Be like Jordan
Having had the opportunity to work with many a fine brand, I’m a massive fan of the vision well done. Truly innovative brands know that they are being judged not on the basis of their logos and what they say, but rather on what we – their target markets – say about them. It is our experience of the brand that serves as the proof of pudding as to their ability to walk the talk. None of which just happens. Rather, it’s the result of a strategy galvanised by a vision capable of rallying all – creators, investors and users – to its cause.
As example, one of the finest pieces of vision-making I know of is Jordan’s award winning The Last Shot, which I came across when judging at Cannes in 2015. If new to you, then The Last Shot sees the creation of a half basketball court constructed from 10 million LEDs designed to recreate Michael Jordan-era courts, signage and fans, all in the service of today’s Jordan consumer, who is given the chance to step into Jordan’s shoes and replay one of his famous shots, against real players, with a real ball, and in a world that worshipped the floor he jumped from.
Technically, The Last Shot is mind-bogglingly clever, so much so as to feel that the whole thing couldn’t have been made today – it has to come from the future. As an experience, it does exactly what it set out to do, which was to ‘re-establish a meaningful connection between the brand and its performance roots.’ However, everything here stems from an idea that is as audacious as it is simple: every kid wants to shoot like a Michael Jordan; it’s just that kids today have other heroes, and now they’re wanting to shoot like X, Y or Z; ergo, let them be Jordan.
Seen this way, The Last Shot is not the sum of its technical prowess, however brilliant that may be. On the contrary, it is the quality of a vision that taps deep into a basic truth. We are hardwired to want to play at being our heroes. This is way too big a subject for this already too long blog, but it’s partly how we learn, the chance to act out, to copy, and to emulate. And who better to be than Michael Jordan, who was capable, lest it be forgotten, of things once reserved for gods and other magical creatures. Small wonder, then, that The Last Shot was a success, that it wowed, galvanised and made advocates of its makers, marketers and users.
For brands, none of this will surprise. Brands like Jordan live or die on their ability to deliver on promised experiences. In the world of buildings, on the other hand, whether workplace, university, airport, or piece of city, walking the talk remains something of a foreign country. Spectacular and spectacularly aspirational monuments line city skylines, and yet so few appear to truly benefit their host neighbourhoods, their visions for an integrated experience so far off the mark as to make one wonder who the hell it signed off. Certainly no one with an idea of what it means to live, work and play there.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Sure, every developer’s project needs a vision about which to rally all the key stakeholders. However, it needs to be so much more than attractive and differentiating. It needs to be true to the project, to its creators, to its marketers, and most importantly to its end users. It needs to look beyond the slick skin and form of buildings. It needs to focus on the user and what they are doing; what draws them to the development; what motivates them to stay, buy and explore; and what will ultimately have them champion the project.
So, brothers, sisters: Be like a Jordan. Be more than your words. Act on a vision of the truly spectacular, a vision that relies less on the craft of the engineer and much more on the experience of living, working and being there. Get this right and everyone’s behind you 100%, engineer, designer, user, you name it. After all, we’re not building trophies: we’re building spaces made real by people. Walk the talk, meaningfully, and for the long-term. Be this kind of spectacular.
Work by AKQA agency
Image credit : The Last Shot Experience, Nike Jordan