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presto brand

presto brand

by Evelyn Hafferty
August 5, 2002

A carton of eggs doesn't seem like a good metaphor for a sporting company, unless they're feeling fragile. Why would a brand like Nike, which achieves universal recognition with just a swoosh, launch an enigmatic new brand?

Nike has built itself a solid reputation in the last 30 years. The company's corporate overview relates the idyllic history of two running buddies from Oregon who grew their idea into one of the


largest sports and fitness companies ever. Along the way, they have partnered with other brands such as Cole Haan, Bauer, Freedom of Choice, and most recently the Hurley brand. The thing that holds everything together -- the partners, products, and marketing concepts -- has always been the swoosh. The swoosh is Nike; Nike is sport.

In the beginning of July of this year, Nike began a new campaign to promote the Presto line of the Nike brand. I noticed the first ad adhered right to the tile of the New York City subway station wall. This struck me as an odd method of physically displaying the ad. However, I ignored the actual message of the ad without even fully looking; I knew I had no interest. Why? Peripherally I had noticed that the ad had a stylized "skateboarder-esque" illustration, which caused me to scoff and wonder what mainstream marketer was trying to appear hip to my Gen Y age group. The word Presto and the image were meaningless to me. All style, no substance.

Soon, other similar ads began to adorn the walls of the subway and bus stop boards, yet the concepts of the illustrations weren't consistent and the illustrations were obviously done by different people. The Presto logo, written in white to contrast against the brightly colored backgrounds, was apparent right away, but you had to look really close to notice the subtle Nike swoosh, hidden in the lower left corner, a shade darker than the background color. The vain attempt at trying to connect with a Gen Y target felt desperate and pathetic.

The campaign became more ridiculous as the days passed. I walked by a sporting goods store and a guy was handing out free lemonade. Along with the lemonade, he gave me promo material for Presto. Among the material was a small yellow booklet, which, if you held the booklet in just the right light, you could see said Presto in a shiny overlay. Hidden on the back cover was the Nike swoosh, also only visible in certain light. The book contained stickers with stylized versions of the word Presto, along with cryptic messages, written by the artist of the accompanying logo? The subversive advertising idea seems to be for the Gen Y target group to spread the word by sticking these stickers to street poles -- a successful way for Nike to vandalize public property without getting the blame. We all know Gen Y-ers feel it's hip to be subversive.

Also among the material was a compact disk packaged in the compressed layered cardboard of an egg carton. Presto was embossed on the lower right hand corner. Much more discretely, and barely noticeable was the Nike swoosh in the upper left hand corner. The CD inside sported an image of the tops of eggs.

Although eggs and carton packaging don't convey sport, the CD did hold a key to the point of the campaign. Apparently, "Presto is the spirit of movement." The intro included footage of men jumping off of various concrete surfaces and explained that "Nike asked young artists from around the world to express their interpretations of movement." A search of the entire CD to find out what products were included in the Presto line was fruitless.

The main screen to the CD is a videogame-styled maze with a mouse. The names of the "young artists" are linked to mini movies. They range from well done, elegant animation to bad MTV rejects -- the majority are too long, boring, convoluted, and vapid.

Exploring the Presto website (now defunct) is also not very helpful. The site, which needs a key to explain the navigation, consists of four sections. "Move" is represented as an arrow directionally positioned up and to the right. "Look" is a square -- representational of a frame? "Listen" is a circle. And "Wear" is a shirt, but in the key, it's a shoe.

The main image is of a dirty room with a young man passed out on the floor and a woman in a ball gown propped forehead-first against a pole -- too much exercise?

Once you realize that the concept is movement, not product, the site material makes more sense. However, it's not clear what Nike's ultimate goal is here. Is the concept of movement supposed to be a new concept for a sporting goods brand?

Nike's campaigns are usually clever. The connection is established between the brand and the product -- even with vague campaigns like "play" where the logo is not all that prominent. With the Presto line, everything is really cool looking. The illustrations are beautiful, and the artists Nike picked to represent them are all obviously very talented. The problem lies with the marketing message -- there is none. With the Presto launch, there is no indication of what the product is, what the connection with Nike is, and above all, why I should care.


Evelyn Hafferty, a designer, is the victim of a generational cusp, classified somewhere between Gen X and Gen Y.

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