Why Daniel Wellington wins on Instagram

Established in 2011, Daniel Wellington is a watch company named after a British traveller. With its headquarters in Uppsala, Sweden, this brand has named its watches after different cities in England. As stated on its official website, these series of minimalistic, vintage-looking watches equipped with interchangeable NATO and leather straps mainly target young audiences. Daniel Wellington, also known as DW, although designed in Sweden, is manufactured in China with internal quartz movements from Miyota, a reliable Japanese supplier (Pulvirent, How Daniel Wellington Made a $200 Million Business Out of Cheap Watches). The founder, Filip Tysander, has been able to build a $200 million business by selling these classy-looking inexpensive timepieces almost entirely from social media promotions.

Filling the void for watch brands online, Daniel Wellington owns the current decade in terms of online popularity. Through their social media approach, DW has been able to gain over 3 million followers, leaving behind top competitors in its industry. In addition to DW’s pricing, distribution, and timing to enter the watch market, it’s communication strategy is one of its major reasons for its success (This 31-year-old built a $180 million fashion empire in 5 years – here are his secrets to success – Business Insider Nordic).

How has new media worked for Daniel Wellington?

In terms of marketing, Pulvirent elaborates on the company’s novel approach on social media – working in collaboration with social media influencers, bloggers, and celebrities, to promote their brand worldwide. Working with social media stars has been observed to build a positive brand image, gaining more customers thus generating further sales (Feng et al., Cross-culture study of the use of social media in Sweden and China). Based on its foundation on public influence and how ‘noncompany actors influence customers to value the brand’ (Holt, How brands become icons: The principles of cultural branding), Daniel Wellington has been able to achieve viral branding.

With the decline in responses from customers on conventional online marketing, viral branding positions customers as an important factor in creating a brand, hence giving them the power to ‘discover’ brands.

According to Holt, companies underhandedly connect with influential customers to further develop their brand’s value. Similar to this approach, to create its brand identity, Daniel Wellington has given out free watches and special promotional coupon codes to thousands of influencers (Mediakix Team, Instagram marketing case study: Daniel Wellington watches). These influencers or brand ambassadors who have hundreds of thousands of followers act like ‘social proof’ for the product, in this case, the DW watch. Since people are attracted to products that others engage with, having social media stars onboard as brand ambassadors has pushed Daniel Wellington to gain more number of customers.

Stemming from this type of influential marketing, is online word-of-mouth, also known as e-WOM.

As the campaign progresses and influencers share their review of the product, followers are lured to turn into consumers and further spread feedback – both good or bad (Armelini & Villanueva, Adding Social Media to the Marketing Mix). E-WOM has worked in favour of DW as this organic channel has helped the brand sell over a million watches (Lee, How Daniel Wellington Sold A Million Watches In A Year Via Word-of-Mouth and referral marketing blog). Additionally, Armelini and Villanueva mention how e-WOM is easier to manage since it is interactive, unlike traditional channels like advertising. Online word-of-mouth makes it possible for all customers, past or present, to come together as a brand community and share their reviews which helps future customers base their decision to choose the brand or not. Overall, Daniel Wellington’s collaboration with influencers on Instagram has helped it build brand awareness and increase its online visibility (Leibowitz, Why your new business needs to market on Instagram). In line with its marketing strategy to collaborate with top influencers, Daniel Wellington recently added top social media celebrities including the famous Kardashian half-sister Kendall Jenner (75.9 million Instagram followers), an accomplished model Lucky Blue (2.8 million followers), and the stylish Rola (4.4 million Instagram followers) to their influencer list (PR Newswire).

Although influencer marketing has been observed as a communication strategy that combines trust with casualness, it is also sometimes perceived as a ‘in-your-face’ kind of marketing

(Montesi, Do Influencers Have a Future with Instagram Marketing?)

An influencer at the Advertising week Europe 2016 spoke of the need to educate followers about the nature of contract between an influencer and a brand (Charles, Instagram influencer hits out at ‘annoying’ blogger tactic by watch brand). Additionally, Daniel Wellington has been criticized for over-branding. The brand is known to be fussy with its Instagram influencers as they choose those who have an Instagram feed aesthetically similar to that of Daniel Wellington’s brand personality (Gilliland, Four common mistakes brands make with influencer marketing). On several occasions, this has led to more focus on the brand image than the product itself. Thus, in its approach to appear sophisticated, Daniel Wellington can ‘overbrand’, losing its initial aim of focusing on marketing their products.

Daniel Wellington is known for its Instagram feed full of professional photography that brings in the ‘glamour’ look to the brand handle. DW’s photos bring a very stylish and classy feel to Instagram users, depicting a life of luxury and adventure (Vesilind, Instagram We Love: Daniel Wellington). In her article, Vesilind goes on to point out the five different kinds of photos published on the Daniel Wellington Instagram profile which contribute in making it a huge success: gorgeous outdoor scenarios, artfully arranged ‘flat lays’ referring to the organized pictures taken from above, aesthetically pleasing pictures of humans taken from a far, pictures with subtle hints of festive seasons and finally, adorable pictures of animals. In other words, Daniel Wellington’s sophisticated Instagram feed depicts tastefully arranged art, centered on the showstopper – the Daniel Wellington watch itself. This attractive Instagram feed entices users to follow and engage with the brand.

Instagram is notably among the top social media platforms to engage with users. Thus, making it an apt platform for Daniel Wellington to interact with its followers and encourage audience engagement. Daniel Wellington has incorporated User-Generated Content (UGC) in their communication strategy. The brand makes use of this powerful tool by encouraging their followers to post their own images of Daniel Wellington products by using their branded hashtag (#danielwellington). Every day one of their customers’ photo – wearing or focusing on a Daniel Wellington watch – is chosen and republished on their own Instagram feed using #DWPickoftheDay. This motivates customers to create their own content in the form of images or videos and publish them on Instagram in the hope to be chosen as the brand’s ‘pick of the day’ (Taylor, Daniel Wellington & Instagram). This would not only validate their work as ‘creative’ but also expose their content to DW’s millions of followers. So far, Daniel Wellington’s branded hashtag campaign, combining influencers and followers, has generated over 1.2 million Instagram photos and videos. In another article, Ojeda (How To Create A Brand That Grows On It’s Own) mentions that for brands to be successful, organic growth plays a significant role. Keeping this in mind, it’s safe to conclude that Daniel Wellington has a source of high-quality user-generated photos at their disposal, making it one of most successful brands on Instagram.

Will DW’s success with Instagram last?

To summarize Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy, the brand has been highly successful in dodging paid media as the company’s CEO never invested in traditional forms of media. The brand has established itself as one of the most viral watch brand on Instagram. Daniel Wellington started out with simple platforms as owned media like its website, and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but today, its relies on its earned media, especially on Instagram, to communicate with its most important stakeholders – its customers.

Across all its channels, Daniel Wellington’s key messaging is consistent – engaging with customers and potential customers through its social media channels, especially Instagram, where it actively encourages quality user-generated content, using Instagram influencers for ‘natural’ product placements and generating traffic through promo codes.

Despite being one of the most used apps by millennials, Instagram is found to have substantial lacking for businesses (Latiff and Safiee, New Business Set Up for Branding Strategies on Social Media – Instagram). Even though Instagram requires another platform for a customer and seller to engage in a transaction, Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy through Instagram has seemed to work to build its brand. Daniel Wellington has been recognized as an accomplished brand, however, it has been noted that brands like Daniel Wellington are the reason for the end of the Swizz watch industry. In his article, Biggs (The Swiss watch industry is doomed) criticizes the economical pricing of Daniel Wellington and how similar brands are the reason luxury Swizz brands fail to keep up. He elaborates, stating that watches today are a mere commodity, blaming Daniel Wellington for selling ‘poorly-constructed watches’, thus providing customers a low-quality watch. With a recent study revealing Instagram as the worst social media application for young people’s mental health (Fox, Instagram worst social media app for young people’s mental health), it may be possible that Instagram might not remain as popular as it is today. In which case, brands like Daniel Wellington would have to take on other social media channels to promote their products and services.

With another study revealing the decline in the sale of smartphones (Swant, 7 Internet Trends From Mary Meeker’s 2017 Report That Marketers Should Know About), Daniel Wellington would need to consider other channels to market their product since access to all Instagram features are currently available only through its mobile application. As digital media continues to grow, Daniel Wellington can possibly find itself exploring or even experimenting with other social networks or applications to grow their customer base and retain their innovative brand identity. Even though Instagram started out as an image-sharing app, with every social network moving towards video, this platform is sure to introduce advanced features as it has with its launch of the live video platform (Burgess, Instagram’s future and where Kevin Systrom goes next).

With the fast-changing social network scenario, Daniel Wellington may be expected to add and remove elements from its marketing mix. Besides their online communication strategy, Daniel Wellington’s offline presence is noticeably grown over time. Their recent Hong Kong expansion adds to their existing 34 stores worldwide. In their attempt to make the brand identity more popular on the global scale, Daniel Wellington aims to open approximately 300 stores by the end of 2018. For now, Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy seems to be working in its favour. The steps taken by the company to spread their presence offline are also considered to be quite successful with the current times. With Daniel Wellington’s founder’s investment in a new technology fund helping Swedish start-ups make a positive social impact, it can be speculated that the billionaire has a visionary approach to social entrepreneurship as well as his products (Turula, The billionaire founders of Klarna and Daniel Wellington just announced a new ‘first of its kind’ tech fund). With time, Daniel Wellington’s communication strategy that highlights its products on social media, especially through Instagram, is bound to evolve with advancements in technology.

 

This communications strategy evaluation was first put together as a part of my coursework for master of marketing communications at the University of Melbourne.

New media and the rise of Instagram for businesses

It’s hard to remember a time when people didn’t have access to the internet. In the world today, almost everything is digitalized and connected to the World Wide Web. With the Internet being the fastest growing medium ever (Flew, New Media: An Introduction), it became possible for internet users to create and distribute huge amounts of digital content. Digital information in the form of data, sound, images, and texts distributed through telecommunication networks is described as digital media or new media. Another approach to define new media is the combination of the following three C’s: computing and information technology, digitised media and information content and communications networks. According to Miles, Rice, and Barr, this unique combination can be described as convergent media. In his paper ‘Commentary: Teaching media convergence and its challenges’, Bhuiyan explains how the true meaning of convergent media is ever-changing and that it is suitable to be termed as ‘adaptive media’ instead. He goes on to state that even with new media surrounding us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that ‘old media’ isn’t present anymore, giving an example of how newspapers have outlasted decades after the introduction of new media. Flew characterizes new media as digital information that can be easily modified at any stage of its creation; has an extensive network through which it can be cover any length of distance; is compressible and can be stored in a small space. By encouraging quality and quantity of participants on the internet, the concept of ‘Web 2.0’ introduced the world to the idea of social networking.

Originally created as a personal tool to share information, social media has been adopted by businesses of all sizes to reach out to their stakeholders. A recent report reveals that there are almost 3 billion active social media users worldwide, out of which 2.6 billion social media users access the internet via mobiles (Kemp, The global state of the internet in April 2017). Therefore, the importance of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram cannot be overlooked (Anderson, Getting acquainted with social networks and apps: picking up the Slack in communication and collaboration). Armelini and Villanueva (Adding Social Media to the Marketing Mix) mention the possibility of social media marketing overpowering the effects of traditional advertising since companies have started adding social media to their marketing mix. With limited marketing budget as one of the major driving factors, companies are viewing social media as an economical option when compared to alternatives like traditional advertising. In addition to these factors, the shift towards social media is due to internet users’ disinterest in using conventional online marketing like banner and email marketing (source: Gilin, as cited in Latiff and Safiee’s New Business Set Up for Branding Strategies on Social Media – Instagram).

The rise of Instagram as a marketing channel

Instagram is one of the most successful social media platforms with more than 600 million monthly active users from all over the globe (Wiltbank, Small Businesses: If You’re Not On Instagram, You’re Behind). While this social media platform may have elements similar with other social giants like Twitter and SnapChat, it has surpassed both these networks in terms of number of users. Besides its photo-sharing feature where users can add hashtags to be more discoverable (much like Twitter), Instagram users can also share minute-long videos and upload ‘stories’ that highlight their favourite ‘moments’ (similar to SnapChat) (Montenegro, Why Instagram Is Social Media’s Rising Star For Business). In her article, Wiltbank mentions how this social channel recently introduced simplified analytics, thus making it easier for brands to use it as an advertising platform. With over 150 million users every day (Constine, Instagram Stories hits 150M daily users, launches skippable ads), Instagram is, no doubt, an attractive marketing tool for businesses. When comparing it with online advertising, a Nielsen study reveals that ad recall from paid posts on Instagram is more than 2 times higher (when compared to other platforms) (Chaykowski, Instagram, The $50 Billion Grand Slam Driving Facebook’s Future: The Forbes Cover Story). This study involved over 700 campaigns on Instagram.

What makes almost 50% of brands worldwide market themselves on Instagram is more than just a new online space to advertise

(Curtin, 21 Important Facts About Instagram)

According to Wiltbank, rich media-sharing and direct response delivery are major factors that drive brands to use this social media giant to gain more users. Instagram has access to the right target audience with its technologically advanced analytics tool helping brands choose from different demographics, behaviours, and psychographics (Bandar, Is Instagram marketing still valuable for brands?). Two-third of marketers admit that rich visuals are vital for a brand to communicate with its consumers, thus brands are using Instagram to increase their conversion rates by 64%. Since half of Instagram users follow at least one brand, this platform proves to be an efficient channel for brands to launch campaigns and generate immediate sales.

How have brands successfully created their identity and increase their following on Instagram?

  1. Creating engagement with their audience through competitions,
  2. Connecting with influencers to spread the brand name and
  3. Sharing User-Generated Content (UGC) (The Guardian, ‘Reviews, tweets, Instagram posts: why customers are the new marketers; With 70% of consumers trusting reviews over sales spiel, user-generated content is a powerful tool. Sophie Turton explains how it can build your brand’)

The following factors play a big role in creating brand loyalty on social media channels:

  1. Fast customer service,
  2. Quick response time to negative customer feedback, and
  3. Establishing a friendly relationship with customers (Latiff and Safiee, New Business Set Up for Branding Strategies on Social Media – Instagram)

While some claim that the future of Instagram looks rather meek due to the overloading of users and brands (Lucey, The future of Instagram is spam), a research has revealed that this popular social network may be ‘the art gallery of the future’ (Millington, Is Instagram ‘the art gallery of the future’?).

 

This communications strategy evaluation was first put together as a part of my coursework for master of marketing communications at the University of Melbourne.

Sensory marketing: Scent marketing vs Virtual Reality (VR) integrated marketing

In the marketing world today, brands are fighting for the consumers’ attention so much so that every couple years new platforms are launched in an attempt to catch the most number of eyeballs. As more ads pop up both online and offline, it is evidently getting harder for brands to leave a lasting impression on their target audience. Consumers are smarter now though – skipping through ads giving them little to no attention. And this is the reason why the future of marketing may just be sensory marketing, a marketing technique that involves subconscious influence over customers’ senses. What better way to market products and services when the consumer is oblivious to this new marketing tactic? One of the first experts to identify the strength of sensory marketing is Dr. Aradhna Krishna, a behavioral scientist at the University of Michigan. She defines it as “marketing that engages the consumers’ senses and affects their perception, judgment and behavior”. Jennifer Johnson, senior vice president at Bioscience Communications, calls sensory marketing ‘a powerful communication vehicle that allows you to feel’.

Let’s take a look at where it all began. In early 2000s, innovative companies, such as hospitality giant Marriott International, started experimenting with sensory marketing. Marriott invested in the diffusion of carefully chosen scents to stimulate positive memories, reduce stress and relax customers. Studies have shown that the right fragrance has been able to make guests feel more comfortable at hotels.

sensory marketing
Image courtesy – Pexels

According to Forrester Research, customer experience programs are as responsive to emotional experiences as they are to functional experiences. In other words, marketers have an opportunity to invest in sensory aspects of the customer experience. Not only will this help them build loyalty among customers, it will push them to overcome similarities in business such as products, prices, and services. While sensory marketing provides a more holistic brand experience, Pam Scholder Ellen, a marketing professor at Georgia State University points out that in the case of scent marketing the ‘brain responds before you think’. Since smell generates 75% of emotions, this powerful quality combined with not having to bypass a logical brain makes scent a strong tool in terms of marketing (Scent of a Brand, Davis). Reaffirming this, JW Marriott’s Vice President – global brand leader, Mitzi Gaskins, stated that ‘scent is just as important as music, lighting, and botanical elements in creating the right mood’.

Surprising to some, another finding claims that scent marketing doesn’t suit all customers. Some guests are skeptical and often believe that strong odours in hotels are probably diffused to conceal a less pleasant odour. Additionally, in scent marketing, only a limited number of people can participate in a physical location (Marriott Hotels brings consumers on virtual-reality expedition, Precourt).

While the primary aim for sensory marketing is to express the values of the company to help establish a brand image, scent marketing is evidently a long-term strategy as compared to short-term strategies that dominate visual mediums such as Virtual Reality.

VR offers a complete immersive experience which would not be possible in the real world. A perfect example is that of Virtual Reality integrated in Marriott’s marketing strategy in 2014 with the launch of Teleporter booths. The targeted customers were newlyweds who were given options to travel to exotic honeymoon destinations through ‘the Teleporter’. Fitted with Oculus Rift headsets, they were ‘teleported’ to Hawaii and London. This innovative 4-D technology heightened customers’ sensory experiences by splashing water on their skin, blowing wind through their hair and making them feel the warm sun rays. As Marriott’s global marketing officer, Karin Timpone, points out “V.R. helped us tell a story and inspired people to travel”. By blending VR with the firm’s marketing strategy, it is possible to invite people from all over the globe. This redefines the relationship with the firm’s most important stakeholder – its customers. On the other hand, the current high cost of VR equipment and production cannot be ignored. However, this seems to be minor blimp on the radar as VR is expected to be a part of the average home-entertainment packages in the near future.

Linnaeus University’s Professor Bertil Hultén gives a deeper understanding of these two distinct sensory marketing strategies in his research paper on ‘Sensory Marketing: the Multi-Sensory-Brand Experience Concept’. Hultén’s multi-sensory brand-experience hypothesis focuses on the neglected customer experience and how its influenced by the five human senses.

Lasting brands are created by developing a strong emotional connection with the consumer since it’s been proven that in addition to products and services, customers also buy emotional experiences.

Built on several primary and secondary information sources, Hultén’s study describes how a customer creates an image in his mind after interactions with the brand service or product, thus creating an experience.

Comparing scent marketing strategy and VR-integrated strategy, one can note that while smell is vital, when paired with another sense, the overall effect can be enhanced. VR has proven to be a multisensory opportunity for brands to engage with its customers, differentiate themselves from their competitors and build loyalty (Marketing to the senses: Opportunities in multisensory marketing, Pathak & Calvert). A well-developed multi-sensory marketing strategy will help companies differentiate their brand’s identity from competitors and create successful customer relationships.

 

This analytic case study was first put together as a part of my coursework for master of marketing communications at the University of Melbourne.

Previously published on YourStory.

The evolution of digital content in 2016 and opportunities in 2017

I recently stumbled upon an article by Bala Srinivasa and Darshit Vora called ‘The Future Of Digital Content And Media Disruption In India’. Inspired by it, here is my take on how content is changing under the influence of digital transformation.

I vividly remember when a friend of mine asked me if I had a smartphone. This was back at the beginning of undergrad years when I used to think – just how smart can a smartphone be from my usual phone? Millennials, do you remember the time you used phones just to make and receive phone calls? I do. Cut to today, there are 220 million smartphone users in the country.

Video consumption – what’s the hype?

As of 2015, there were more than 110 million video viewers in India and this was primarily possible due to the introduction of inexpensive smartphones and faster Internet (Future of Digital Content Consumption in India, EY report). 2016 saw tremendous increase in individual consumption of digital content spreading across several formats. For instance, at my first semester in Melbourne, I discovered ‘#LoveBytes’, easy to consume because of its length (around 10 minutes/episode) and availability (YouTube). The series essentially deals with the issues an Indian couple faces while in a live-in relationship. Modern-day concepts, choices and struggles have become the subject of these web series. On further research, I found that #LoveBytes was in fact India’s first-ever show exclusively for the digital platform. In the past 2-3 years, similar advancements have been made to create short-form content for news (like the inshorts app), gaming (Rummy) and education (classteacher).

With aggressive marketing, there is undeniable competition and it’s getting harder for companies to maintain their brand recall. This is especially prominent in a world where people are exposed to several hundreds of brands each day. As Richard Edelman, CEO at one of the best public relations firms in the world, mentions in his blog ‘The Way Ahead: 2017’, ‘native advertising will have to change to survive’ by creating unforgettable video and graphic experiences for audiences.

Digital content is meant to be short, quick to consume and omnipresent. With the increasing number of smartphone users, social media platforms are introducing features that enable users to share more digitally. In the words of Bala Srinivasa and Darshit Vora, “Content – especially video is a key focus area for social platforms.” Facebook with its live video option, Twitter and Instagram with short ad videos, and of course Snapchat, with its perishable short video-sharing feature. More platforms that give users the space to share live video streaming are joining the current scenario like Periscope and the most recent introduction of 360-degree live videos on Twitter. Even traditional Indian media is experimenting with the online medium and successfully building audiences. Earlier this month, a study revealed that Times of India had the most viewed videos on Facebook, with over 112 million views in just a month.

Digital content and brand building

This is my personal favourite. Over the past couple of years, experts in their respective fields have been using digital platforms to publish their own video content. I’m talking about the likes of Vani Kola (MD, Kalaari Capital) and Shradha Sharma (Founder, YourStory) who take on professional spaces like LinkedIn to express their views through blogs, and now even videos.

Producing organic video content and publishing it on a relevant platform is helping these influencers build themselves into a brand.

There are possible opportunities in this space this year where I find that increasing number of C-suite level executives, CEOs, founders are recognising the significance of personal branding. 2017 will see a rise in the number of people sharing perspective, predicting future industry shifts and more. In addition, 2017 is going to be the year of three-way conversations, where thought leaders will share their expertise with their audiences, who, in turn, will create and share their own organic content–becoming an integral part of the conversation. This nature of conversation promotes a healthier, more transparent dialogue among corporations, brands, and their most important stakeholders – consumers.

Looking at Internet penetration as a whole, a recent Assocham – Deloitte study revealed that Internet connectivity has yet to reach Tier II and III cities and touch the lives of a staggering 950 million Indians. When this does happen, the country will witness a revolutionary wave of growth. In September, Reliance Jio launched services, including unlimited voice calls, SMS and high-speed data in 2,00,000 villages across India, further strengthening digitisation in India. Further on, the demonetisation has acted as a catalyst in helping people make the shift to digital payments.

While digital content consumption is on the rise like never before, opportunities for 2017 remain exciting and prominent. With several advancements in the digital space, it’s an inspiring time for us digital enthusiasts.

 

Previously published on YourStory.

 

Nike India Commercial: Embracing Women Body Image Issues

One of the globe’s largest corporations, Nike is known for their athletic shoes and apparel. In fact, “in 2014 the brand alone was valued at $19 billion, making it the most valuable brand among sports businesses. Today, Nike is one of the largest public companies in the world.” (Forbes, 2016). This year, the multinational corporation has jumped to 91 from 106 on the Fortune 500 list. (Fortune 500, 2016).

But the company was not always growing at this pace.

Despite being one of the top athletic companies of their time, Nike was not the first to introduce sporty products exclusively for women. “In 1981, Reebok, one of Nike’s competitors in the athletic shoe industry, chose to make women its primary target market” (Lucas, 2000). Reebok went on to earn profit that year while Nike experience a significant dip in sales. It was not until the 1990’s that Nike started marketing products for women. Nike used icons, symbols and indexical signs to create and develop a concept of community for an audience that was once uncatered, that is, the athletic female. Nike introduced women to the idea of being strong, athletic, in an approach that did not threaten their femininity. It was an accustomed option, a new identity that women could embrace without feeling as if they were stepping into an unknown territory. This way, Nike positioned itself as a brand that united women to the idea of stepping into a category, previously only dominated by men. (Grow, M. Jean. 2006).

Distinct from their first commercial aired in 1982 (Nike’s first television commercial – 1982, 1982), today Nike strategically creates advertisements specifically for female audiences, involving their intricate life experiences and hurdles and blending them in a way that appeals to all those women who strive to either enter sports or those who have already achieved credibility as a sportsperson. With numerous online and offline marketing campaigns to add to their brand value, their tagline ‘Just Do It’ has been named as one of the top five slogans of the 20th century. (Advertising Age, 1999). Nike allocates a huge part of their marketing for just women sports products. “Nike is bullish about what’s ahead, projecting $50 billion in sales by 2020 due to a global shift toward fitness and significant growth from the women’s business, Jordan brand, and e-commerce sales.” (Fortune 500, 2016). “The women’s business has proved lucrative for Nike, growing 20% in the fiscal year ended May 31. That’s twice the rate of its men’s business…”   (Malcolm, 2015).

With a history in representing women who play sports, Nike has decades of background in advertising and marketing to this specific target segment. Making sure it stays current with the on-going cultural conversations, Nike has come up with an advertisement this year that vouches for their stand on embracing women of all shapes and sizes.

This Nike advertisement was first published on December 10th, 2014 on Bani J’s YouTube channel.

Although Bani J herself is paradigmatic to the idea of women bodybuilders, the complete video is a syntagmatic representation of how this independent woman lives her daily life and fearlessly follows her passion. The surface level reading of the advertisement is that of an independent woman choosing a healthy lifestyle, but a deeper reading reveals the acceptance of all kinds of body types and a sense of approval which is required by all humans and is regarded as a primitive need.

After a run, she posts her achievements on social media and makes yoga dates with her friends. She is one of the 83% of the millennials for whom “wellness is a daily, active pursuit.” (Goldman Sachs, n.d.). When compared to their predecessors, millennials are smarter eaters, regard smoking as more of a taboo and exercise more. This is the generation that uses applications on their phones, tablets or laptops to search for information to make informed diet-related decisions as well as to track their training data or diet history. This is also an area that they are willing to spend money in to get the best quality services. Understanding what millennials want, large corporation like Nike have “build their (marketing) strategy around digital-physical fusion.” (Rigby, 2014). In addition to this healthy side of her life as seen in the video, Bani J does not forget to have fun with her girlfriends every once in a while.

The video continues to show glimpses of her life while the background music is consistently peppy and upbeat with lyrics mostly repeating “don’t stop”. This makes the underlying theme of the video motivational as it showcases the life of Bani J. Words like “train”, “run”, “live” and “style” flash the screen representing the ‘signifier’, that is, the words that symbolize positivity, health, exercise and staying in fashion. Bani J’s lifestyle choices, body type, eating habits, work out regime, her choice of clothes and tattoos, all act as the signified while Nike’s campaign acts as the signifier that puts her muscular body type in high regard. Here, Nike positions itself as a brand of the current generation that embraces all women body types.

Despite what the message of the video is trying to send across to the masses, Bani J has faced significant backlash for her ‘muscular body’ from the viewers. People on social media have been quite vocal about their disapproval for a woman to have a ‘muscular body’, saying things like –

‘Lifting weights will make you look manly’, ‘You’re not a girly girl if you lift weights’, ‘I don’t lift weights because I just want to ‘tone up’, ‘Girls should only do cardio, lifting is for guys’, ‘So what steroids are you on’, ‘That’s way too much muscle.. For a woman’.

-(FirstPost, 2016; Hatch, 2016; The Hindustan Times, 2016; Baruah, 2016).

The irony of this Nike advertisement is that although it conveys freedom of choice to a woman to live her life the way she wants, even if she wants to be a bodybuilder (as in this case), the protagonist of the video received backlash for the very same reason.

Another Nike advertisement (as seen in figure 2) called ‘Da da ding’ presents itself as a perfect example of a video that is created to help develop a sense of acceptance for all body types in women. (Natividad, 2016).

The advertisement is able to speak to women who may be short, tall, muscular, slim, bulky or curvy and convince them that they are capable of achieving anything regardless of their body type. With the idea of showcasing a woman choosing to keep healthy by going to the gym, maintaining a fit body and proud of her muscles, the Nike advertisement was able to build on its brand with the reputation that it understands the issues of women just as it does the other sex. The advertisement speaks to women of all shapes and sizes, women who are self-conscious, women who would rather not choose a certain career in life because their body type did not conform to society’s idea of ‘normal’. With a majority of women facing body image issues, the audience the commercial caters to is a staggering number. I conclude this article with an epiphany that if huge corporations like Nike focus on developing marketing campaigns directing at creating positive body image and diminishing body image issues in women, the self-acceptance and happiness quotient in women will rise, giving way to a happier consumer population.

 

This was first put together as a semiotics textual analysis paper as a part of my coursework for master of marketing communications at the University of Melbourne.