Source: Us Weekly
In June, Vox published a video titled “Kim Kardashian’s Greatest Talent.” Questioning the oft-repeated (by even Kim herself) mantra that the Kardashian-Jenner sisters have no talent, the video’s narrator takes an alternate approach, insisting that there must be some underlying ingenuity to how Hollywood’s de facto first family “stretched fifteen minutes of fame into nearly a decade.” As Kim Kardashian West gave her keynote speech at BlogHer last weekend, we began to think about the secret to the Kardahsian family’s success and what it can mean for your brand. Here are just a few of the ways we’ve identified that make the Kardashians branding geniuses.
1. Para-social Interaction
Source: Khloe Kardashian Instagram
According to Jennifer Lueck, a communications professor at Texas A&M University, the key to the Kardashians’ success lies in para-social interaction. A complex term with a rather simple definition, para-social interactions are essentially single-sided relationships in which one person expends emotional energy, interest, and time on another person or entity completely unaware of the first’s existence. The term was “coined by researchers in the mid-1950s to describe the feeling of friendship and closeness that people felt with TV personalities whom they’d never met.” Over time, though, it’s evolved to typify a mode of marketing that perfectly explains the uniquely Kardashian ability to monetize each and every move…from diet pills to hair growth supplements, lip glosses to fragrances, clothing to corset lines, emoji installations to video games, the Kardashian-Jenner sisters have—and sell—it all.
2. Make It Personal
Source: Kim Kardashian Instagram
For the past decade or so, the Kardashian-Jenner sisters have taken America by storm, integrating themselves into our everyday lives and captivating our country’s consciousness. And that’s what makes the Kardashian brand different from, say, a big brand offering up the same products. There is a seemingly personal touch packaged into everything they do, everything they promote. Through their television show, social media channels, and occasionally over-the-top antics, the sisters have invited the entire world to share in their lives. So when Kim posts on Instagram about her love for an at-home teeth-whitening kit, it doesn’t feel like marketing—it feels like advice given by a friend… albeit a really rich, really famous friend.
Sound familiar? In a way, the Ad Council has long understood and put into practice this very idea—that people are more prone to listen to those with whom they feel a sense of kinship. Check out our Creators for Good program where we work with top social media influencers and YouTubers. By leveraging peers and “friends” to spread our message to the people they could influence, we’re having a great impact.
3. Be Yourself
At BlogHer, Mrs. Kardashian West’s advice when it comes to building a brand was simply to be yourself. Though this may seem like a platitude in marketing, Kardashian takes it seriously from her video games to letting herself have an ugly cry for all the world to see. There is real power in a brand that stays true to itself—followers are more loyal, engagement becomes easier, and content creation can be effortless. Not everyone would seize the opportunity to “break the internet” by snapping a naked selfie alone in a bathroom. And while Kardashian received some judgement from that infamous selfie, there was nothing about it that didn’t feel her. Kardashian IS shocking, she IS unpredictable, and she IS proud of her body. And all of these traits were evident in a single photo captured on an iPhone. At BlogHer, she told the crowd, “If you’re not comfortable, don’t do [it]. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable and whatever makes you happy.” So while not everyone should run home to replicate her photos, brands should find ways to engage with their followings that push the boundaries of what it means to be themselves.
Say what you will about the Kardashians, but they didn’t skyrocket to the front pages of every newspaper and onto millions of newsfeeds by sheer chance. Instead, by slyly subverting the marketing norms of yesteryear, the Kardashians are making us all keep up with them.