On Tuesday July 11, 2017, I was listening to Gary Vaynerchuk’s interview with Barney Waters (President) and Patrick Buchanan (Global Marketing Director) of the globally iconic brand, K-Swiss. Throughout the course of this 43 minute interview and call-in session, a lot was discussed. In particular, I was personally intrigued with the overall conversation on entrepreneurship and sneaker culture.
With the market domination of sneaker brands such as Adidas and Nike, Barney shared his following philosophy, “If you can’t be first, be different” (10:46). Barney also went on to mention that Nike pretty much owns the athletic category while Adidas owns the cool kid celebrity category. So…what does K-Swiss plan to do? According to this interview, K-Swiss aims to cater to entrepreneurs who are creating and leading their own businesses. In fact, as I’m writing this article, I just thought of the following idea:
In addition to aiming to cater to entrepreneurs, how about we add the category of “Thought leaders” to this conversation? These “Thought leaders” are those who aspire to create their own cultural movements and shift society through advocacy, business, education, health, social impact, etc. I believe that as a collective, the future leaders of society will be as diverse and multi-faceted as we have ever seen in the past. If I had to come up with a name for this category, I would entitle it… “The Thinking Class.”
Imagine the day we live to see the President of The White House casually rocking a pair of sneakers on a daily basis. What will these sneakers look like? What will these sneakers represent? Most importantly, what brand is going to be responsible for creating these sneakers? Due to my natural curiosity and passion for wanting to bridge the gap between brands, communities, and culture, I ask myself similar questions all of the time.
If K-Swiss is to really invest in the philosophy and process of entrepreneurship and thought leadership, I do believe that they can successfully create and dominate their own lane. Will the products have to be stylish and stellar? Absolutely! However, what is it that can potentially bring K-Swiss to the next level? Supporting the culture and lifestyle which they aim to engage with. Selling products is transactional. Yet, engaging with and supporting the development and growth of the culture and lifestyle around those products is transformational.
As Gary always says, “It’s thinking marathon over sprint.” Living in accordance to creating our own legacy is determined by our daily actions. When our behavior is in alignment with what we want our legacy to be, our true greatness begins to rise to the surface. So, what might K-Swiss want to consider doing to spearhead a new revolution of emerging leaders?
1. Ask Questions – I believe that all of the right questions eventually lead toward the right answers. Communication is vital and often overlooked. When brands express an interest in actually listening to and learning from their current audience and potential consumers, gains are usually made. Consumers always want the best products. As consumers, we would usually stay with a brand that receives feedback well and improves on something that we like as opposed to spending energy to entirely taking our business somewhere else. It’s natural, we’re creatures of habit…at least for the most part!
2. Address Challenges – With all of the challenges and problems that currently exist across the globe, what brands are endorsing and supporting the thought leaders across various industries who are working to address these challenges? There’s so much great work happening. I’m sure that authors, architects, doctors, educators, engineers, etc would love to be acknowledged, appreciated, and supported for the amazing work that they do on a day to day basis.
As Gary often says, “Every business and brand should be thinking like a media company.” I often like to say, “Content creates conversation, conversation creates opportunity, and opportunity creates impact (educational, financial, social, etc). As a consumer, when I see brands that align with and support causes which address challenges bigger than the products and/or services the brand sells, I feel more inclined to trust and engage with that brand in some capacity or another.
3. Provide Tools and Resources – In order to effectively address any problem or challenge, we must always be equipped with the proper tools and resources. This may include capital, insight, relationships, etc. I believe that the brands who are helping to connect the world are also the brands who are helping to change the world. One of the reasons why I believe that content production is so important is because it adds value in ways that products do not. Content can educate, empower, entertain, inspire, and inform. Audio content is just as important as video content which is just as important as written content.
Should K-Swiss become more than a sneaker company? Should K-Swiss become a media company who just happens to sell sneakers? Should K-Swiss aim to equip and empower thought leaders with the tools and resources necessary to shift culture and change the world at large? Should K-Swiss begin to identify and partner with organizations and programs across various industries and sectors such as The Aspen Institute, Ted Talks, SXSW, and Zeitgeist? Picture K-Swiss as not only the official sneaker, but more importantly a cultural contributor and supporter to platforms such as these. How might this look? I guess we shall see…
Lastly, it’s only right that I share some of my favorite looks:
(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking brand strategist, curator, and educator. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development and social impact. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Behind The Hustle, Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about bridging the gap and building value between brands, communities, and culture. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.