Being an athlete, amateur or professional, requires a dedication and focus that comes from within, it drives the individual to motivate themselves and stretch their abilities, they must push themselves to the limit. Many give up and only the faithful few make it to the heights of success and achieve the status of champion. At least that is what Nike would like you to think as you aspire to buy a pair of their training shoes. This is the message that Nike preaches to the masses of people that have any thoughts about sports and athletic behavior. The image that Nike wants in your mind as you struggle to make it through another work out is that you are some how empowered by their clothing or shoes to be part of that group of elite professionals that do this everyday come rain or shine. They tell you to “Just do it.”, don’t waste time thinking about it. They imply that they have already found the answer to the needs that you are looking for, buy our branded goods and you will become one of our champions. They play to your inner self and the story that you tell yourself that somehow by having bought a new pair of running shoes that you are now ready to begin working out and getting fitter. They tell you that you too can become a brand champion that is worthy of their merchandise.
To become a brand champion, requires a level of faith in the messages you are seeing, hearing and reading, it requires you to have a belief in the brand and the gospels of Nike. Nike is not of course alone in their faith building exercises and ardent followers. Many brands that want to make a lasting impression and get to some of the core ideas of being human, touch us where we are most inspired in the faith that we can somehow be better people and fill our lives with meaning. This is what Maslow, would consider at the top of his human needs pyramid, a need for fulfillment and transcendence to be a better person and higher state of being. The power of building a brand is that at some level you transcend the product and service to become almost a religion that has followers and the faithful that are willing to go where you ask them and preach as you tell them. Branding already uses many religious motifs to help them persuade the consumers to become one of the faithful. Icons and logos are powerful badges that show others the brand you follow. Stories and fables are the advertising way to tell the brand messages in compelling ways. They even create “churches” now to worship their gods and icons, the rise of branded retail stores has shown that the parallels to religion are not just a coincidence, these huge corporations and the brands they own are looking for followers and evangelists to grow the faith. They want to play an important part in your life and mind, they want to be part of what makes you feel like you. Once they get to that place then branding ceases to be a marketing goal but becomes more of a community and one that you are willing to fight for and defend, without prompting from the originators of the brand.
Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed, suggests that religion and branding have common traits on their followers. His list is outlined below, I have added my own commentary to how I think they work for branding.