To make a brand work, you have to apply the proposition.

Nike early advertising is a case in point.

They recognised that to sell running shoes to a wider audience, they needed to convince that audience to get out there and do things like running. At the time, it wasn’t about fashion. It’s simple business. If Nike could get people to do more running, people would need more shoes and they’d sell more.

Create activity and you create higher demand. The Nike ‘tick’ logo was like a ‘yes’ tick or like ticking a box.

Yes as in say yes. Yes we’re with you. Yes get out there.

The ‘Just do it’ slogan was to motivate you to get up off your backside, your sofa and do something. And they didn’t show their running shoes per se, but rather, people just like you, doing things that aren’t boring, like running. In fact, making it interesting and exciting. Ordinary people – exactly thinking of their customers – The ordinary everyday person.

If you look at the Advertising too, they didn’t use models straight out of ‘central casting’, but real people in real places. Interesting photos to look at too, because when you saw the Ads, you saw, you!

Did it sell running shoes?

Not only that, but it brought running shoes (sportswear) into daily fashion, because by wearing them to the shops, people saw you as somebody who does something – someone with a bit of vigour, ‘get up and go’. The brand reflected on you – often called ‘the halo affect’. You might be down at the supermarket in your Nike shoes and people would think…hmmmmm, that person knows what they’re about. They’re in control.

Today, they’re an expensive fashion statement but it was Nike that exploded that daywear market. They grew the market and sold more shoes because they understood the customer and what the customer wanted. People wanted to get out there, lose weight, stay fit, look young….but they wanted someone to tell them, encourage them and give them a brand that enabled them to well, just do it.

Nike were thinking of their customers and producing a proposition that interested them.

Heinz identified Beans, not as a product but as a meal for runabout kids, easy and quick to prepare, tasty and cheap. ‘Naturally high in protein’ meant energy giving.

So, the proposition was simple – tell busy mum it’s for the kids because they knew Mum wanted to look after her kids above all, but she had a busy life too. The messaging is simple. Goodness for kids, easy and quick to prepare for the busy Mum (their customer).

And they also knew that baked beans could be boring over time and hence the ’57 varieties’ labelling slogan. But as Advertising, it’s simple and straightforward. Clean typography that’s almost deliberately ‘non advertising’, a pack shot (for in-store recall) and a plain background. We’d guess the green colour was to re-iterate ‘naturally’ and nature. Beans come from the earth.

Or at least, that’s how we’d have sold it!

The Marlboro man for cigarettes also understood their customer.

Cigarettes made you cool, a lifestyle choice, an aspiration. What office salesman didn’t see themselves as that cool ranch hand underneath it all. We still look at them with envy (Health issues aside). Of course, it’s not you (!) but it’s the you, you want to be! Out there rustling cattle in the wild plains of somewhere on horseback. The denim jacket, the white shirt, the chiselled jaw. And when the cattle are in, enjoying that congratulatory smoke as you do.

Most of us have never been on a horse, but it’s bang on aspirational – almost like you deserve it. Remember too, every boy wanted to be a Cowboy.

And look, you deserve it on the weekend too.

You are the Marlboro Man.

(But don’t ever smoke. It’s a killer product dressed up in nice Advertising).

But it was a brand built on aspirations not product. Lifestyle.

The point is, understand your customer and reflect their aspirations in your Advertising.

Talk with them, not at them. Be them.