Brand identity is important: a recognisable name and image. Something that stands out and is easy to remember, but that doesn’t mean your identity has to be set in stone.
Kim Kardashian West is one of the most recognisable names in the world. From a sordid reputation to a family friendly star. From modern day Marie Antoinette to a passionate advocate for human rights. From selfie obsessed to selfless.
She is a constantly changing brand and her followers, all 237.5 million of them, are kept up to date with each evolution in the Kardashian brand. The woman dubbed ‘famous for being famous’ created an empire from two emerging forms of media: Reality TV – thought to be the dregs of television – and social media – some new, emerging apps that wouldn’t be around for long.
Taking note and having the bravery to engage with emerging media is one of the key reasons behind the Kardashian success. And 12 years since she first appeared on our screens, she has become a household name.
As the undoubted queen of social media, she has one of the most liked and followed accounts. Her place at the top has only been outdone by her younger sisters, but arguably, Kendall and Kylie are just an extension of her. The Kardashian brand centres around Kim, and its own rise orbits around hers.
Kim Kardashian and her empire have not survived by intransigence. She is no longer the party girl from season one of Keeping up, but nor is she the same character that televised her short-lived marriage to her basketball playing second husband. Even now as Mrs West, her brand is ever-progressing. As she grows and evolves, so does her brand and so does her following.
Her feeds record the changes in brand Kim. Instagram and Twitter document this state of constant transition, acting as a visual aide that, not only, promotes her merchandise but charts and archives her development. The latest instalment is her move into criminal justice reform and attendance at law school. A celebutante turned criminal justice reformer. Another twist in the Kardashian saga and another angle in the brand identity.
Social media affects brand identity. The very visual nature of social media encourages awareness of how your business looks and the quality of content you share. It also raises engagement. By interacting with your customers and colleagues, the name recognition and reputation of a business develops. Whatever you do, your repartee with your consumer effects the perception of your brand.
Kim was among the first to see the advantages of social media as a tool for growth – engaging with her fans about products, packaging and the content they wanted to see from her curated feeds. Not only were they fans and customers but had an effect upon the product. They had a stake in the brand, and continue to. What so many PR agencies and business now do, Kim did before it was cool.
It is a lesson that whatever the product, the branding is important. Kim’s brand is signalled by a single word: Kardashian. Like a dog whistle to the devoted customers, that one word carries with it all the connotations that is associated with the Kardashian empire. It means luxury, excess, opulence and, most importantly, Kim.
When the brand is so closely associated with an individual, customers are buying a slice of them. The product is the merchandise, but so are they. Whether your product is aspirational, lifestyle based or simply used by you, the customer is paying for your seal of approval. For Kim, her personality is an integral part of the product. The customer is buying a part of her lifestyle: the glamour, the fame and, now, the righteousness and justice. To paraphrase Louis XIV, “le brand c’est moi.”
So, whether you love her or loath her, Kim is a lesson in brand evolution. From the name recognition to the prolific use of Instagram and Twitter, the things to be learned in studying her rise to meteoritic fame offer an insight into success. Because, whether you’re someone desperately seeking stardom, a charity with a humanitarian cause or a start up looking to sell your product, when we post and promote our brands on social media, aren’t we all trying to be Kim?
By Tom Butt-Evans