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Crocs shoes, Nissan Juke, Probox: Why ugly brands sell faster than weed!

Pretty Kenyan women prefer Nissan Juke despite unflattering nicknames like ‘chura’

The good, the bad and the ugly: Kenyan musician, Otile Brown sporting the Balenciaga Crocs boots worth Sh80, 000 which he gifted himself during his 30th birthday in March. There was online uproar over the cost versus the looks of the Crocs. Carolyn Mair, author of The Psychology of Fashion, argues that besides comfort and utility value, people love Crocs out of “desire for attention.”

By Shifa Mwihaki

Feature writer/Essayist

Kenyan musician, Otile Brown (Jacob Obunga), gifted himself Balenciaga Crocs boots worth Sh80, 000 on his 30th birthday this March. There was online uproar over the cost of the ugly Crocs.

Famous luxury brand, Balenciaga, also recently began selling limited-edition damaged sneakers-and the more damaged and dirty, the higher the price- which went even higher if the pair was more slashed and scratched. Prices ranged from Sh60, 000 to over Sh200, 000!

Only 100 pairs were up for grabs as part of a new campaign suggesting “Balenciaga sneakers are meant to be worn for a lifetime.”  And Kenyan Netizens had a field day about the sneakers “finished with distressed canvas and rough edges, affecting a pre-worn look”

People love being different, but with Crocs they all look the same. So why do ugly Crocs sell?

Doc in Crocs: Dr Dan Gikonyo, the late President Mwai Kibaki’s personal doctor in Crocs at the Karen Hospital in Nairobi. Crocs gained popularity by word of mouth among doctors, nurses, gardeners, waiters and others who work on their feet all day including pupils. Today, the back-to-school season sees a jump in the sale of Crocs in Kenya.

Back to Crocs which despite their ugliness, are affordable and so comfortable they are now part of school uniform among private school going kids in Kenya-where they gained even more traction when people were laying eggs at home during Covid-19 with curfews and lockdowns.

Crocs have made Sh100 billion annually, according to inMarket, a California-based data collection firm with over 300 million crocs sold to date.

And the multicolored Crocs – with their Swiss-cheese perforations, cushy orthotic soles and odor-preventing material- keep evolving with the recent gumboot-style shoes combining the functionality of a rain boot with the relaxed feel of a Crocs clog.

Crocs were boating shoes which became a fashion trend through people ‘hating the brand’

like a crocodile: Crocs were founded in Colorado USA in 2002 by sea buffs Lyndon “Duke” Hanson, Scott Seamans and George Boedecker as boating shoes for being water resistant, easy to clean and slip on. They were never meant to be eye pleasing. The idea of boating shoes became a business by accident through people ‘hating the brand’ and thus slowly pushing it to become a fashion trend.

 People love being different, but with Crocs they all look the same. So why do ugly Crocs sell?

Carolyn Mair, author of The Psychology of Fashion, told Vogue that besides comfort and utility value, people love Crocs out of “desire for attention” because the brand is one of a kind and people want to feel “like one of a kind” especially when wearing Crocs with socks.

Surveyed closely, people also prefer Crocs for their functionality, adaptability and comfort: “Comfort is not a trend, it’s a way of living,” Stefano Ferniani, Crocs’ senior director of global innovation, told Business Insider. “People aren’t willing to compromise anymore.”

Luxury brand, Balenciaga, recently sold “fully destroyed” sneakers at prices that would rival kidney transplant fees

Kuoga na kurudi soko: Famous luxury brand, Balenciaga, recently made headlines for parading “fully destroyed” sneakers at prices that rival kidney transplant fees.  Sold in two styles – high-top, and backless mule – the destroyed sneakers whose ad campaign said were how ‘a retooled classic design interprets mid-century athleticism and timeless casual wear’ had prices ranging from $495 (Sh60, 000) to $1,850 (Sh220, 000).

Crocs CEO, Andrew Rees recently told Business Insider, “our goal is not to make the haters love the brand. It’s to exploit that extrinsic tension because it creates opportunity, it creates PR, it creates media, it creates interest. It creates a whole lot that would cost you a fortune to buy in other ways.”

From shoes, ugly products are also found in the car market with the Nissan Juke standing out.

The Nissan Juke is preferred by middle class Kenyan women, which they pack in gated communities, despite unflattering nicknames like ‘chura’, from the Juke’s pouncing frog posture, which earned it the ugliest car tag when it was unveiled in 2011.

Never mind the name Juke is from the Japanese Juku meaning curvy.  

The Nissan Juke quickly became a car lover’s delight for its sheer ugliness

Atoti: Nissan Juke is now preferred by many corporate Kenyan women after the Harrier and Lexus became the choice brands for business Mamas from a certain community in Central Kenya.

Critics said “with its tall, oddly shaped front and rear, it resembles an SUV that has been crushed,” but undaunted, Nissan designers decided to accentuate the features people hated, to make the car stand out even more from the crowd-which saw one million Jukes sold by 2018!

Indeed, the Nissan Juke has quickly climbed to the top of many automotive enthusiast lists-not for reliability, fuel economy or value—but for sheer ugliness that got motoring editors deriding it for having “at least six headlights (which makes it look like crocodiles swimming in a swamp) and fenders that seem tacked on as an afterthought. It’s proudly peculiar and un-pretty.”

But “great design often is polarizing,” Nissan spokesman Travis Parman told USA Today that. “Juke is a fun car that allows for more assertive expression—which is exactly what many buyers want” and it’s now one of the biggest selling Nissan brands. “Nissan Juke is not a looker,” noted petrol head Baraza JM. “But it’s a really good car.”

Kenyans from the Lake call Probox, ‘Olwenda’ (cockroach), but why does it attract the worst drivers, even women?

Tosha gari: Fashioned from the Toyota DX, the Probox (short for Professional Box) has sold in truckloads despite its simple 1980s van design without many technological frills or wowing infotainment system.

We can’t discuss cars and forget the Toyota Probox. It has been vilified more than the uglier Toyota Platz, but this ‘box on wheels’ has become a popular commercial car- and commercial cars need no charm in the looks department.

Launched in 2002, the Probox was meant for the light commercial delivery market and not for personal transport and will thus “kill your image, but build your business.”

But why does the Probox also attract the worst drivers so much so that traffic cops have to flag down every Probox on the road? The lakeside crew call it ‘Olwenda’ (cockroach) and for sure, this brand has not fared better since miraa drivers dumped the Pickup for the Probox which they gas at prohibited speeds.


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