Emotion by Design


Innovative strategies for success from former Nike CMO Greg Hoffman, who had a major hand in crafting Nike’s singular brand and was instrumental in its most high-profile breakthrough campaigns.

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Key Takeaways

  1. But the creative process doesn’t follow a linear path, and often moments of inspiration come upon you in unlikely places—if you’re open to them.
  2. Put simply, a brand gains a competitive advantage through its ability to construct powerful emotional bonds with its consumers. I believe this connection can be consistently achieved by cultivating a strong creative culture.
  3. I call this Emotion by Design—the ability to create stories, images, and experiences that make people feel that even their most audacious dreams are possible to achieve.
  4. Creativity grows from the insights we discover that others miss. We find these insights through the diversity of experience in our teams, as well as from our own passion for exploring beyond what we know.
  5. Throughout this book, we’re going to be talking a lot about the process by which we do this: How do we tell the most effective story to connect with our consumers? Where do we start? What are we looking for? But before we get to those stories, we first need to lay the foundation.
  6. One essential element, the wellspring from which so many inspiring ideas originate, is empathy. Our ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else is what allows us to get to the deeper truths and begin fashioning a story around them. It’s because of empathy that we can get outside ourselves and begin the search for what moves others. What are their concerns, their joys, their fears, their needs, and their dreams? Where does our brand intersect with those emotions? What does our product do to empower our consumers to satisfy or ease those emotions? Within that matrix we start to see the powerful insights that will inspire our storytelling and experiences.
  7. the ingredients that go into building the right creative team seem so counterintuitive. But like the Brazil National Football team, if you can get it right, then magic will happen. One cannot appreciate the stories in the pages that follow without first understanding that it all begins with the right team.
  8. Embrace the Daydreamers: I kicked off my speech with a call to embrace the “daydreamers,” by which I meant the right-brained creative thinkers on your team with a penchant for driving you and everyone else, well, a bit mad. Traditionally, right-brained people, those who ask the question “What if…?” or say “Why not…?” and eschew process and order, haven’t always felt welcome in corporate America, which often has embraced the analytical mind over the creative one mostly because the former fits in well within a hierarchical structure. And, yes, the daydreamers aren’t always easy, but a brand that wants to put a premium on innovation must include them. A creative culture, where risk-taking and disruption are put ahead of the status quo, can become a brand’s competitive advantage.
  9. Curiosity is the catalyst for creativity. It’s what allows you to see opportunities and harness the inspiration to seize them. Finding inspiration can be difficult, despite how infinite it is. So rather than waiting for it to find you, create a plan that allows it to flow naturally through you and into your work. So, bring the outside world into yours through habits and rituals and, in turn, empower yourself and your team to achieve greater creative results.
  10. But perhaps product design’s biggest source of inspiration is Nature itself, through the practice of biomimicry, which is the art of drawing inspiration from nature and applying it to design solutions for people. Sometimes this calls for taking design cues found in plants, animals, even insects. Other times it’s drawing directly from the human body and the surrounding landscape, as Nike did with the Air Rift running sneaker.
  11. one of the most important creative principles: Hold the smallest detail to the highest standard.
  12. Visually stunning concept books aside, the speed at which Ray and I moved from idea to visualization was central in turning the concept from a conversation into something real. How often do you and your teams find yourself talking about an idea in a meeting, leaving the room, and then not addressing it again until a month or even a year later? “Hey, remember that idea we talked about? What ever happened to that?” It’s usually because no one took the essence of the conversation and visualized it. I liken this to creating a “movie poster of the idea.” How can you distill the story, the concept, into a singular image that immediately takes the viewer into the idea? My mantra was: Be quick and be visual. Don’t waste time talking about an idea in countless meetings; use that time on making the idea a reality. An image of the idea will either get everyone excited and on board—or it won’t.
  13. If you couldn’t release it as a normal commercial, then why release it at all? Answer: Because the story deserved to be told. Because we weren’t going to be bound by traditional methods when the whole concept was untraditional. If you’re trying to reach consumers in a new way, then you have to be willing to forgo how things normally work. That’s the whole point, and it’s damn scary when you’re in the middle of it and you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.
  14. Make the movie poster. What’s the movie poster of your idea? How can you tell your story within an image in an instant? Talking about an idea can only go so far. Get visual, sooner, to bring the team into your idea, and the idea to the consumer.
  15. “No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.” —William Blake
  16. Viewed in this way, the poster does far more than showcase another great athlete; it distills the very purpose of Nike—the core of its brand—into an image: You too are an athlete capable of greatness.
  17. When I speak about brand identity to my audiences, I often use the metaphor of a picture frame. Your brand identity is how you frame every image, every product, every bit of output from your brand. The frame shouldn’t overshadow the picture—or the thing you’re trying to showcase—but it should contain recognizable elements that would tell anyone this picture belongs to your brand.
  18. “We’ll get to it later” can be the refrain. But brand identity is more than a set of colors, templates, and images that one uses to distinguish their company. To put it simply, your brand identity is the foundation upon which you will build a company for the long-term. It will evolve and it will grow, but rarely can a brand remake its image. Once the public has an impression of your brand, good or bad, it is very hard to alter that impression. So start out being deliberate in the impression you want it to have. Don’t leave it to chance, and don’t think that you can “get to it later.” Start now, and you will grow your identity into the shape, style, and form that best represents your brand. The payoff may not be discernable in the beginning, but the benefits over the long run are undeniable.
  19. Lauren also once said: “I am not a fashion person. I am anti-fashion. I am interested in longevity, timelessness, style.”
  20. Discarded concepts often help focus your efforts, if only to discover what doesn’t work.
  21. The Product Is the Hero
  22. This is how a product becomes a cultural icon: by becoming the canvas for a much deeper, and personalized experience.
  23. When introducing a new innovation to the world, the goal is always to make the benefit of that innovation both intuitive and meaningful.
  24. What Google and Apple did very well with their own product launches was focus on the amazing things that the innovation enabled the consumer to do, not on the specific technical features. When we set out to communicate the benefits of the new Apple Watch Nike+, we needed to resist the temptation to focus on all the exciting things that the watch could do and, instead, ground our storytelling in what truly made the experience special. Why would a consumer want to buy this? In a word: Motivation. That’s it.
  25. The trick was to communicate these things not as an engineer would (no offense to engineers), but as your friend who just got this new gadget would.
  26. “Running just became a lot easier”—is what every would-be runner wants to hear. What does this thing do? It makes running a lot easier.
  27. Good brands create memorable moments; great brands create movements. But any movement needs to begin with an aspirational vision: What do we want to achieve? Put another way, since brand movements are tied to products, the better question is: What do we want this product to achieve? Not do, but achieve. What can it facilitate? How can it improve the consumer’s life? Find the answer to those questions, and you have the vision for your movement.
  28. by helping one person, it can help many people. But don’t stop there. Don’t leave it to the individual customer to be converted as a believer in your product; help them convert others. Be active and purposeful in building a cause around the product.
  29. But as I put the hours into this varied work, a structure began to form, slowly at first but also inexorably toward a defining central idea. Namely, that a brand builds a creative advantage through the fostering of a strong culture of creativity which leads to the consistent ability to construct powerful emotional bonds with its consumers.
  30. “It’s important for a brand to be human.” To be human. Humans experience emotions. Humans create art. Humans provide and receive inspiration. Humans take risks. Humans empathize. Humans tell stories. Humans build movements. Humans work as a team. Humans make memories. And humans close the distance. Your brand is more than a collection of products and services. It is more than mission statements and algorithms. Your brand is bigger than the marketing or innovation departments. Your brand is human. And it is by being human that your brand will build emotional bonds with other humans. It is by being human that you can leave a legacy, not just a memory.

What I got out of it

  1. So much knowledge to be gained from this book. The lessons given in this book prove that an emotional bond is crucial in all aspects of life, including when running a business.

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