Ego Brand Building: The Nike Brand Strategy of Vanity Marketing

It is a critical advertising strategy choice every brand must make – will your brand building grow customer egos, or tear them down?  In this three-minute emotional marketing lesson video, emotional marketing expert Graeme Newell showcases some of Madison Avenue’s best brand building and advertising strategy tactics.

Learn when it is better use the carrot, and when it is better to use the stick.  Find out how the Nike brand strategy and Gatorade brand strategy recruited very similar customers using completely opposite brand building tactics.

When it comes to great brand building, I think the guys at Nike advertising and Gatorade TV advertising have it down. But their advertising strategies, while utilizing similar advertising writing, differ in their delivery. Today, I’m going to talk about the two brand building advertising strategy Nike advertising and Gatorade advertising use, how the differ, and what we can learn about brand building and positioning a brand from the two.

Nike Advertising
I’ve talked about Nike advertising and their incredible brand building many times before – and rightfully so. Nike brand strategy is one of the pinnacles of advertising strategy out there. Nike advertising focuses on the brand building advertising strategy of ego focused branding. This advertising strategy is fully centered on building the customer’s ego, and positioning the brand as one for those who achieve great things.

Nike Brand Strategy
The product itself is hardly present in this brand building strategy, because they are positioning a brand to be about something more than the product. Nike brand strategy isn’t to make you think you need Nike gear to succeed, but that you want it because you succeed. Nike brand strategy uses their tried-and-true formula to boost the ego of their customers – an advertising strategy that has made Nike advertising one of the most powerful and effective brand building organizations in the world.

Gatorade Advertising
Gatorade’s advertising strategy is similar to Nike’s, but different. When it comes to brand building, Gatorade is right up there with Nike advertising. Its advertising strategy has built its brand into something more than the product. But Gatorade’s approach to positioning a brand differs from Nike’s in an important way. While brand building at Nike is all about building the ego and lifting the customer up, advertising strategy at Gatorade involves planting the seed of doubt in the mind of the customer.

Gatorade Brand Strategy
This type of brand building strategy is called product focused branding, and it’s used as the primary advertising strategy of Gatorade. Watch their commercials and you will see the same athletes pushing themselves to the limits and beyond, but where Nike advertising will lift up the customer, Gatorade will put in a seed of doubt as part of their brand building strategy. “Without Gatorade, you won’t make it past that next hill.” “Without Gatorade, the opposition will defeat you.” If you compare the two brands, you will notice that Nike advertising have next to no focus on the product itself, whereas Gatorade advertising strategy has the product hugely prevalent in every ad.

So to recap:

  • Nike brand strategy is one of lifting up the customer, called ego focused branding. This brand building technique isn’t to say that you need the product to succeed, but you use the product because you succeed. The product is downplayed, and the ego of the customer is lifted up on high
  • Gatorade brand strategy is similar to Nike brand strategy, but is different in the approach. While Nike brand strategy extols the customer, Gatorade advertising strategy plants the seed of doubt in the mind of the customer. This brand building strategy is called product focused branding, and it focuses on the product.


Transcription text of the 3-Minute Emotional Marketing Lesson Video “Ego Brand Building: The Nike Brand Strategy of Vanity Marketing” by Graeme Newell, emotional marketing researcher, customer loyalty researcher, and consultant at 602 Communications.


Hi I’m Graeme Newell. Today, the important difference between ego-focused brands and product-focused brands.  It’s the critical identity question every brand must ask itself.  What motivates your customer?  Vanity or functionality.

“You gotta work hard to win, you gotta want it!”

Nike ads never try to convince customers that Nike gear is the secret to success.

Winning comes from just one place…from deep within.

“You can accept defeat, or you can stare at it until defeat blinks.”

The brand message is that if you believe in unstoppable tenacity and perseverance, then you’re in the Nike club.

“Go go go go go go go go go go go! Be aggressive!”

Nike isn’t a product line, it’s a way to live your life. Nike’s brand is built on customer ego.

But Gatorade takes a different tack.

“At the limits of your ability, you need to hydrate fast.”

It’s a product-focused brand.

Sure, they use the same sweaty, straining athletes, but the ads don’t just build egos, they also cast doubt.

“Your moisture wicking fabric isn’t enough. Your zero weight shoes aren’t enough.”

…and maybe YOU aren’t enough.  But maybe, just maybe, if you drink Gatorade, you still might be able to pull it out.

In this Gatorade ad, an athlete drinks the magical Gatorade elixir…

“Trial number 10. Fuel training. Trigger muscle response.”

…and Gatorade empowers him to beat his weaker self in a race to glory.

Product focused brands showcase the product as the key to solving a problem or achieving a goal.

“I got to take care of my heart, for me, Cheerio’s is a good way to start.”

Ego-focused brands stay away from pain & doubt.  The product isn’t just a tool, it’s proof you’re at the top of your game.

Only wonderful parents take their kids of Disney World.

Has a moment ever hugged you and never let go? Yay”

“We’re getting on the plane right now and going to Disneyland. We’re going to California.

Only confident men use Gillette razors.

“We all have confidence. We all have doubt. But when the moment comes, what’s gonna win? Here’s to confidence. I’ve been dreamin’ a dream.”

Feel that uplift?  That’s a hallmark of ego-focused brands.

So which is right for your brand? An ego-focused brand or a product-focused brand?

Most brands inevitably dabble in both, but the general rule is, the more mature the product category, the more you must appeal to your customer’s identity.   If there’s not much difference between your product and others, get busy stroking some egos.

I’m Graeme Newell and that’s emotional marketing.

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