The Real Meaning of Nike’s ‘Just Do It!’

Since my recent move to America (I am dutifully following my husband on his career path), so many famous slogans from world leading American films and product brands have become much clearer to me. In fact, most have a much deeper meaning than I could figure out from sole marketing when i was living in Europe. For example, I thought that the ‘Just Do It’-slogan from Nike was something like a sport related yell, but I know now that it is part of the American way of living. Or at least that is my perception of it.

Cultural differences do go deep, I know from previous moves to different countries. So deeply that it stirs up ones emotions completely. Through better and worse I have learned that the best way to overcome these is to plunge yourself into the way of life of the people surrounding you as soon as possible after you set foot on the soil that is your new, temporary, home.

That’s why, since moving to Pennsylvania last summer, I have stepped into volunteering at several local organizations. Mainly to get settled into live here quickly, partly to keep my professional skills alive and kicking while not working. As a Dutch woman, I am amazed about the easygoingness of ‘getting things done’ here. The only thing is that you have to do it yourself! Just Do It seems to me a real emotional and cultural representation of the American people and I admire Nike for this. As former advertising and communication professional, I normally see lots of shallow creativity.

The first time I had to ‘deal’ with Nike’s ‘Just Do It!’ was with my first side job as personal assistant of the President of the Standards and Certification Committee of the EBA (European Business Association) in Moscow. To get around the new legislation that all English text and slogans on products in Russia should be in Russian language, Nike opted for just dropping the ‘Just Do It!’ and let their symbol, the “swoosh”, speak for itself. It’s a great example of creative leadership in business.

Now, when I sit in committee meetings in local Pennsylvania, the first reaction I get from my new American friends and colleagues on my ideas for doing something different is: “That sounds great Brigit. Do you want to Do It?”

And you know what, after three years of working as an independent consultant in the complex and hierarchical Brussels networks, this ‘Just Do It’ American attitude gives me a real sense of empowerment – the one that is embedded truly and deeply into human society as opposed to the politically driven one – , inspiration, commitment and creative freedom, professionally as well as personally. Nike’s new ‘Just Do It’ Beijing campaign, The Courage Within, is so true to human nature. I will still not buy more Nike, but I respect the brand more now I know more about its home country.

It’s great that after only six months here, I have found something American and meaningful that I will treasure and take with me on my next adventure when we will move back to Europe in a couple of years – or anywhere else.

So, if you have lots of ideas and want to see them materialize, then do like me the following:

1. Get (the courage to get) off your bottom

2. Get ready for action

3. Don’t stay floating on the surface of cultural differences, let yourself drown into it – real deep

4. Be resilient every minute of the day (keep on smiling and ‘keep the glass half full’, no matter what)

5. Join or create networks where people challenge you to ‘Just Do It!’

Thank you Nike, thank you America!