With 28.8m Instagram followers, 30.4m Twitter followers, a net worth of $68m, an annual personal income of $28m and counting, and a game with revenues expected to exceed over $200m. Kim Kardashian's vital statistics read like a brand marketers' wet dream.
So what can brands and agencies learn from Kim?
1. You don’t need your product to be different
It’s clear from Kim K, that you don’t need any specific talents, achievements, decrees or degrees to become famous. In our new world order of reality TV, sex tapes, and social media, anyone and anything can become famous, from the daughter of a lawyer to an unattractive cat. It’s egalitarian. It’s democratic.
Yet despite the IPA Data Mine studies that have shown that those brands that seek fame are more likely to be profitable in the long term, many brands are shying away from the limelight.
Take the world of confectionery, for example. Cadbury’s fame seeking tactics continue to increase its market share, leading to almost double the value sales of its nearest competitor Galaxy, whose advertising has sat sedentary on the sofa for some time.
What’s perhaps stopping them is a belief that in order to be famous you have to have a point of difference in your product.
But if Kim K proves anything it’s that fame isn’t about offering something different, it’s about surfing a cultural tide, doing it in a way that’s bigger and better, and communicating it in a way that’s different.
Kim’s bum isn’t different she just made it look bigger and better. With some liberal oil application, and a talented photographer, she rode the wave from waif, to booty. So perhaps we should stop striving for points of difference, and start looking for the strategic lighting, the cultural angle and the creative ointment (we’d call it a ‘Zag’), that will make you appear bigger and better.
2. Your popularity is in the hands of the people
As Chris Rojek pointed out in his book ‘Celebrity’ there are three forms of celebrity fame; ‘inherited’, ‘achieved’ and ‘ascribed’. Achieved fame; that enjoyed by famous actors, authors or musicians isn’t what we’re dealing with. Kim’s is certainly an ‘ascribed’ fame.
It’s a fame that’s in the hands of our crowdsourced, consumer-driven, culture. One that spawns the likes of Zoella - stars reliant purely on the validation of views.
A brand's fame is in the hands of the consumer. It’s they who will choose whether its famous. When they like, comment, share, or follow. A brand is what consumers say and do when you’re not looking.
What we need to ensure is that the brand experience lives up to the promise presented. Word of mouth is the foundation of our networked celebrity culture. And while a brand may have one voice, consumers have millions, and they have the power to shout all at once. So make sure they’re saying the right thing, by doing the right thing by them.
3. Be transparent
A huge part of Kim K’s success has been her transparency. Her desire to over-share every moment of her life. This is reflective of the effect the Iiternet has had on amplifying our narcissistic tendencies. We constantly seek validation of how we look, where we’ve been, or what we’ve eaten for breakfast.
By bearing all, in the same way as her audience (selfies), and in the same channels (Instagram/Twitter), and using the same language (she frequently adopts popular hashtags), she creates an emotional proximity to her fans.
Brands also need to lift the lid, to overshare, and behave more like consumers in the environments where they are. Stop acting like broadcasters in social, recognise what audiences do and share, and be more like the Lad Bible than a bible preacher.
4. Have a thick skin
All this transparency comes at a price. A brief peruse of any of Kim K’s posts reveal a litany of abuse. "You’re so fake. So much plastic surgery", "You have no shame. Put some fucking clothes on", to select a couple of the more pleasant.
With trolls-abound it must take some serious guts to let the constant diatribe wash over her. But that’s what she does. She doesn’t change. She doesn’t react to negativity. She has a brand she wants to build and she sticks to it, rather than reacting to any negative result, comment or bump in the road.
In the shift towards a more short-termist commercial culture, one that chases immediate sales peaks rather than those longer term business measures that drive greater profitability, we’ve lost sight of the need to stick to our guns. We need to have the steeliness of character to not react to every comment, red traffic light, or slight downturn in sales. Markets fluctuate, brands take time to build, we just need to stop being so quick to react.
5. Pick your partners well
What do you do if you want to become the most famous person on the planet? Marry one of the most famous men.
And it’s not just her romantic choices that have served her well. She’s leant her name to an iPhone game, which made $43m in just three months, as well as lucrative deals with everyone from Armani to weight loss brands. These partnerships both borrow equity and confer it. She understands the value of her brand to others and their value to her.
Partnerships are a valuable tool in both the on and offline world to amplify our voice, and confer qualities onto a brand that perhaps weren’t previously there. They can make low interest catagories exciting, traditional brands innovative. They can also enable us to facilitate and do rather than just say. To put into action our strategies and creative ideas by utilising established infrastructures, and audiences.
6. Be more egotistical
"The first right on earth is the right of the ego," wrote Ayn Rand in Fountainhead. Those words echo in our modern me-first culture. One that’s obsessed with the self obsessed.
Whether it sticks in the throat or not, having an ego does focus us on our best assets, and it gives us the confidence to shout about them. Her declaration that she was going to ‘break the internet’ was pretty self confident. And pretty accurate.
It took balls, or should that be buns? As we move out of the recession, albeit slowly, brands could do more to regain some confidence and assertion in their own qualities and assets.
Finally, be selective …
Kim may post an average of five times a day in social. But she knows what her audiences want, and she’s selective about what she posts, from camera angles to content. Often the most important part of content marketing is understanding what to exclude rather than what to include. And sometimes you need to make some tough choices about what to cut out.
(The author is strategist, BBH)
(This article first appeared in marketing magazine.co.uk)