He has appeared in BRW’s Fast Starters list twice and its Young Rich also twice. He took home a gong at last year’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards and was recognised in Anthill’s 2010 30under30. He is widely admired for cracking the “Asian manufacturing cabal”. And this year, he expanded his eponymously named consumer technology business, Kogan Technology, into the UK.
But, despite his success, he is perhaps best known for the various ways he has intentionally (and sometimes accidentally) courted controversy.
Let’s face it, Ruslan Kogan is a master at maintaining a high profile, by being both brutally frank and highly entertaining. Last month, the 28 year-old technology entrepreneur proved this once again at Anthill’s Entrepreneurs Night Out in Sydney, sharing his views about entrepreneurship and the future of retail.
This naturally prompted the crew at Anthill HQ to take a trip down memory lane and cobble together “Ruslan Kogan’s Top 5 Stunts and Sh#t Stirring Shenanigans” (just in time for Beer O’Clock, we hope).
1. The Kevin 37
In March 2009, Kogan introduced Australian consumers to the chuckle-inducing KEVIN 37 Plasma Television set.
Priced at $900 to mirror the former Rudd Labor Government’s cash bonus to most Australians, the HD LCD TV was promoted as a “High Definition Stimulus” package for the home.
He even released a t-shirt!
The launch followed mainstream media criticism that the stimulus bonus was largely being spent by consumers on foreign luxury goods… like plasma TVs.
While the playful launch didn’t generate much mainstream attention, it offered a glimpse of future shenanigan to come.
2. The Kogan Spams and Scams filter
One of the most unpopular policies of the former Rudd Government, generating particular outrage and vitriol among Australia’s digital communities., was, of course, the proposed mandated filtering of internet sites by Australian internet service providers.
The front-man responsible for arguing the case for internet filtering in Australia was Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
Providing fuel to the flames (and his views were indeed ‘flamed’… a lot), the Senator treated his critics to this awkwardly memorable quote on SBS TV.
Senator Conroy – “Spams and Scam” Quote (SBS TV)
How did Kogan Respond? He launched the “Spams and Scams” filter, of course.
Kogan’s “Spams and Scams” filter
3. The anti-advertising advertisement
Following a not-too-carefully constructed remark from business icon Gerry Harvey, who reportedly described Kogan as “a con” to The Age, the following commercial was supposed to air during a highly anticipated (and highly watched) Ben Cousins’ documentary on Network Seven. The key word is ‘supposed’.
Despite commercial rejection, the advertisement enjoyed significant play on YouTube and throughout the blogosphere.
Funny? Hypocritical? Pure viral marketing gold? That’s for you to decide.
4. Punt or process improvement?
Not so much a stunt, Kogan launched LivePrice in February 2011, allowing consumers to purchase pre-production goods at “up to 50% off the retail price”. The further along the retail chain the product is, the smaller the discount.
In an interview with Anthill, Kogan described LivePrice as yet another example of his company finding a better way to create and deliver.
“Other retailers are out there asking the government for new taxes and regulations to help entrench their market positions. We are focused on innovating to create the best value products for shoppers,” Kogan said.
“LivePrice harnesses the openness of the internet to cut out the hidden cost of finance built into price tags of all goods. Kogan LivePrice gives the power of choice back to the consumer and will change the way we shop.”
Kogan LivePrice: Nixing the hidden cost of finance
In other words, the launch of LivePrice offered another a catalyst for Kogan to highlight some of the inefficiencies of the existing manufacturing industry. Manufacturing new products involves up-front costs — most notably, cash, which attracts interest, adding to the final retail price. By inviting customers to pay early, LivePrice aspired to reduce Kogan Technologies’s need to borrow (or spend) interest accruing (or earning) capital.
5. The JB-Hi Fi wager (and contract)
As reported by Delimiter, Kogan, most recently, extended his war on bricks and mortar retail, calling out JB Hi-Fi for being “Apple’s bitch” for what he saw as a dangerous dependence on their products.
According to Delimiter’s Ryan LeMay:
“JB Hi-Fi chief Terry Smart didn’t waste any time firing back … soberly telling SmartCompany that Kogan’s claims about JB Hi-Fi’s Apple dependence were simply incorrect — based on bad data.
And how did Kogan respond? With a $1 million wager that there would be no Apple products in JB Hi-Fi’s stores on March 14, 2014.
So far, Terry Smart has not taken him up on the wager. But does it matter?
And here’s the contract (PDF).
What’s your take?
Is Ruslan Kogan a marketing mastermind or precocious punk?