The quintessential Kardashian is typically painted as a vapid and talentless reality television star who wears too much mascara and is symbolic of the declining quality of the entertainment industry. Although the hyper-sexualization and entertainment shock value is evident, there is a lot more to the Kardashian/Jenner clan than meets the eye. And a lot a lot more than Kim Kardashian’s hilarious crying face.
The numbers speak for themselves. Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the reality television show that follows Kim, Kourtney, Khloe Kardashian, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner, is the highest rated program on the E! Network and racks up a steadily increasing 3 million viewers per season. The whole Kardashian/Jenner clan has a net worth of over $300 million. Numerous spin-offs revolving other Kardashian family members have also been produced (Rob & Chyna being the most recent), and the twelfth season is currently being aired. The rise of the Kardashians can perhaps be traced back to Kim Kardashian’s earlier days as Paris Hilton’s right-hand woman, her infamous sex tape with Ray J, or her father’s involvement with the O.J. Simpson trial. But regardless of Kim Kardashian’s less than humble upbringing, the Kardashian/Jenner brand has become a household name that is omnipresent in today’s popular culture—whether it’s from Kim Kardashian’s video game success, Kylie Cosmetics lip kit empire, or North’s Kanye-like scowl.
Although the Kardashians get a bad reputation for their open approach to sexuality and consumerism, the Kardashians consciously self-objectify for their own profit and brand strength. Amanda McClain explains that, “Men aren’t exploiting the Kardashians; instead, the Kardashians are exploiting what audiences have been socialized to like.”
I think Kylie’s use of Instagram and Snapchat is particularly interesting. I’m not sure how many people still watch the Kardashians with the exception of myself, but it’s pretty undeniable that Kylie and Kendall have a massive social media presence on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. Despite the low business grade Kylie Cosmetics received, the people reading this blog probably know of someone who has purchased a lip kit or perhaps even a KyShadow. Although Kylie Cosmetics is less than one year old, millions of lip kits have been sold out in a matter of seconds, and there are constant restocks and product extensions. Kylie’s social media content serves as a method of brand management while those who are fast enough to snag a Candy K lip kit continue the social media feedback loop by posting a picture of their purchase or maybe even tweeting about their disappointment in giving in (we call that buyer’s remorse).
It’s important to remember that somewhere out there in California there is a team of people gathering in conference rooms discussing Kylie’s brand and how to harness the power of social media to further it. As of today there is no physical Kylie Cosmetics store, meaning that Kylie has built a beauty brand that relies exclusively on the major players of social media (Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook) and its website alone. Kylie’s Snapchat story balances “relatable” content like her fear of talking on the phone to evident brand advertising for Kylie Cosmetics in the form of makeup swatches, product demonstrations, and even Kylie personally delivering her limited birthday edition collection to top Kylie Cosmetics customers.
One thing is for sure, Kylie looks really good. I personally think there’s a weird Bratz doll quality about her, but her unapologetic aesthetic has clearly resonated with today’s generation. The Instagram for Kylie Cosmetics constantly regrams particularly stunning customers/bloggers/make-up artists, allowing customers to do the advertising on their behalf for virtually no cost (with the exception of maybe some early lip-kits sent out to popular bloggers).
The distinctive packaging also lends itself to being photographed, which is not a happy accident. The ornate and colorful packaging makes customers excited to photograph their recent purchase and post it onto social media, similar to the concept of posting a picture of your delicious meal at a hip restaurant.
In fact, the packaging was so ornate to the extent that the products were being stolen en route to delivery! Kylie Cosmetics had to tone it down a notch, but the cool packaging hasn’t been compromised.
For reasons I disagree with, the Kardashian/Jenner clan is simply painted as “famous for being famous” and therefore undeserving of recognition. However, fame achieved through physical appearance is not a new phenomenon, but since the Kardashian/Jenner clan eliminate the middle man by taking “selfies” and post these photos of themselves onto their own social media platforms, they are discredited. I think we should stop overlooking the successes of these young entrepreneurs and instead learn from their methods in using social media.