Khaby Lame, from TikTok to the Hugo Boss Global Campaign
Updated: Mar 10, 2022
As part of its rebranding strategy, Hugo Boss launched two new simultaneous campaigns this week. After almost 50 years, the brand introduces a new logo, taking on a new and modern visual identity focused on a younger and globalized audience.
Among all the celebrities invited to star in the campaign, the one that caught my attention the most was the presence of the Senegalese based in Italy, Khaby Lame. Lame became popular on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic when he started producing videos for TikTok after being fired from his job as a machine operator. The partnership with Hugo Boss began after he participated in a record-breaking Milan Fashion Week event, bringing 4 billion impressions in just four days.
Khabane Lame is now the second most followed personality globally on TikTok, with over 130 million fans. His videos show more straightforward ways to perform some everyday activities, a type of comedy content that wasn't produced much when he started. This indicates that innovation is much more effective than following magic recipes to meet the algorithms.
His most viewed video of 2021 is Escaping a Car Door with more than 30 million likes.
Khaby Lame, the guy behind the shake-my-head clips
As a former factory worker, he became the second most popular TikTok content creator globally. With more than 130 million fans and counting, his rise has been entirely organic.
In early 2020 as the pandemic began to affect the economy, Khabane Lame, a 21-year-old Senegalese based in the northern Italian industrial town of Chivasso, lost his job. But instead of applying for other jobs, he decided to invest his time by posting videos on TikTok under the name Khaby Lame. Without much technical knowledge but full of ideas in his head, Lame had the insight to create viral content in a different way.
While most content creators followed the trend, creating videos showing how to do simple things, but in a complicated way, Lame decided to capitalize on the momentum of viral going against the trend by responding to them with easy-to-understand, wordless reaction clips in which he would do the same task in a simple and much more direct way.
“It’s my face and my expressions that make people laugh,” Lame said in The New York Times interview. My muted reactions, he said, are a “global language.”
In his videos, he punctuates his silent jokes with the video equivalent of a “duh” catchphrase, extending his arms as if to say voilà and offering an expressive eye roll or head shake. With this signature, he created his own brand that was replicated and viral worldwide. Again, an innovative solution - at the time - that did not require any investments in polished production – just creativity and simplicity, a value associated with the most famous TikTok stars of today, many of whom have been embraced by Hollywood.
Khabane Lame has lived in Italy since he was one but does not have Italian citizenship or an Italian passport — something that was never a problem, he said, until he started getting invitations from other influencers to visit the United States. He has a large following in Brazil and the United States, the national soccer sweatshirts of which he often wears. He’s also huge in Senegal, where his family is from, and where he is frequently talked about on television. Mr. Lame noted, “I’m more followed abroad than in Italy.” 
Andre Havro, MBA