A month and a half before 'American television and social media personality, socialite, and model' Kim Kardashian got journalists and delegates jostling for a seat at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2015, our sister publication Marketing Magazine (UK) ran a guest article. It was by Kate Nettleton, strategist at BBH London. The headline read: ‘What marketers can learn from Kim Kardashian’.
In the brilliantly articulated and insightful piece, Nettleton explained that Kim Kardashian’s fame was not ‘achieved’ fame, but ‘ascribed’ fame. The author also stated rather notably: “Kim’s bum isn’t different she just made it look bigger and better.”
The whole concept of Kim Kardashian, described by many as the celebrity ‘most famous for being famous’, makes me reflect on an experiment that students I have addressed in the past related to well. (Today I think students would relate to Kim Kardashian better.)
Addressing those just getting into the study of brands, I borrowed from a text book example and handed them a balloon each, and small, similar-looking thermocol balls to put into those balloons. I asked them to blow up the balloons to whatever size they wanted, shape them the way they liked, colour them, give it a name…. you get the picture.
The product is at the core of every brand and the brand, while staying within what the product can represent credibly, can take on different forms. That was the message, more or less. But there had to be a product at the core of the brand. In Kim Kardashian’s case, she has built product/s, while building on opportunities that brand KK offered. And she keeps innovating the brand based on those 'product' opportunities.
Consider this. Forbes' Celebrity Rich List for 2014 offers us the following stats.
At number 84 on the list is the incredibly successful author JK Rowling, of Harry Potter fame. With earnings of US$ 14 million.
Four places above her and with twice the earnings, is Kim Kardashian, of Kim Kardashian fame.
(And they weren’t counting her game revenues then, which are expected to cross 200 mn by some estimates.)
What JK Rowling and Kim Kardashian represent, are ‘children’s fantasy and fiction' and ‘adult reality ’, respectively. But Kardashian has managed to extend her appeal across genres and strata, and keep her persona alive, leveraging every opportunity that existed or could be created.
I would in fact contest it when one says hers isn’t ‘achieved fame’. May not be in the original sense, but she has had to achieve fame from (arguably) nothing, has had to keep her brand alive through the years, and she’s done it all with remarkable success. Achieving this order of fame from ‘nothing’, is achievement in itself.
That said, anyone can become famous in today’s world of instant recognition. To make that fame count is another thing. And to make it last, takes something special.
Before my friends accuse me of being besotted with the woman’s bottom, let me clarify. I am neither a fan of her tapes or her looks. I am a fan of the brand called Kim Kardashian, of which too I realise there are many.