All Brands Are Boundless

Patrick HanlonMay 4, 20213 min

In Nike founder Phil Knight’s book “Shoe Dog” he focuses on the deals. Factory deals, sponsorship deals, celebrity deals. It’s all about connecting superstars to superschtick. He never once talks about the cultural relevance of Nike advertising or the “Just do it” line ripped from a Clint Eastwood movie.

What Knight seemingly doesn’t understand (or brilliantly avoids) is that while Nike makes shoes, Nike consumers have made the brand. And that Nike brand is boundless, far outside the bell curve of rubber soles, fabric science, cushioned layers, color swatches and shoedogging.

It is more “Nike” than shoe.

In April the Nike company announced they are suing MSCHF for altering their product by adding a drop of human blood, some confused persons believe Nike designed the shoes as an honorific to the Dark Lord.

In fact, the unauthorized Limited edition “Satan Shoes” were designed in collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X, who dropped a new song this week. “Satan Shoes” are clearly part of a PR stunt to promote the release of Lil Nas X’s latest single, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”.

Lil Nas X has a genius for poking at cultural memes. You might remember his audio visual remix of “Games Of Thrones” and “Old Town Road” which earned a gazillion views on YouTube.

Reselling shoes (or branded anything) is not illegal. Not unlike NFTs, Satan Shoes are prodding the culture of value. The shoes themselves — a Nike sneaker embellished with a pentagram and a drop of blood — are worth $1,018 only to Nike insiders. More phantasm than footwear. But their real value is word of mouth.

In a legal response filed this week, MSCHF reported that, “MSCHF says all but one pair of the shoes, a 666 pair collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X, have already shipped.”

Paradox can make art. Scarcity in a world of bling. Sports shoes never to be worn on the court. It’s like making the Mona Lisa from M&Ms. A banana duct-taped to a wall at Art Basel.

The blood of any brand is its meaning and here meaning is stacked up like a Napolean cream pie. Lil Nas X has seized cultural leadership with his latest remix of cultural tropes: Satan Shoes x Lil Nas X x MSCHF x “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” x Nike x vampires x 666 x superhype.

(“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” currently has over 181 million views.)

Ultimately, the rebranded shoes by MSCHF is one of Nike’s best deals ever: a PR stunt worth gazillions of views. It should viewed with a drop of mischief. The gods of hype must be giggling.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Patrick Hanlon, Author of Primal Branding

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