3 Storytelling Takeaways from Nike’s “Last” Ad

Nike’s newest commercial, “Last,” is impressive. The execution is artful, from the Rooney Mara voiceover to the post-apocalyptic lighting. But, more importantly, it’s one of those rare ads that tells a compelling story.

Here’s one big reason why the “Last” story works so well: it is both accessible and aspirational. Often, brands tell stories that are either one or the other. Too accessible? Your story is boring. Too aspirational? Your story is irrelevant—or even alienating.

Say something to catch their attention, but keep it real.

Even if your brand isn’t creating multi-million dollar ad campaigns, here are three things digital marketers can take away from Nike’s “Last” in terms of messaging, content, and storytelling.

1. Tell it accessibly

First, start with the truth. When Ernest Hemingway faces writer’s block in A Moveable Feast, he give himself this pep talk:

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

What’s true for your audience? What are their pain points? For a fitness brand like Nike, highlighting the story of a non-athlete is huge, because non-athletes (probably) compose the majority of their buyers.

Also, identify how your audience is talking about themselves. Humor can be tricky to get right, but most groups—be it novice runners, pet shop owners, or accountants—usually have a line of witty banter you can engage with when appropriate.

2. Tell it aspirationally

What does your audience hope to achieve? And how can your brand help them? Say something to catch their attention, but keep it real: create the best of all possible worlds.

If your audience tends to underestimate themselves, you can inspire them. If your audience doesn’t know where to start, you can educate them. If your audience is skeptical, you can surprise them.

3. Tell it across channels

Here’s another really cool thing about “Last.” It is easy to imagine this story living on in many formats, like a social campaign encouraging people to contribute their own running stories, a mobile app specifically for novice runners, city-by-city events, and in-store promotions.

When something is true and resonates, it is a missed opportunity not to adapt the story in as many ways as possible.