The Kardashians Are Smarter Than You

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

10 comments

  1. Nice post. I originally thought about doing my class presentation on celebrity product endorsements on social media and the Kardashians popped up everywhere during the little bit of research I did. Seems like they use their social media accounts solely for product endorsements. Definitely takes away from the facade that they are portraying their real lives on social media, it’s just more commercials for them now. It’s certainly an easy way for them to make a ton of money!

  2. gabcandelieri · ·

    Interesting post! I also touched upon the Kardashians’ product endorsement empire and agree that they are in fact strategically savvy business women, especially within the social media realm. Our culture has truly been socialized to respond to aesthetic beauty–whether it be negative or positive, people like the Kardashians grab our attention. In the age of social media our attention translates to building up these influencers’ social following making them attractive brand ambassadors. I personally follow Kylie on Snapchat and am amazed by the net worth she has been able to garner from self-advertising (Money Nation projects that $20.5 million is from merchandise like Lip Kits, clothing, books and posters). I am curious, do you think any publicity is good publicity in terms of selling products?

    1. mashamydear · ·

      I think any publicity is good publicity to a certain extent. I think if a plethora of beauty vloggers were talking about something like the bad quality of the lipsticks or the false advertisement of pigmentation Kylie Cosmetics would have a huge problem. But on the other hand, I think publicity about Kylie’s lip injections works for her advantage– it draws attention to her lips and then by association the lip-kits. People keep talking about how stupid the Kardashians/Jenners are but the fact that they’re still talking about it while young girls out there purchase Kylie’s products leaves her with the last laugh.

  3. Great post! I think it is the easiest thing in the world to do dismiss the Kardashians clan as vapid and vain group of girls, which have reached the pinnacle of fame through nothing but hyper-sexualization. However, it is true that these women have managed to create an empire from almost nothing of substance by harnessing the power of social media. I personally, am not a fan of the Kardashians, but do I to a certain degree respect the job they have done in turning themselves into one of the most recognized brands in the USA. I went on intsagram to take a look at the Jenner’s girls presence on the platform, and I was astounded with the amount of buzz around them. I really liked how this post analyzed social medias role as a tool to building an empire.

  4. Interesting post! I am, too, amazed how the Kardashians are able to turn what should have been 5 minutes of fame into a long term business endeavor that has now earned them millions and millions of dollars. Due to the intelligence of momanger, Kris Kardashian, they have been able to identify specific needs in the market and hone in on it financial markets. They capitalize on how people perceive them. While some people may strongly dislike the whole Kardashian clan, it is impressive how they have managed to turn a situational upbringing, as you have mentioned in your post, to an empire of tv shows, emoticons, clothing stores, dolls, etc- all earning them a pretty penny while they sleep. This really is indicative of today’s society and the importance of social media that enhances their success…Along those same lines, Kanye West also benefits from similar impacts of social media. He recently had a pop up shop for his new clothing line in Boston where he didn’t announce the location until 24 hours before… despite that, people found out the location and were waiting for hours prior to an opening of a store that would be open for the entire weekend! It is amazing how influential a family can become through the likes of social media outlets.

  5. Nice thoughtful analysis. I’m not sure I’d say they were “smarter” than me (or most of the people in our class) but they certainly have displayed a great amount of business savvy to get where they are. One of the key differences is that I care what my career is about. Beyond providing a living for my family, I’m not sure I need more money. At that point, I’d prefer a job that makes me fulfilled, and I could never be living like a Kardashian.

  6. adamsmea89 · ·

    I liked this post because it played devils advocate for the Kardashians, because most people are vey quick to dismiss them. I agree they are more talented than most people give them credit for, and they have mastered the art of marketing themselves for free. In order to do this however, they have given up a huge amount of privacy in their everyday life, and I really can’t imagine being that active on all of the different social media platforms for my day job.

  7. Tyler O'Neill · ·

    Loved the post (and the title)! I have never been a fan of the Kardashian/Jenner clan. I think that they reinforce stereotypes that are society is working incredibly hard to overcome. With that being said, they may be the smartest people on Earth! They rake in absurd amounts of money without having any formal job (not to mention they get all the benefits of being celebrities). I don’t support their entertainment empire, but is hard not recognize how well they have been able to capture the interests of the people in order to stimulate their own success.

  8. jagpalsingh03 · ·

    Great post and I agree with you! I think the Kardashian/Jenner family gets a bad name for being supposed airheads and talentless but the way they have branded themselves is remarkable. If you were to watch any episode of KUWTK season 1 to the newest season, it’s crazy how much bigger and more famous they’ve gotten. I think Kris (Ryan Seacrest and whoever else manages them) needs to get more recognition for their work. I also think they were lucky that their rise to fame kind of coincided with the rise of social media (Instagram and Snapchat particularly). It allows fans to get an even closer look to probably the most famous family in America and that kind of intimate interaction is incredibly important. And like you said, if you are looking for a talent that Kylie or Kim has, it has to be their ability to market products without sounding like rehearsed commercials. Again, loved the post and I 100% agree with you on this.

  9. mikeknoll98 · ·

    Really enjoyed this post. My favorite part was about the person brand of Kylie. While all of us do not have teams determining what we post, I think it is important for us to view our social media as our personal brand. I think in this age where anyone can find us online, we should be using this to our advantage and using it to separate us from the pack like the Kardashians.

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