As Low-Cost Kayaks Flood the Market, One Brand Reminds You Not to Get ‘Yakked Off’

Perception Kayaks pokes fun at its budget competitors

Perception Kayaks
Headshot of T.L. Stanley

So you want some fun in the great outdoors, and you paddle out into the nearest lake in that bargain single-seater boat you bought at the warehouse store. The beginning of a blissful day?

Nope. Unfortunately, the craft turns out to be an uncomfortable, leaky hunk of junk. Or worse, it’s really just a bunch of pool noodles strapped together or a sawed-off version of a Porta-Potty. And you, weekend adventurer, realize you’ve been yakked off. Hard.

In this cheeky three-minute video for Perception Kayaks, there’s a strong “don’t be fooled by imitations” message along with a sales pitch for the Confluence Outdoors-owned brand. There’s also a twist on the term “knockoff,” coined by agency Humanaut, to describe when you’ve been duped by an inferior product, or, if you will, a “yakoff.”

The idea for the mini-movie came from the fast-growing kayak category and its even faster-growing low-end offerings, said David Littlejohn, Humanaut’s founder and chief creative officer.

“The reality is you can buy a kayak at the same place you’re shopping for toilet paper and dog food,” Littlejohn said. “It’s becoming an impulse purchase.”

“The reality is you can buy a kayak at the same place you’re shopping for toilet paper and dog food. It’s becoming an impulse purchase.”
David Littlejohn, Humanaut founder and CCO

The challenge for the 40-year-old South Carolina-based brand was to clear up some of the confusion in the category and educate potential customers about what to look for in a kayak.

Humanaut, home the viral hit, “Save the Bros,” a faux PSA, and the pop-up shop that punked New York by selling only half and half for client Organic Valley, decided to go irreverent, unsurprisingly. The agency mashed together a bunch of production styles—there’s everything from deliberately old-school instructional video and product demo to hidden-camera confessions to sad-sack consumer testimonials—for “Don’t Get Yakked Off.”

“We’re inviting the audience in on the playfulness,” Littlejohn said. “And we’re working with a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

There are a number of “re-enyakments” in the video that feature hapless would-be kayakers getting laughed out of the cool kids’ club for showing up with a generic boat (that just might be a kiddie pool with a beach chair) and falling for a cardboard facsimile of the real deal. (Is that thing even water worthy?) The “slightly ridiculous” examples may not be too far from the truth, Littlejohn said, and they’re strategic in their exaggeration.

“(The agency) helped us find the cultural tension within our category and delivered important information in a highly technical category where misinformation abounds."
Todd King, vp of marketing, Perception Kayaks

While the ad doesn’t say so, Perception’s American-made kayaks cost anywhere from $250 for an entry-level model to more than $1,000, and their quality inspired the new ad’s closing line, “We make kayaks, not toys.”

“They helped us find the cultural tension within our category and delivered important information in a highly technical category where misinformation abounds,” said Todd King, Perception’s vp of marketing. “All while being entertaining and very funny.”

The market for outdoor water sports like paddle boarding and kayaking is expanding, and it fans out over a broad demographic, from millennials to baby boomers, according to Perception, which has done limited advertising in the past. Its campaign with Humanaut is its first full-scale effort, timed to the pre-summer season when consumers start buying outdoor gear.

The digital short will run on YouTube and Google ads, aiming for consumers who are researching kayaks, and across social media.

Client: Confluence Outdoors / Perception Kayaks
Agency: Humanaut
Campaign Title: Yakoffs

Chief Creative Director: David Littlejohn
Chief Strategist: Andrew Clark
Senior Integrated Producer: Tommy Wilson
Director of Content: Dan Jacobs
Account Supervisor: Michelle Sturgis
Creative Director: Andy Pearson
Copywriter: Andy Pearson, Liza Behles, David Littlejohn
Designer: Carrie Warren, Coleson Amon

Production Company: Humanaut Productions
Director: Dan Jacobs
Producer: Tommy Wilson
Director of Photography: John Matysiak
Art Director: Carrie Warren

Postproduction: Fancy Rhino
Editor: Tyler Beasly
Post Producer: Katie Nelson


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@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.