But regardless of whether you believe their success is deserved or not, you’ve definitely heard of the Kardashians – which is a highly telling fact.
Many brands can only dream of achieving the same reach and influence as Brand Kardashian. It’s a brand which has transformed a group of ‘talentless’ individuals into cultural icons sitting atop a global media empire.
Every brand can learn something from the Kardashians.
Each member of Brand Kardashian broadly subscribes to a homogenous aesthetic identity, conforming to a core set of aesthetic pillars, which has the cumulative effect of a carefully cultivated and identifiable ‘look’.
And this look has evolved over the years in response to changing fashions – animal prints, big hair and lashes have been replaced by athleisure, monochrome outfits and contouring – with Kim Kardashian proving herself to be a ruthlessly effective brand manager, censoring anything which is not ‘on-brand’.
– Find your version of the Kardashians’ savage internal brand discipline
Through their ‘rude’s’, ‘totally’s’, ‘over it’s’ and ‘okurrrrrr’s’, the Calabasas natives have developed their own memorable register and vocabulary.
Regardless of how it may grate on the nerves, this tone is consistently applied across all platforms, including their tv show, social media channels, guest and tv appearances and product copy.
– Understand your brand’s uniquely distinctive voice and use it
The Kardashians provide a masterclass in utilising people and resources to broaden a brand’s appeal. Kris Jenner took a B list celebrity, more famous for her friendship with Paris Hilton than anything else, and turned the entire family into a multi-faceted media machine.
And brand Kardashian hasn’t been afraid to utilise wider resources – from friends, children and partners, no-one is off-limits. This broadening of what and who represents Brand Kardashian is a reflection of the brand’s ever-expanding scope and why they are a content writer’s dream.
– Make best use of your people and resources to broaden your brand’s appeal
The Kardashians didn’t invent women’s preoccupation with beauty and body image, or society’s addiction to social media, but they have the business savvy and good timing to give their audiences what they most want, when they most want it.
Whilst many may dismiss the cosmetics and beauty products promoted by the Kardashians as ‘frippery’, they have, inarguably, succeeded in a highly lucrative industry, with Kylie Cosmetics making Kylie Jenner the youngest-ever self-made(-ish) billionaire.
– Cater to what your audience cares about to keep your content relevant
Brand Kardashian often addresses difficult or sensitive issues, and isn’t afraid to apologise when mistakes are made (for that infamous Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner, for example). Their TV show and social media accounts offer them a platform to tell their own side of every story and control their brand’s messaging.
Every brand has to take the rough with the smooth in terms of public opinion, and all brands occasionally mess up.
– A meaningful apology means controversy need not limit your success
Every Kardashian venture is born from a spirit of entrepreneurialism and an appetite for success. In addition to the show, the Kardashians have lent their name to clothing and makeup lines, games, apps, emojis, lifestyle brands, fitness products, shapewear, perfume, socks, books, guest appearances and more.
Of course, Brand Kardashian makes mistakes and some of these ventures have been less successful than others, but all credit to them for not playing it safe.
– Look for interesting opportunities to step outside your comfort zone
Keeping Up With The Kardashians has endured whilst other, similar shows have vanished from the airwaves, not least because it always gives people something to talk about.
Indeed, it very often raises quite subversive questions such as ‘can a woman be both empowered and sexualised at the same time?’ and ‘do celebrities have the right to privacy – or even kindness – from the media?’.
– Challenge the status quo with lively (and even contentious) conversation
The Kardashian’s have aligned themselves, from the outset, with family values, emphasising the closeness between the Kardashian women as they share and celebrate their individual successes.
On a macro level, the girls have engaged with a wider range of issues, such as Kim’s involvement with prison reform, and Kourtney’s promotion of an organic lifestyle, as well as the entire clan’s LGBTQ positivity, anti-bullying stance, and an awareness drive for the Armenian genocide.
– Don’t just sell: offer your audience emotive, human value
There will always be debate over the level to which anything we see on a reality show can be truly called ‘reality’, but this ultimately doesn’t seem to matter.
The Kardashians are selling to real people with lives and emotions, not to ‘consumers’ made up of data and statistics, and they have always managed to project a sense of warmth, humour and personality incomparable with any of their reality-star peers.
– Give people reasons to care about your brand that go beyond the purely rational
The Kardashians have built a global brand empire (out of, admittedly, very little) which clearly takes a serious amount of ambition. But against this high seriousness, Brand Kardashian has always shown an ability to laugh at itself.
This is evident in Kim’s ad for T-Mobile at the 2015 Super Bowl which credits her on-screen as ‘Famous Person’ before she talks very earnestly about the plight of lost selfies, and Kourtney’s viral sensations on YouTube; ‘6 Steps to Eating a Kit Kat’ and ‘How to Eat a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup’.
– Turn criticism into clout by not taking yourself *too* seriously
The seemingly unstoppable ‘Brand Kardashian’ machine is an entity that is far from perfect and wide open to criticism, but there is plenty that can be learned from it. Because, after all, global domination doesn’t happen by accident.
Ambitious, authentic and warm, Brand Kardashian shows us that success is about more than simply selling. A good brand should engage and connect with people, know its audience on a deep level, and offer a holistic and enduring sense of personality and lifestyle that can evolve and survive changing trends.
(Header photo: Wikimedia Commons)