If you ask ClimbSF real estate agent Kenny Truong about the negative feedback he’s received from his accidentally viral #FastAgent marketing campaign, he’ll tell you it’s old news. Because, really, it is old news. Pull any business cliche from a hat, and it applies to him: “Bad publicity is still good publicity,” “You hurt the ones you love the most,” and so on.

  • Kenny Truong has been the top buyer agent in West Oakland for the past three years.
  • His vandalized #FastAgent bus bench ads have recently circulated social media.
  • Troung's team has already sold $18 million in 2016.

If you ask ClimbSF real estate agent Kenny Truong about the negative feedback he’s received from his accidentally viral #FastAgent marketing campaign, he’ll tell you it’s old news. Because, really, it is old news. Pull any business cliche from a hat, and it applies to him: “Bad publicity is still good publicity,” “You hurt the ones you love the most,” and so on.

“I want to represent Oakland real estate,” Truong said. “People want to move there. That’s why people contact me. People who don’t want them moving here talk about me.”

Kenny "Fast Agent" Truong

Kenny “Fast Agent” Truong

Truong, 30, has received a lot of bad publicity in the form of vandalized bus bench ads circulating the social media marketplace, with some residents of West Oakland branding his work as gentrifying the area.

He said he loves West Oakland, but a local’s view could be that he’s hurting the neighborhood by slowly increasing prices.

Truong’s goal isn’t to anger West Oakland residents, he said, but to sell homes to interested buyers. If some negative Instagram posts help him do that, then he’ll take it.

“Thinking about gentrification, people are saying ‘This guy is responsible for raising all the prices in Oakland,'” he said. “Well, if you’re a home seller, you like reading that, and I like being the cause of that.”

For sellers, this makes sense. Truong has been the top buyer’s agent in Oakland for the past three years. He set a goal for $80 million last year but came up shy by about $60 million. However, along with his team of 14 agents in the Easy Bay region, he’s already nearing $20 million this year. With plans to keep growing his team, his goal might not be that far off.

“I want to get in The Wall Street Journal,” he said.

“With all this branding, I think people like talking about [West Oakland]. They are using me as an example. I don’t talk about gentrification with my friends, but I like talking about #FastAgent because it leads to the conversation about what’s going on in West Oakland.”

As far addressing the negativity, Truong’s situation brings about an interesting point in terms of marketing, or backward marketing. Whether or not the press is negative is besides the point if outsiders — those looking for affordable housing in an emerging market — recognize him as the guy who gets things done.

“We’ve always had high crime in West Oakland. I think something like 100 homicides per year? When you clean that up, though, people notice,” he said.

Addressing the West Oakland demographic, especially in regard to gentrification, is another conversation entirely. Truong referenced “white flight” in the ’50s and ’60s when caucasians abandoned the region for areas like Walnut Creek, which is considered more affluent.

“If gentrification is the opposite of white flight…I don’t view it as a color thing,” he said. “It’s the young people coming in with good jobs, and that was the brand I built early on.”

Since 2015, Truong has grown his team of agents to 14 covering the East Bay. He plans on increasing that number to 20 as soon as he can and wants his tag on all the bus benches in West Oakland neighborhoods in an effort to be the go-to guy for West Oakland real estate.

“The purpose of the bench ads was to build brand awareness, but now it’s blown up into this huge marketing strategy,” he said.

Obviously, he knows he has to break a few eggs while he’s making an omelette.

Email Britt Chester

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