, thinking that costs or influence with partners might be an issue. You might think you are too big, imagining the things you have to change at a grand scale. But the beauty of a vision for sustainability is that it’s all focused on the journey. You are implementing it because you aren’t there yet. So take it one step at a time and create goals that you can achieve within your means. 

Sustainability is built within the fabric of the company and will take time to meet goals and analyze the processes and brand partnerships that will affect your vision. 

Nike is a great example of the sustainability model. Study the brand and see how you can apply it to your own.

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