Brain Food: The Slogan Doctor - Nike: Just do it

What did you think when you first saw 'Just do it'?

by John Morrish
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Here's how Nike's website describes the slogan's impact: 'It became both universal and intensely personal. It spoke of sports. It invited dreams. It was a call to action, a refusal to hear excuses, and a licence to be eccentric, courageous and exceptional.' All that in three words. The line was accidentally coined by Dan Wieden of the Wieden & Kennedy agency during a meeting in 1988 with his first and biggest client. 'You Nike guys, you just do it!' he said, full of admiration for the company's positive attitude. But that was a statement - a rather flattering one - about Nike. The slogan that emerged is in the imperative mood. It's an order, in other words, and it is not applauding anyone. The tone is bullying, the phrase itself all too familiar as the last resort of the old-fashioned boss, sweeping aside our objections. And yet it worked. Nike's sales soared, proving that on some level we like being told what to do, even if it's to buy expensive shoes for sports we never play.

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