One part Old Spice Guy, one part that guy your parents told you to stay away from, Keystone Light spokesidiot "Keith Stone" is ineffably appealing. For over two years, Keith Stone has been reaping the breakfast of the kinds of champions who drink beer for breakfast, in the process winning a bit of a cult fanbase.
He's irreverent, but then so is audibly passing gas in polite company. The question is, does he work for the brand?
"In developing the Keith Stone campaign, we wanted to literally bring the brand’s 'Always Smooth' essence to life in a way that is impactful and relatable to our Keystone Light drinker. We did this through the creation of an ownable brand hero," Brand Manager Elina Vives told brandchannel, adding, "Keith Stone is the MC of Smoothness."
Like the Old Spice Guy, the success of Keith Stone relies on a number of unpredictables. First and foremost, there's the "guy" himself. Old Spice lucked into a boatload of charisma with Isaiah Mustafa, who's gone on to a larger career in major motion pictures. Keystone, meanwhile, has Mitchell Jarvis, a professional actor and star of the broadway show Rock of Ages.
Vives says Keith Stone came about via a brainstorming process that aimed to "elevate the key traits and values of Keystone Light at the core," taking as its motto "Always Smooth." She says there was "no specific 'ah-ha moment'."
From the beginning, there was something oddly transfixing about the overconfidence of Keith Stone, which might have been due to the fact that it seemed odd coming from somebody who, by all measures, appears to be a loser. Really, what beer brand would have the, ahem, "stones" to choose as its spokesman a mulleted perv whose constant carrying of a case of Keystone Light is the picture of a white trash alcoholic?
And yet, Keith Stone is popular, extremely so. When large numbers of Americans are dressing as your spokesperson for Halloween, it's a pretty good sign you're forming strong connections with your consumers.
Vives says that consumers identify with Keith "because, in many ways, [he] emulates characteristics of themselves. He’s easygoing and confident. He’s clever, resourceful and creative in unexpected ways. He’s lovably imperfect." She sums him up thusly: "When it comes down to it, Keith Stone is just a smooth man who puts his black jeans on one leg at a time like everyone else. He is your laidback buddy who always has a 30-stone in tow."
Wisely, Keystone has extended the reach of its popular pitch man with additional virals and various tie-in partnerships.
In addition to the Keith Stone TV ads, Keystone's YouTube channel features a number of "Smooth Musings" that feature Keith holding forth on subjects that would interest a man like Keith Stone. For example, flip flops and beef jerky.
In another, Keystone, like other brands, spoofs the "Double Rainbow" Internet viral video. (Could a "30-stone" been responsible for the original double rainbow video? Maybe!)
Meanwhile, Keystone converted its website KeystoneLightBeer.com into "Keith Stone's Wheelhouse," featuring random "collected works of coolness" such as photos from Keystone beer fans, Keith's commercials and musings and funny viral videos completely unrelated to the brand, such as "Bikini Girl Faceplant."
Vives told us it made sense to use the web to promote brand interaction through engagement with Keith's fans, "his 21-34 year-old buddies who are looking for laughs across various content platforms."
But Keith Stone's too much man to be contained by just Keysone's own brand campaign. Recently, the smooth operator has been a star of Internet comedy site Funny or Die videos.
And then there was his product placement on the WWE wrestling show Raw, where Keith appeared to be in his natural habitat.
It's impossible to assume Keith Stone would ever mature beyond his current self, which could pose a challenge for Keystone when it comes to growing its brand beyond the name recognition and "always smooth" positioning its locked down with the current campaign. As for their pitchman's future, Vives says, "It’s been a fun ride and we are currently discussing the possibilities for the brand in the coming years."