What the movie ‘Air’ teaches us about brands

HomeColumnWhat the movie 'Air' teaches us about brands

AirI’m a huge movie fan. I enjoy sitting in a theater with people I don’t know, listening to their comments and enjoying overpriced popcorn and snacks. More importantly, I love movies with messages. When I heard about the movie “Air” (which tells the backstory behind the mega sneaker deal with NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan and Nike), I was all in since I’m particularly fond of basketball. The film illustrates how Nike clawed its way to the top to become the leading sneaker manufacturer because of Mr. Jordan—and they both become very wealthy in the process. In addition, because of contract changes with Jordan, professional basketball was changed forever.

Make no mistake: “Air” is not a glorified commercial about Nike, and that’s why you should see it. It’s about grit, determination, the power of perseverance and knowing what business you’re really in. It’s also about knowing and valuing your brand.

Case in point: In the film “Air,” Michael Jordan’s mother, Deloris (played by Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis), told Nike during negotiations that “A shoe is just a shoe until Michael steps into it.” This is the real definition of a brand. You may be selling flooring but if you think you’re in the flooring business you’re selling yourself short. There are hundreds of others in the flooring business, you must decide what makes you different.

When my sister and I were in the retail flooring business, we were noted as the fun, crazy sisters who threw money out of airplanes or had the front of a car through our showroom along with a sign that read, “Crash Prices!” We held a farmer’s market in our parking lot, had a weeklong holiday event in the month of December and raised enough money to build a day care center for adults with developmental disabilities. Events such as these defined who we were as a company and supported our brand positioning.

When marketing and promoting your company, remember that there is no other brand like yours, so what’s the point in trying to be like everyone else? Legends such as Walmart, Home Depot and McDonalds fought to be different. No one thought Walmart could outsell K-Mart. McDonald’s was the first hamburger joint to give up its waitresses and waiters for a self-service counter. Nobody wanted to fund The Home Depot, believing the format was too risky.

None of these success stories happened overnight, but there were common threads. Many people said those business models would never work. Fast forward to today, and these pioneers not only broke new ground but they became leaders in their respective categories—market positions that they hold to this very day.

However, it’s important to remember that it’s not enough just to be big. Having the size, scale, scope and reach of the aforementioned companies is not—in and of itself—a recipe for long-term success. It’s about positioning your company to not only survive but thrive in an industry where there’s not much differentiation. Ask yourself what your brand stands for and why consumers value that brand over your competitor up the road.


Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com

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May 8/15, 2023

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