Forced to stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic, there must be many people who have spent months in a sort of hibernation. Bewildered at first by this new experience, some have probably struggled even after they return to their regular job or lifestyle. But when we become accustomed to it, we discover some surprising positives. For example, some people don't have to ride packed trains, they can take a break to refresh at the time of their choice, and so on. Some say they're happy to have considerably more time available to them in a day. There have been news reports that many people use this time to clean and organize their home, and especially to take a stab at decluttering. When some people declutter, old items bring back memories that impede the progress of the work. Take clothing, for example. You remember wearing an old article or about what it was like back when you wore it. Furthermore, fashion trends come and go, so in a few years you might be able to wear it again. In fact, fashion trends have reverted back to the '90s over the past few years. In the end, that means you can't throw much away. The same goes for books and music. They retain all kinds of memories and recollections. At a glance you can remember with great clarity what it was like at that time. Like a switch that recalls footage of a memory associated with an item, you sink deeper into that world unfolding in your mind.
The film industry has been struck with a huge blow by the coronavirus pandemic. If you swagger around with a camera outdoors, you get dirty looks. It's not something the public wants to see. Movies are no exception, and neither are TV shows. Companies have had to wait to shoot new commercials, too. Due to the circumstances, there's nothing that can be done about it. With social distancing rules in effect, there is first of all a risk to large film crews and editing teams, but there is an even bigger risk for the client if something were to happen. That's what everybody thinks, so nobody's taking action. But Nike is different. The company, which has hired many different athletes for commercials in the past and has rolled out exciting campaigns that inspire people across the globe, went out of its way to announce a new “You Can't Stop Us” campaign during the pandemic, and then released a video entitled “Never Too Far Down.” Naturally, it would be difficult for a different company to plan a commercial. But so far, Nike has put out a dynamic video that uses sport to stir envy in viewers. Under these circumstances, it may be impossible to deliver an inspirational message to people. The production team kept up its determination, so if they couldn't shoot new footage, they acted on a new idea of creating a commercial from something else. Using previous footage in their possession, they put together new content that could do a good job of generating empathy in the current situation, and showed it to the public. The format is quite simple. It gives people around the world another look at heroes ingrained in our memories being taken off of their pedestals before making a dramatic comeback. The athletes are golfer Tiger Woods, tennis player Serena Williams, soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, tennis player Rafael Nadal, and basketball player Paul George. The commercial shows them suffering serious injuries or floundering badly, but still going back again to square one. These memories are deeply embedded for many people, even those who have little interest in sports. Then, there's the copy: “You are never too far down to come back.” Even when it seems their spirit is broken, the athletes stay positive and take it one step at a time in a mental battle against themselves. The intent is for viewers to superimpose themselves on the athletes, and to be encouraged not to lose heart, even in this pandemic. In fact, perhaps the production team was viewing their work with similar emotions. They were resolute, didn't give up, and achieved their objective by finding a way. It makes one feel that the campaign policy has exerted an influence throughout the entire company. In fact, this commercial was aired during a broadcast of a comeback charity match (with no spectators) Tiger Woods held in Florida on May 24, 2020, reaching 5.8 million viewers. The commercial has also gathered a great deal of attention after its release on YouTube, where in only three days it was viewed over 76 million times.
Of course, the production quality was held back somewhat by the less than ideal circumstances. Even so, the production team put creative ideas to work. For example, the commercial shows NBA star Paul George suffering a severe injury, then making a miraculous comeback after working hard in rehabilitation, but the narration is spoken by his biggest rival: Lebron James. Paul George has squared off against Lebron James numerous times, but here his rival is offering encouragement and commending his bravery. This lovely production has also become a hot topic among basketball fans. By timing product launch and getting people in the mood to empathize and talk, the commercial has furthermore elicited a huge response on social media, where users talk about watching it to the end or that they were brought to tears. This has improved Nike's likability as a company.
What's more is that for many years, Nike has held to a consistent production policy. This has involved a focus on telling a global audience about what makes sports great, not the company. Many people have seen the commercial as not being for Nike's sake, but for the world's, for people's sake, and this is also in line with the company's policy. This is exactly why no matter what the circumstances, Nike can pave the correct path by following that policy. It allows Nike to make prompt decisions on what is the correct direction to take. The company doesn't even hesitate to apply the policy to political topics. The point is that Nike is always instilling people with courage. This commercial, which was produced by following a consistent brand policy and making use of previous materials, has received praise as a message that matches what people are thinking. This has shown the importance for companies to reflect on their vision, mission, values, or purpose, and to layer messages with a consistent stance. While the coronavirus pandemic was the instigation for the commercial, it stands as an example of a likely guideline among communication standards after they undergo coming changes.
On the other hand, some people might say that only someone that has executed continuous communication like Nike could pull this off, and that it doesn't apply to their company. In a sense, that is correct. However, even though the materials in the examples below come from the past, we're going to cover them because they identify something as a sort of “common symbol for everyone,” which is then fitted into the design of the communication as a motif, while also being a means of creating a touchpoint with excellent results. Our first example is the “Replay” campaign rolled out by Gatorade.
Fans of American film and TV shows may recall this and say, “Oh yeah, that one.” The main characters appear in scenes where they recall memories of games between local high school and university sports teams. The stories they tell are like this: “There was a game one year or one time where that guy scored three touchdowns. It was amazing! I'll always be able to close my eyes and picture it.” Every time, it's amazing how precisely these people can remember those old stories and talk about them so articulately. In addition, it's impressive how much they love their sport. This “Replay” campaign was put together based on their powerful memories. When the story begins, it starts with a memorable game that everybody has something to say about.
In 1993, a high school football game between Easton and Philipsburg high schools ended in a tie. For this project, Gatorade reunited the original members of those teams 15 years after the game for a rematch. It isn't difficult to imagine that after 15 years, all of them have wondered how it would have turned out if something different had happened at a certain time or certain place. However, for those who in the game, it happened a long time ago and their bodies aren't what they used to be, and they have a feeling that it may be a lost cause. Gatorade is a beverage brand that supports not only active athletes, but also former players. If they could build their bodies back up and rewrite that dream, Gatorade offered to make the replay happen by bringing back the former players, now already approaching their mid-30s, to compete in that game from 15 years before. This was an attempt at a pure sports experience, so Gatorade provided full support for 90 days of player training and the game, then released footage of what happened online.
It was reminiscent of a diet challenge on a reality TV show, but the players took on the mission to go from having flabby bodies, unsatisfactory memories from 15 years ago, and the accompanying frustration, to instead drink Gatorade and undertake a rigorous training program to get their underused bodies back into shape. After sticking it out through the program, the day of the game finally came. Watching the players feels like viewing a documentary, but you can also feel their intensity. The game generated huge interest from people, and tickets sold out in only 90 minutes. The ripple effect in the news led to media exposure with an equivalent worth of $3,415,225. Meanwhile, sales of Gatorade in the community where the game was held reportedly increased by 63%. By showing various media outlets the process the players went through to get back into shape, Gatorade seemed to elevate its image as a drink that contributes to such activity. The plan had perfectly achieved its intended effect. You could say this action was an excellent piece of emotional guidance toward a single feeling, while being based on a remaining fragment of a clear memory already in the minds of many people.
While the sports drink Gatorade used a football game everyone remembers, there is another example which used historical literature stuck in people's memories to arouse interest and produce results. To arrest the 2009 swine flu pandemic, the Stockholm County Council in Sweden took action. The WHO designated the swine flu as a pandemic in March 2009. The pathogen was identified as a swine influenza that had spread among pigs, which was transmitted directly from pigs to humans, perhaps at a ranch, after which it spread between people as a new type of virus. Although a flu vaccine had been completed for the 2010-2011 winter, early vaccinations were preferable to quell the pandemic. However, although this may be true in every country to some degree, the young people of Stockholm did as they pleased, knew no fear, and didn't listen to anything the authorities said. Instead, they took an anti-establishment position and called for resistance to forced vaccinations. There were even some who took to the streets to make their voices heard. Vårdguiden, a portal site handling health information, understood that these youths would not be swayed by a conventionally authoritarian message, and they acutely felt the need to take a new approach to building relationships with young people and to do so in a bigger way. The site therefore decided to make use of social media to connect with young people, but questions remained over what sort of contents to put out and what would catch their target's attention. After considering the matter, they decided to approach youths using the story “The Decameron.”
“The Decameron,” written by Giovanni Boccaccio, a poet from medieval Florence, Italy, is a collection of tales that is well-known in Europe. The title comes from the Greek deka hemerai, which means “10 days.” Thus, the title refers to 10 days of stories. It was written from 1348 to 1353. The story is about 10 people – three men and seven women – who hide themselves away in the outskirts of Florence in 1348 to escape the Black Death. There, they spend 10 days taking turns telling 100 amusing stories to drive off the looming specter of death. The fascinating tales, which include stories of love, failure, and more, peppered with humor and eroticism, are popular among young people. To illustrate some of the themes, there are stories about: enjoying success and good fortune after great hardship, finally achieving a long-cherished desire or regaining that which was lost, unlucky lovers, lovers who hit upon luck after a spell of misfortune, people who avert crisis through spur-of-the-moment changes, and wives deceiving their husbands (and vice versa). Another theme in the book is freedom. Rather than being boring or preachy, the stories are mostly comedic. The characters portrayed are also enthralling. They include a downfallen aristocrat, a clergyman whose only interests are money and women, a tough-negotiating merchant, a hearty peasant, and a man and woman who amuse themselves with wild abandon through carnal desires. Some believe “The Decameron” was influenced by the “One Thousand and One Nights,” a collection of tales from the Islamic world also known in English as “The Arabian Nights.”
The Stockholm County Council then selected 10 people to form a group of influencers popular among youths. On a newly launched website, “The Swine Blog,” they were asked to spend 28 days talking about their opinions, ideas, thoughts about health, vaccinations, and the swine flu. One person had a lot of hilarious things to say about vaccinations, while a post from a music journalist included comments from hip hop artists. There is also a Facebook page, where the blog gradually increased touchpoints with young people to get a conversation started among them. In the first week, the blog had 14 million visitors, while the Facebook page became a major piece of network media with 4,000 fans. Through these efforts, after two months the council had achieved its target of an 80% vaccination rate among young people, with 88% having received vaccinations, the highest percentage in the world. Meanwhile, Sweden's minister for health and social affairs extolled this project as a European best practice case.
As these cases show, the starting point for communication is to identify a touchpoint with people that leads to conversation or empathy. As a universal rule, if you travel to an overseas destination, when you start speaking with the local people – who use a different language and have a different culture – as you enter the conversation, you try to gauge where their interests lie by estimating their age or other traits. When formulating a communication strategy, it is extremely important to identify what the target's largest common denominator is, whether it be a shared memory, experience, or the like. Memories, of course, differ between each person, but a lasting memory makes a strong impression, which means that it has a big impact on the person's everyday thoughts and emotions. By getting into people's heads and making insights, we can discover their memories and use them as a switch that instigates action. Even if you're not Nike, through this coronavirus pandemic, your company's ability to reorganize the past assets in its possession, or the history of memories that connect products and consumers, will likely become a key point for pre-and post-coronavirus branding. It will overlap with action to reclarify one's position. If the goal a company has always aspired to remains correct while sticking to the same objective, then the company should revisit and reorganize the presentation of that history to be even more persuasive. On the other hand, if the coronavirus pandemic means that a company needs to shift its purpose in a different direction, then it will become an opportunity to figure that out. There must be many companies coming here for whom everyday brand management will have greater importance.