Kenny Powers Is the Smartest Advertiser on the Face of Planet Earth


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Kenny Powers is a champion athlete, famous shoe endorser, and thanks to a brilliantly orchestrated hostile takeover, the MFCEO of K-SWISS, Inc. He's bigger than cable television and/or drugs. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, try tuning into the smartest marketing move in the history of mankind.
The idea to "hire" Kenny Powers as a spokesman came from Matt Murphy and Glenn Cole of brand agency 72andSunny. I don't know who green-lighted the idea at K-SWISS, but I commend his or her phenomenal cojones.

And let's face it, what did K-SWISS have to lose?

In case you're unfamiliar with Kenny Powers, he is the lead character from HBO's Eastbound & Down-played by Danny McBride-and now the star of in-your-face, foul-mouthed, hilarious viral videos for K-SWISS. In his infinite wisdom, Kenny bought 51% of K-SWISS, and now he's the MFCEO of the shoe company.

If your brand's looking for attention, turn to Kenny, and he'll show you how it's done. Here it is, over a year since this campaign launched, and I am still writing about it. What makes Kenny Powers' videos stand out among the millions posted on the internet every day? Well, no brand has had the guts to use online video like Kenny uses online video, and for that, he deserves a pat on the back-and you deserve a kick in the can for not having thought of it first.

To call Kenny Powers imminently quotable would be the understatement of the century: "What up dog? I killed you." My friends haven't quoted this many lines from anything since Fletch dominated the mid-'80s. I'd relay a few more Kenny-isms to you, but most of them aren't fit for print. You're just going to have to tune into the videos for yourself. (Admit it, you're curious.) Will we all be buying K-SWISS Tubes shoes because of Kenny? Who knows. But we're out there talking about K-SWISS' marketing. We're passing it around. And we're integrating it into our lives with its Kenny-isms. It has risen above the clutter of everyday advertising, and I've seen it weave its way into conversations from the boardroom to the golf course. Isn't that really the holy grail of marketing?

I go to conferences where media executives stand up and show PowerPoints (a misleading name if ever there was one) that brag about how their latest promotion increased web traffic by 4% or user engagement by 6%. Snooze. Would Kenny do this? No way. Kenny would tell you that he increased sales by a million percent. And he'd be right! Because in a day when most professional online video generally looks like every ad agency's 60-second TV spot, Kenny took risks with his campaign, and now K-SWISS is reaping the benefits.

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when using online video as a marketing tool is creating content that looks just like what we see on TV. If you want attention, be Kenny Powers. He screams loud. Whatever he screams is brilliant, and he offends some people along the way. Let's face it, Kenny is a raunchy, politically incorrect, drug-using, racist, offensive anti-hero for whom someone at K-SWISS had to risk her or his job. Yet Kenny always surprises us because he somehow finds the road to redemption. He doesn't stay on it long, but we know he's looking for it. It's what makes him likable.

K-SWISS may have beaten you to the punch when it comes to using a crass lunatic as a spokesman, but that doesn't mean the game is over. Now, it's up to you to step up your marketing game and figure out how to one-up Kenny. He won't like it, but he'll respect you for it.

Are you going to grow your business by doing the same old stuff? No. You should take a risk that you wouldn't have taken yesterday. Scream loud, but be innovative. Use original online video to be controversial, but also memorable. And if you fail, who cares? Try again. Consumers will actually embrace failure if they believe you're taking a risk. Like Kenny, your redemption will come.

We often forget that media is meant to push boundaries and, ultimately, to achieve brilliance. Any time you start pushing out of your comfort zone, you might just offend a few people, and you might need to scream even louder next time to be heard. When all else fails, be Kenny Powers. I'll do the same. Don't forget to report back on your efforts to achieve Powers-like greatness.