Three reasons why Nike just did and your brand should too
It isn’t without risks; as the United States is Nike’s biggest market and the imagery of a hijab has to be controversial given that 37% of Americans view Muslims somewhat or very unfavorably. That said, I like this bet and I am guessing they are basing their strategy on three opportunities: market growth internationally, re-energizing their brand proposition and supporting recruiting efforts globally in an increasingly diverse marketplace for top workers.
Since worldwide, Muslims are on track to be spending $368 million on clothing, annually, by 2021, it’s hard to ignore the Muslim influence that is currently being felt across industries worldwide. So Nike’s move to launch a breathable and lightweight ‘Pro Hijab’ for female, Muslim-identifying athletes makes a lot of sense in terms of broadening their market share among Muslims. This is particularly true for a US-born brand as it makes a bold and differentiated statement in support of respect and inclusion. This leadership position in these valuable markets will be rewarded with loyalty as consumers praise companies who align themselves with the social issues they care about. Nike scores a win with Muslims as a whole and in the Middle East in particular.
But what is the impact of this product launch at home? Nike has chosen to push a very important national conversation forward: diversity and inclusion. They are saying “Just do it” isn’t only for some people- it is truly for everyone.
In 2016, Nike made their company diversity stats public, with 50% of their US workforce being minorities and 48% of that same workforce being women. While inclusion cannot be properly measured from these numbers (more information would be needed as to where minority workers are placed in the company and how they would define their experience), Nike is doing a good job at demonstrating their commitment to being a more inclusive, innovative, and high-performing business. And while the risk of making such stances may be high, the ROI could be even higher: a successful diversity strategy should convert into more diverse audiences relating to your brand, purchasing from it, and applying to work there as well. At Nike, they don’t only say “Just do it” they are saying everyone can do it both as a communication to the consumer and to their people!
In theory, an inclusive brand image sounds like a desirable and doable task. However, the reality of creating custom solutions for unique brand cultures requires a lot of research and planning, problem-solving, and consistent effort and reevaluation. In our work with Ken Blanchard, Nevro, and a current under the radar Fortune 100 Financial Company, we’ve taken the time to help them place matters of inclusion at the forefront of their business strategies, product launches, and messaging to current and future employees. We have an unusual perspective on the issue because we work with companies both internally– looking at training, recruiting and all aspects of human capital management– and externally, as a typical marketing agency. Because of this we focus on these three questions to help our clients get clear on their Diversity and Inclusion story and get it out:
- Do your clients, partners, and end users know about your company diversity strategy?
- Do you have impactful stories of inclusion that you can share with them?
- Is your diversity and inclusion policy comprehensive, i.e. not limited to hiring or to marketing?
Good citizen companies evaluate these issues transparently and take action to update their strategies in real, impactful ways and then fairly leverage them in messaging externally and internally. We can help with all of those tricky issues and make the assets to best align your company with people or your increasingly diverse market.