Ex-Nike VP of Marketing Asks Madison Companies to Show Their Values ​​| Company

When Greg Hoffman received his first pair of Nike Air sneakers at the age of 14, he had no idea he would end up spending nearly 20 years working for the company, eventually becoming its Vice President of global brand innovation. Little did he know that that same shoe would still be one of the best-selling sneakers in the world 40 years later.

He only knew how those sneakers made him feel.

“I literally felt like I could float in the air,” Hoffman said, though he noted the shoes didn’t make him any better at basketball and his jump shot was still just average.

Later, as a marketing expert, he would realize that Nike had engineered this feeling. “It wasn’t by chance … It was intentional,” Hoffman told the more than 1,100 people gathered Tuesday night at the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center for the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner, which this year had the theme “By Design”. “Before retiring from Nike in 2020, Hoffman designed some of the company’s most famous advertising campaigns. Today, he writes, teaches business students and advises brands.

In her keynote, Hoffman called brands that convince customers they buy more than the product itself, an approach central to her new book, “Emotion by Design: Creative Leadership Lessons from a Life at Nike “.

At a conference on Tuesday in Monona Terrace, Greg Hoffman, former vice president of global brand innovation for Nike, called on local businesses to develop more “human” brands and convince customers they are buying more. than the product itself.

“Good brands ask the question, ‘How do we want people to feel about our brand?’ said Hoffman. “But I think big brands, transcendent brands, ask a different question: ‘How do we want people to feel about themselves and their ability to achieve their dreams when they interact with our brand?'”

He laid out four principles that he says will help businesses and other organizations create “human brands” that “reveal their personality, pull back the curtain, and let the consumer see their values.”

“When you show your personality as a brand, your customers will respond to your humanity,” Hoffman said.

“Creativity is a team sport”

The first principle, Hoffman said, is to foster creativity by being inclusive. Contrary to what many people learn in childhood, he says, creativity has little to do with a person’s ability to draw or practice other traditional arts. “We can all brainstorm. We can all use our imagination. And I know we can all dream of a better future,” he said. “It’s just about creating an environment where that’s allowed to flourish.”

The job of companies, he said, is to encourage employees to do just that, instead of doing things the way they always have been. This creativity-enhancing culture, Hoffman said, is what allowed Brazil’s soccer team to create “ginga,” the style of play for which they became famous. Inspired by samba dance and the martial art of capoeira, the way the team plays and juggles the ball with all parts of the foot has garnered attention and world cups.

He also pointed to other ambitious experiments Nike has done, including creating a digital, interactive basketball court in Shanghai, where players shot and dribbled on what was essentially “a giant iPad.” Other projects allowed players to race against a virtual reality avatar of themselves or run on a treadmill while a video image of themselves was projected atop a globe.

“See what others see, find what others don’t see”

The second design principle, Hoffman said, is to use empathy to recognize another person’s situation and seek creative solutions. Showing a photo of two people fencing, he explained that, underneath their protective suits, one of these athletes had an invisible drawback: a head-covering hijab made of a material not designed for athletic competition. intense. As the athlete sweated, the hijab became saturated, making it difficult to hear the referee. That’s why, Hoffman said, Nike created their stylish Pro Hijab.

He urged companies to “create a vision advantage” by diversifying their teams, thereby broadening their view of the world. “We’re more powerful as a collective because it opens up our openness, it opens up our peripheral vision,” Hoffman said. “Diversity is the oxygen that gives life to the creative process.”

‘Come out of yourself’

Hoffman’s third principle is to develop curiosity, which he calls “rocket fuel” which further accelerates the creative process.

Many valuable innovations in an industry come from things originally designed for other industries, Hoffman said, citing the camera phone and the computer mouse as examples. In fact, he said, the key design components of the Nike Air sneaker, which used air to cushion the wearer’s foot, came from a Nike engineer who had previously worked for NASA.

“Don’t be complacent,” Hoffman said. “Comfort… is the enemy of creativity. We need to find ways to motivate our organizations to be curious.

“Leave a legacy, not just a memory”

Finally, Hoffman said, companies must be “brave” in order to break down the barriers that prevent others from reaching their potential.

He pointed to Colin Kaepernick, who sacrificed his NFL future when he began kneeling regularly during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice in the United States. When Hoffman first met Kaepernick, the young athlete was no longer playing for any team.

Athletes like Kaepernick, who took risks without being paralyzed by the possibility of failure, inspired Nike’s “Crazy Dreams” ad campaign, which features photos of athletes superimposed with a line about the aspirations they have. carried out. The idea, Hoffman said, was to amplify the athletes’ voices to “create action.”

From businesses to cities, the goal should be to “create a more humane future”, he said before leaving the stage. “Humans take risks. Humans are empathetic. Humans are curious. Humans create art. They create stories and humans collaborate. And, above all, humans leave a legacy. So let’s leave a legacy we can be proud of.

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