The Kimberly Kardashian West School of Business
I may have finished graduate school but I promise you this isn’t MBA bullshit. Thanks to business leaders like Sheryl Sandberg (The Walt Disney Company, Facebook), Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo), Sophia Amoruso (Nasty Gal), and Oprah Winfrey (OWN, Harpo Productions), the push for gender equality in business is at its highest and it will only rise further until it becomes a reality [which sadly, it hasn’t yet]. There is one woman I am surprised didn’t make the ranks of last year’s Most Powerful Women in Business lists from Forbes and Fortune. It’s hard to not pay her any mind: she is a celebrity with 25 million Instagram followers and 28 million Twitter followers, she’s one of the most searched-for people on the Internet, and if it’s not her fashion and style choices or public appearances, the focus shifts to her hip-hop producer/rapper husband, her young equally-stylish daughter, her mother, her sisters, her brother, her stepfather, her stepbrothers, her stepsisters… You have a pulse, right? Great! Then you know who I’m talking about.
And I’m not going to entertain the “she’s only famous because of a sex tape” comments. Nope. Not today, Satan.
Kim Kardashian has been under the public radar for about a decade now. She started out as one of Paris Hilton’s underlings on The Simple Life, and today she is a television personality and socialite with a net worth in the range of $45 and $65 million [alone, i.e. not counting the rest of her family’s worth].
She’s had her missteps along the way: bad acting in equally bad films [Tyler Perry’s Temptation, anyone?], a failed attempt at a music career, being voted out of Dancing With The Stars, and two failed marriages [the second one ending after 72 days]. And so what if she has no formal business education? Experience is the best teacher.
Despite all of this, she perseveres as a businesswoman. You can argue that it’s image-based: her social media accounts, her media appearances, etc. but you cannot deny that today it’s not just her image that contributes to her success. She has a great relationship with her “momager” Kris Jenner. Originally it aided in Kim and the family being a selling point for television, E! reality shows and product endorsements on QVC alike. Today, Kim Kardashian stands on her own, with enough influence to sell magazines, books, video games, fragrances with her name on it, plus serve as a spokesperson and model for businesses from Carl’s Jr. to Balmain. Additionally, she has equally successful ventures with her family, especially her sisters Khloe and Kourtney in books, hair and beauty products, fragrances, fashion, and retail operations. Oh, and the family’s reality show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, a mainstay on the E! Network, is preparing for the launch of its 10th season.
One of the ways in which Kim Kardashian has made an impact on the world of business is the emphasis she has placed on “personal branding.” For an individual, whether they are a celebrity or not, it’s something as simple as having a consistent voice. Kim came into the limelight during the advent of social media marketing. She came at the right time, when microblogging and photo-sharing services Twitter (2006) and Instagram (2010) ruled over other social media platforms that connected brands to their audiences, consumers, and critics.
She has a very entrepreneurial spirit that, combined with her celebrity status, has extended her brand beyond style, fashion, entertainment, and “tabloid” outlets. With and without her family, there are almost 100 applications for trademarks since 2007 with her name attached to it; she gains financially from all of them. One of her most surprising successes came from Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a free-to-play game developed by San Francisco-based Glu Mobile for the iOS and Android platforms with in-app purchases, which released in mid-2014. It is estimated that Kim Kardashian earned $90 million from the licensing deal she made with the game developer.
Being a celebrity alone certainly helps with getting the word out about your endeavors, but it’s not required. Another takeaway from Kim’s success is to not rely solely on social media to show support; go places, meet people, and share things and ideas. Whether you are attending a job fair, networking mixer, alumni event, trade show, or conference, it is essential to make an appearance to best market yourself, your brand, and/or your business. Be engaged with your surroundings. Oh, and put the damn phone away [unless you’re exchanging contacts]! Sure, there’s celebrity power, but don’t underestimate the power of your own charisma in marketing. Do it enough and it may put you into exclusive social circles and can define you as a leader in your field of expertise. Be visible, at least, and accessible as much as you can.
Ultimately, Kim Kardashian’s success derives from one primary factor: being herself. Her social media presence is mundane, as she shares seemingly insignificant details from her life. Between her Twitter (@kimkardashian) and Instagram (kimkardashian), what is she really promoting? Her appearances, her various product lines, her upcoming book Selfies, an occasional provocative photoset, campaigns for other brands, the reality show she shares with her family; all of which contribute to her as a brand. The marketing is consistent in frequency and voice. Sure, she’s pulled a stunt or two [#BreakTheInternet] but it was done in the name of marketing for her personal brand and the hype that generated out of it is certainly what every brand, personal or business, dreams of. There is a narcissism in it, yes, but has proven to be a very effective strategy for Kim to connect to the masses.
Author’s Note: Behold, my final contribution to Femme & Fortune! It has been an honor to write for the site since it launched in 2013. Thank you for giving me a place to share my expertise and humour. I’ll still be around, possibly block-hugging outside of The Hive! Cheers!