Barney Waters K-Swiss

I spent the ride in this morning listening to Dave G’s “Marketing Swipe File” podcast (available wherever you get your pods). The latest one has Barney Waters from K-Swiss. I first saw Barney at Drift’s hypergrowth conference in Boston last year. I love the way that he thinks about brand and positioning and strategy. The title of this episode is “picking a fight you can win.”

K-Swiss competes against Nike, Adidas, etc. Trying to compete against Nike for athletes would be tough sledding and I think that Adidas just signed Beyonce. Imagine what that deal looks like? K-Swiss couldn’t go out and get A list music people.

So what do they do? Barney and his team were smart enough to pay attention to what kids were thinking and talking about. They are betting that there is a large number of teenagers that want to be Elon Musk. K-Swiss is the brand for you if you identify with entrepreneurship, being a hustler, and finding scrappy ways to make a buck. They have selected a fight that they can win. As always, I try to find the intersection for what this means for us.

We get to choose our fight. So what is a fight that we can win? What if we built some tools that help landlords compete against WeWork and others’ dedicated HQ products? Who would we be fighting in this scenario? If a tenant needs 2500 sf for their new business, WW and others have made it incredibly easy to buy a move-in ready suite. Who cares if they are jamming you in a glass broom closet and you are paying 200 bucks per sf? You get a dedicated HQ. You don’t need to take on design, construction, furniture, wiring, internet, etc. You’re in!

WW and others are setting up their ecosystems so that you never have to leave. You can sign a month to month agreement. If you go out of business, no sweat, there are 100 people in line to take your space. If you grow like crazy, they will be set up to move you into a new product. And then do it again and again so that you never have to leave. Let’s forget about amenities and other value added services for now. How can the traditional landlord capture a 2500 sf tenant who will be a 12000 sf tenant in 5 years? Is the existing process good enough when these other alternatives are available? Could we be known as a brand that helps the building owners defend their assets?

Barney Waters K-Swiss

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