BGBS 016: Barney Waters | KSWISS | CEOs Wear Sneakers

BGBS 016: Barney Waters | KSWISS | CEOs Wear Sneakers
July 26, 2021

BGBS Episode 016: CEOs Wear Sneakers…

Barney oversees all aspects of K-Swiss, the global sneaker brand, having taken over as President at the beginning of 2016 with a goal to bring the 50 year old brand back to prominence and profitability. Barney has driven fast change both internally and externally, and created a breakthrough brand position around entrepreneurship and brand transparency. Barney has also been Vice President of Marketing for heritage boot brand Palladium, overseeing the brand’s global re-launch and all aspects of brand communication. Prior to Palladium Barney was based in Boston as Vice President of Marketing for PUMA North America during the brands explosive growth period. Now based in new offices in DTLA, Barney is originally from London, England and has been in the footwear industry for over 15 years.

In this episode we talked about:

  • What sort of fashion Barney was into growing up when it came to clothes, shoes, and music.
  • Barney’s early career in the software industry moving into the sneaker business, both in marketing, and his original aspiration, to be a sales person.
  • Barney becoming head of marketing for Puma and later head of marketing for Puma in North America seven years later.
  • What led Barney to move to California and what strategies he implemented to rebuild Palladium.
  • The history of KSWISS and the reasons why the founders designed their sneakers the way they are.
  • What led to Barney becoming the president of KSWISS and the process he took to get there.
  • The importance of timing and fashion trends as indicators to maximize the full market potential.
  • What sort of strategies Barney did to get the KSWISS brand back to relevance.
  • The focus on considering the brand a “tennis specialist” which was a heritage American tennis brand, and the only one in the world.
  • The importance of branding and tips Barney used to change the perception of the KSWISS brand.
  • How Barney got Gary Vee involved with KSWISS and how his involvement turned into a great success.
  • CEOs Wear Sneakers podcast and where the idea for the show came about.
  • The plans for KSWISS future and some of the programs Barney is working on.


[03:48] “I just love the fact that you’re actually sort of the chess player. You’re the one who’s sort of scheming and calculating and trying to read the market and put together the plan, and I like that.”

[17:29] “I could have told a great story about how we’re the number one best running shoes for marathons, but if that wasn’t what the market was buying, then I have a great story that’s irrelevant in terms of selling shoes.”

[22:50] “…look, product sales and marketing have to be aligned. In other words, if marketing creates an amazing campaign and gets a ton of eyeballs and then that consumer goes to the mall at the weekend, but there’s no case wishings in the stores, then that brand awareness cannot be converted to a sale.”

[23:09] “…you’ve got to be careful that you’re not, marketing isn’t generating demand. That can’t be fulfilled because sales, hasn’t been aligned on the plan.”

[25:38] “I mean, that’s probably one of the things about having an older brand is the good news is that people really like and trust in the longevity of a brand,  that the downside is, you’ve got this baggage because it’s hard to change the perception of that brand because that perception of the brand resides in somebody else’s mind, not in yours.”

[38:20] “I think these days branding is becoming much more important for companies. I just feel like we always pick our presidents or CEOs from the commercial side, either the CFO or the head of sales and brand is probably the most important thing now because, there’s parity in features and functions.”

[39:09] “I feel like branding has raised an importance. If you’re not a company that is solidifying what your brand stands for and building what your brand stands for and then communicating that, then you’re going to be in trouble.”

Links Mentioned On Our Show:

Gary Vee Dark Cloud Shoes

Clouds and Dirt Gary Vee shoes

88 Knit-Clouds and Dirt Shoes

CEOs Wear Sneakers Podcast




Gary Vee (Vaynerchuck)

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