Ice to Eskimos: Nike plans to make life fun
Ice to Eskimos. Way back when, that was the saying. If you were so good at sales that you could sell anything, you were said to be able to sell “ice to Eskimos.” Now, before I go any further, I do have to mention that according to some the term “Eskimo” is currently off limits due to it presently being considered a pejorative. Apparently “Eskimo” is defined as either “eater of raw meat” or something to do with snowshoes. Whichever it is doesn’t really matter. It’s been officially classified as insensitive so the word police said “no mas” (wait, is saying that insensitive now too? Geez, I’m so confused....) Anyway, the preferred term for Eskimo is Inuit, which means “people.” Now, selling ice to people is no big deal so maybe you’ll understand why I started out saying the whole Eskimo thing in the first place. Sheesh, can this PC-crap ever chew up a column! Anyway, back to the main point I was originally trying to make: when it came to crazy-good salesmen, none could match the abilities of one Phillip Hampson Knight.
Small as a boy, young Phillip turned away from contact sports and focused instead on running. He got pretty good, and took his skills to college, running the mile in 4 min. 15 seconds. Apparently, he was also pretty good at business. That set of skills took him from Oregon State all the way to Stanford where he added an MBA to his repertoire. And it wasn’t long after that the nexus of Mr. Knight’s skills finally sparked with his decision to start selling sneakers from the trunk of his old Plymouth Valiant. The man had flair, but he also tweaked to the importance of smart advertising early on. So when the young entrepreneur started getting squeezed by the company he bought his first shoes from, he declined to give in and instead went on to make his own. That same year, the Olympic trials were being held in Eugene, Oregon. Salesman Knight convinced several of the marathon runners to try wearing his new running shoes versus what they already had. When the race was over, the runners wearing Adidas all finished in the top three places, but Phil’s folks captured the next four slots. That allowed Mr. Salesman to tout that “four of the top seven finishers” in the Olympics wore his sneakers. And with that, the branding juggernaut known as Nike was born.
So it’s really no surprise when Nike shows up on the scene with something new to sell. But like always, it’s the sales pitch that gets the first attention. Make it Count is a brilliant new ad campaign from Nike that melds together an absolutely wonderful mess of pop cultural icons and events. From movies, to personalities to celebs to music to memories, this spot induces copious amounts of smiling whether you expect it to or not.
From the call to arms (of sorts) by Cyrus from The Warriors, we are immediately thrust into a mix-tape sequence masterfully gelling the visuals of Indiana Jones running, LeBron dunking, skaters skating, Dorothy and the gang skipping, Happy Feet dancing, tennis playing, Monty Python walking, Amadeus conducting, Mc Hammer Hammering, Popeye and Bluto fighting and Rocky chasing a chicken. There’s the Dude, Mars Blackmon and on and on and on. The amount of familiar faces and neat memories squooshed inside this one ad is incredible. It could not be more perfectly targeted at my nearly forty-one year old backside. Without a doubt, somebody’s lawyers worked overtime assembling this spot. But for what? What in heck are they even selling?
As each clip in the montage blazes past we are told what “counts” and what does not. Basically, anyone moving “counts” while those simply chilling, do not. The answer comes at the end: a brand new sports accessory for your wrist: A Nike Fuelband.
Now, near as I can tell, the Fuelband is a fairly swish, digitally-enabled, cool-light emanating, re-invention of a pedometer. Remember the pedometer? That thing you got free in a box of Special K that you hooked on your belt to count your steps? It’s a modern pedometer, except this one comes with Bluetooth, and an app, and connects to your smartphone. And I want one like you cannot believe.
The commercial does the trick, convincing slack-jaws like me that I really do need to turn my life into a contest. A game! And who wouldn’t want to turn the daily drudge into something more fun? The idea is that you set a goal on your little high-tech wristband, strap it on and start living. As you get closer the blinking lights change color and encourage you forward, goading you into doing even more to accomplish your fitness goal. Honestly, it’s kind of inspiring in a weird sort of way. All of a sudden that broken escalator becomes a good thing that helps your count. The necessity of cleaning up dinner dishes actually works in your favor. The requirement to walk the dog is no longer hated, but anticipated. Leave it to Nike to find a way to turn the effort of exercise into fun, and profit. Like I said, ice to Eskimos.....cough, cough....I mean people.