Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Kardashians have built a brand to be reckoned with. And it didn’t get there by accident. Whatever you think of them, their story provides interesting insights into today’s style of brand management. So let’s take a deeper look at how they do it right, and how they could do it better.
First, the good:
- Sharp brand management by their business manager/mom, Kris Jenner, has helped put the brood at the top of Brand central. Consider Kim’s alignment with E!, for example, which keeps her smack in the center of the world of entertainment and lifestyle. It enables her brand to encompass an array of products—everything from fitness videos to food to the ill-fated Kardashian credit card—while remaining relevant to her lifestyle image. You can bet that Mom’s brand management savvy saw this as key to the Kardashian empire.
Not only has Kim successfully grabbed opportunities right and left to put her brand stamp on, so has the entire Kardashian family tree. Other members of the clan capitalizing on brand power include Kourtney and Khloe, with spin-offs and their own diverse selection of products. Even teenagers Kendall and Kylie are getting in on the act with modeling and acting careers of their own. The wide array of endorsements and products is undoubtedly the brainchild of brand management mom Kris Jenner.
If it seems like Kim Kardashian is everywhere, that’s because she is. TV. Twitter (7 million followers). Even 18-wheeler billboards on the freeway hawking her perfume. One of the key successes of Kardashian brand management is keeping Kim in the conversation. It enables her to garner an astonishing $25K for a single tweet on behalf of luxe brand Armani (which drew 40,000 site visitors in an hour). While many brands fail to stay in the spotlight consistently, this is something the Kardashians excel at. Again, props to brand management.
One of the beautiful things about Brand Kardashian is how Kim, Kourtney and Khloe appeal to different demographics. Kim is the gorgeous but fragile one, who supposedly hates the single life, helping women ages 21-35 coming up post-Sex and the City empathize, own their singledom vs. settle down attitudes. Kourtney appeals to mommy bloggers everywhere, being a young mom herself. And Khloe wins over weight-conscious women. This gives the brand breadth.
And now, the not-so-good side of Kardashian brand management.
People vs. product.
- While their entertainment and lifestyle brands are flexible, even the Kardashian brand has its limits. Right now, they’re focusing too much on the product brands, not hard enough on the people brands. It’s not about diet pills, fragrances or debit cards. It’s about brand persona. Each Kardashian kid is a brand in her or his own right. Strong brand management means capitalizing on each character’s unique traits to build a brand-loyal audience that can take the Kardashian empire into the billions. Just ask the Olsen twins.
Move over, Mom.
It’s probably next-to-impossible to get Kris Jenner to give up her seat at the head of the brand management table, but it might be for the betterment of the Kardashian brand. Given her roles as mother and brand manager, Kris’s objectives are always going to be at odds with the family during their brand lifecycle. Case in point: haranguing Khloe for weight gain while Brand Kardashian represents Quick Trim diet pills. Granted, Kris isn’t the first mother to give her daughter a hard time about weight. Regardless of the highly filmable family disputes, however, Brand Kardashian relies on some degree of harmony or it’ll cease to be cohesive. It’s not hard to imagine, for example, Khloe striking out on her own if she gets fed up. So it might do the brand a favor in the long run for Mom to get some distance and get another brand management team leader.
Diversification is one thing, but given Brand Kardashian’s penchant for putting their name on competing initiatives (cupcake with your diet pill?), the brand’s strung-out story could wear thin. This is not to say that a brand can’t evolve. Good brand management encourages it, but not to the point of deviating from a brand’s core message. And what is the Kardashian Kore Message? Business executives vs. party girls? Fitness mavens vs. cutie pie cupcakes? Fur lovers vs. animal activists? Competing messages make it hard to discern where Brand Kardashian is coming from—and any good brand manager knows that can spell trouble.
It’ll be interesting to see where Brand Kardashian is in three years. Our bet is that brand management has a long-term plan, but that it might falter with flavor-of-the-moment fandom what it is. Of course, they can always rely on that old newsworthy standby—addiction and rehab—to keep the brand in the public eye.
photo credit: bdhq