Sometimes, a good marketing idea can lack the proper research and execution to make the idea a “touchdown.” This happened recently with Nike’s new 4th of July shoe campaign.

I was captivated by a new story in which Colin Kaepernick, spokesperson for Nike since 2018, asked for Nike’s 4th of July edition shoes to be taken off the market because of the of the American flag pictured on the shoe. The flag, which is actually a different version of the American flag called the “Betsy Ross Flag,” is arguably a symbol for slavery-era America.

The controversy related to this flag seems to indicate that Nike may not have done the proper market research before the production of their 4th of July campaign. Here’s why Nike’s recent product represents a big marketing fail for the company, and what specifically went wrong.

Image is everything

When you’re creating your brand messaging and visuals, one of the first things you need to consider is your audience. Typically, your brand is going to be a reflection of your targeted audience, demonstrating their values through the marketing of your product or service. These values are also frequently reflective of the current societal standard, and ensure that you’re practicing ethical marketing.

Nike made a clear misfire in its July 4th campaign. By not doing the proper market research, they created a product that did not reflect its target audience’s values, inspiring a backlash that caused many of their customers, including their spokesperson, to question what the company stands for.

It cost them

This campaign wasn’t just a marketing fail in terms of its visual identity; the company also lost money. Aside from the money that was put into the manufacturing of the limited edition shoes, Nike lost a large financial incentive from Governor Doug Ducey in Arizona.

Ducey was supposed to announce an incentive for Nike to build a plant in Arizona, which would have employed over 500 people. The $184.5 million dollars that was going to be used for production of Nike’s future products was then withdrawn, and Nike lost a valuable asset, as a result.

When you miss out on your targeted audience’s values and expectations of your brand, it could end up costing you.

People are talking (in a bad way)

Contrary to what some people may say, all press isn’t always good press. I find that this is especially true with marketing, as the public perception of your brand is a key component for growing your business.

Nike’s backlash could have been avoided if they had simply done the proper market research to begin with. In having a better understanding of what they wanted their brand to represent, they could have avoided controversy. This would also have given them the opportunity to create a product that was more in line with their targeted audience’s values, celebrating their Independence Day in a way that would resonate with all Americans.

There’s a lot to take away from this recent Nike controversy. I think that there’s a lot of value in learning from the mistakes of other businesses, as you can use their example to better determine how you would like your own brand to be perceived. Through this, you can be one step ahead of your competition and have a better chance at reaching your targeted audience with the right brand message that best fits their values.