Here's why Nike is ready for the future
A view from Tracey Follows

Here's why Nike is ready for the future

Nike scores high in areas such as financial fitness and happy staff.

Everywhere you look, someone has a tale of uncertainty to tell; if it’s not about Brexit, it will be about climate change or Trump.

In the UK, we used to content ourselves with uncertainty about the weather: will it snow on Christmas Day? Will it be an Indian summer? Should I take an umbrella with me to the shops?

But our uncertainty stories, like everything else, have gone global. Not many people (including the government) prepared for Brexit.

Not many people prepared for Trump. How many of us are really preparing for environmental catastrophe, or financial slowdown, or workplace automation, or social disruption, or even just a new challenger to our category?

Preparation is everything, especially if you want to turn uncertainty into opportunity. And that’s what futurists do – they help prepare businesses and brands for the future.

One of the key tenets of that is to understand how prepared you are right now. Almost like a health-and-fitness audit, measuring your level of fitness for the future is a good place to start.

If you are not that fit for the future, then you have some basic work to do. If you are pretty fit for the future, you have a good base to build on. How do you think your brand or business might measure up on future fitness?

At The Future Laboratory, we have isolated six key behaviours that business will need to exemplify in order to prepare for – and secure – the best possible future.

Working with The Effectiveness Partnership, we quantified these behaviours using 15 publicly available data variables. We analysed a selection of brands and ranked them in order of fitness to compile a robust ranking of the top 100 most future-fit brands in the UK today. 

The six behaviours that the Future Fit Index measures are: long-term planning, brand stretch, innovation, conscious business, thriving employees and agility.

The top ranking for most future-fit brand goes to Nike. It’s number one not just because fitness is its business – it scores well across almost every single key behavioural attribute we measured.

As you would expect, there’s a good showing from tech – Google, Microsoft, Intel, HP and Skype all feature in the top 20. Jaguar and Land Rover both appear, as do Vodafone and Gillette, as well as numerous Unilever brands.

Not only is Nike the top-scoring brand across all sectors, it is one of only two apparel brands in the top 100. Nike scores very well on "agility" as well as "brand stretch", and that’s an interesting combination.

Much of how agile a company is comes down to financial fitness. Liquidity is one way of measuring whether a business will be able to seize opportunities, enabling it to cover short-term responsibilities while simultaneously taking on new ones.

Investment is another key indicator of whether a brand is open to forthcoming changes or able to create change that brings growth. Nike scores highly in both areas.

Meanwhile, very high brand consideration among 18- to 34-year-olds, high corporate trust scores and a big social media following suggest Nike is the fittest brand when it comes to opportunities for breaking out into new categories and taking its consumers with it.

Nike talks a lot about its consumer and of the future – twice as much as Google, for example – so on a consumer level, there is much evidence of long-term planning. But less so on a broader level: for instance, there is no-one in the C-suite with sole responsibility for sustainability – unlike, say, Procter & Gamble.

The brand also does well on "thriving employees", with high staff net promoter scores and a high percentage of female directors. However, it performs less well on "conscious business" – it discloses its environmental impacts formally, but is not considered an ethical fund holding by City analysts.

The only real shock is that Nike doesn’t do better on "innovation", achieving only half the score of Apple, Jaguar and Instagram, and a similar one to Gordon’s gin.

Nike as a company has a moderately high score on research and development as a percentage of its turnover. But the score is pulled down by the sports-apparel sector in general, which does not score well on innovation.

Overall, Nike’s future fitness is the greatest – its top spot demonstrates a brand that is well-prepared for changing consumer needs, has an eye on the future happiness of its workforce and its consumer base, is getting more transparent in its sustainability efforts and has the financial fitness to make the future happen.

Tracey Follows is the chief strategy and innovation officer at The Future Laboratory.
@tracey_lou