Ad Executive Dan Wieden Came Up With Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ Tagline | Kanebridge News
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Ad Executive Dan Wieden Came Up With Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ Tagline

Oregon native, who has died at age 77, co-founded Wieden+Kennedy and advised colleagues to ‘walk in stupid every morning’

Thu, Oct 6, 2022 9:20amGrey Clock 3 min

One thing Dan Wieden didn’t want to do as a young man was to follow his father into the advertising business. “I could never figure out why he was in such a whorish industry,” Mr. Wieden told Adweek magazine in 2003.

In the mid-1960s, he majored in journalism at the University of Oregon. He married young and had children in his 20s. That meant a need for steady income and led to advertising. The challenge of packing a lot of meaning into a few words hooked him. In 1982, he joined David Kennedy to found the ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, based in Portland, Ore.

They had one client: Nike Inc., then a small company. It was a perfect fit. Phil Knight, Nike’s co-founder, loathed conventional advertising. The new agency’s founders were inclined to pitch ads that were offbeat, edgy and artistic. In 1988, Mr. Wieden came up with Nike’s tagline, “Just Do It.”

The Nike ads helped vault a tiny regional shop into a global advertising firm. Subaru of America hired Wieden+Kennedy in 1991. Since then a long list of clients has included Starbucks Corp., Microsoft Corp., McDonald’s Corp. and Coca-Cola Co. The firm has about 1,500 employees and offices in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

To avoid the risk of being gobbled up by a giant holding company, Mr. Wieden created a trust to preserve the firm’s independence.

Mr. Wieden died Sept. 30 at his home in Portland. He was 77 and had Alzheimer’s disease. His partner, Mr. Kennedy, died a year ago at the age of 82.

Mr. Wieden (pronounced why-den) attributed the firm’s success partly to a habit of hiring misfits and oddballs rather than seasoned advertising pros. As for managing people, he said, “I think people need to feel safe but still under pressure in some weird way, a healthy pressure. People need to feel that you’re rooting for them to succeed.”

Wary of complacency, he advised advertising people to “walk in stupid every morning.” As he put it: “The minute you think you know, the minute you go, ‘oh, yeah, we’ve been here before, no sense reinventing the wheel,’ you stop learning, stop questioning, and start believing in your own wisdom, you’re dead.”

Messrs. Wieden and Kennedy “didn’t really dictate or mandate,” said Bill Davenport, a longtime colleague. “They let people find their way. In some ways, it was a sink-or-swim culture. But they never had a heavy hand.”

Dan Gordon Wieden was born March 6, 1945, and grew up in Portland. His father, Francis “Duke” Wieden, was president of Gerber Advertising.

After graduating from the University of Oregon in 1967, the younger Mr. Wieden wrote marketing material for Georgia-Pacific Corp. He hated the job and, by his own admission, created so much trouble that he finally got fired. He tried freelance writing and then joined the ad firm of McCann-Erickson. There he met Mr. Kennedy, whose artistic skills and humor complemented Mr. Wieden’s writing talent.

At first, their office was furnished with a card table and cardboard file cabinets. They used a pay phone to call clients.

The firm set itself apart by using a collage of New York street scenes, featuring Lou Reed and his song “Walk on the Wild Side,” to promote Honda scooters. A few years later, Wieden+Kennedy combined the versatile athlete Bo Jackson with Bo Diddley in an ad for Nike.

Mr. Wieden’s first wife, Bonnie Scott Wieden, died in 2008. He married Priscilla Bernard in 2012. She survives him, along with four children, six grandchildren, a brother and a sister.

In 1996, Mr. Wieden and his family founded , which runs a summer camp at Blue Lake in central Oregon and other programs to nurture young people. “He wanted to create a place where kids felt safe and loved,” his wife said.


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The Lipstick Index Is Back

Sales of the cosmetic product are a bright spot in an otherwise bleak discretionary-goods environment

Fri, Nov 25, 2022 2 min

Masks off, lipstick index on.

In a gloomy economy, consumers might cut back on other discretionary purchases but will keep shelling out for small luxuries such as lipstick—or so goes the theory. “When lipstick sales go up, people don’t want to buy dresses,” Leonard Lauder, then-chairman of Estée Lauder who is widely credited for coming up with the so-called “lipstick index,” told The Wall Street Journal in 2001.

L’Oréal Chief Executive Nicolas Hieronimus called this out during the company’s earnings call in October, noting that a luxury lipstick or mascara is only €30, making it an “affordable treat.” Sales at L’Oréal rose 9.1% in the third quarter compared with a year earlier despite slower sales in China due to Covid-related lockdowns. Coty, maker of CoverGirl makeup, said organic sales grew 9% over the same period.

Beauty sales have also been a rare bright spot for retailers: Target said beauty category sales grew roughly 15% in its quarter ended Oct. 29 compared with a year earlier, with Ulta Beauty shops in Target tripling their total sales volume over that period.

While Macy’s namesake stores saw comparable-store sales decline last quarter, its beauty-focused Bluemercury chain saw same-store sales grow 14% last quarter compared with a year earlier. Kohl’s locations with Sephora are outperforming the rest of the department-store chain.

Of the 14 discretionary categories that market research firm NPD Group tracks, prestige beauty—products you might find at a department store or a Sephora—is the only category that is seeing unit sales growth year to date. And lipstick, which suffered during the masked-up pandemic, is making up for lost time.

Lipstick sales have grown 37% through October this year compared with a year earlier, according to Larissa Jensen, beauty industry analyst at NPD Group. That is an acceleration from the 31% growth seen during the same period last year. Lip product is the only major category within prestige beauty where sales are actually up compared with pre-pandemic levels, according to Ms. Jensen.

Cosmetic companies have also called out strong sales in fragrances, calling it the “fragrance index.” Demand has been so robust that there is an industrywide fragrance component shortage, Coty said in a press release announcing third-quarter earnings earlier this month. CEO Sue Nabi said during the call that Coty hasn’t seen any kind of trade-down or slowdown, also noting that consumers are shifting away from gifting perfume to buying it for themselves.

“A big piece of it is just a shift in what wellness means to consumers,” NPD Group’s Ms. Jensen said. “Beauty is one of the few industries that are positioned to meet [consumers’] emotional need. It makes them feel good.”

While the lipstick effect could be observed in the recession in the early 2000s, that wasn’t the case during the 2007-09 recession, during which lipstick sales declined alongside other discretionary purchases. Part of this might have had to do with category-specific dynamics.

There was a lot of newness in the cosmetic industry in 2001, including lip gloss, a relatively nascent category back then. That tailwind simply wasn’t there starting in 2008, though nail polish turned out to be consumers’ small indulgence of choice in that period. This time around, consumers may be eager to show off a part of their face that was hidden behind a mask for so long during the pandemic.

In an otherwise bleak environment for companies selling discretionary goods, those in the business of selling cosmetics look well poised to come out of the holiday season looking freshened up.

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