Why we hate the Kardashians and what brand managers can learn from it!

Categories Branding

The title doesn’t make any sense at all, you will say. So what? So many things don’t, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. Let’s get down to the serious stuff.

I have been thinking about the curse of humanity – the need to make sense of everything, the pursuit of true substance, the pressing need to create value. We may crib all we want about the rise of consumerism and the senselessness of the new generation, but honestly, there is nothing to worry about. We can never run too far from the quest, we are cursed with it.

May be, it is a part of our evolution. We have worked hard to stop being animals. So, anything that does not have deeper meaning questions our intelligence. We can throng to the theaters to watch the summer blockbuster and the comic acts, but when it comes to Oscars we know who wins. We may all find it hard to switch off WWFs and IPLs but it is a Louis Armstrong that we celebrate. We all enjoy gossip columns and detective stories, but tell me one that has won the Booker. I can go on, but you get the idea.

We are in shackles, you see. It all has to make sense.

And, Kardashians don’t. Personally, I have got nothing against them and I will hate to join the mob. Heck, I don’t know even enough about them. But they have become such universal symbols of vanity and shameless self-promotion that it will be a shame not to use them for my arguments.

While it will be unfair not to acknowledge their entrepreneurial spirit, it is also important what they are selling is thin air. They are not singers like Lady Gaga, whatever they were doing in this video is not called singing.  They are not selling a fashion line as Paris Hilton. The Kardashians like the Poonam Pandeys here don’t stand for any solid talent, product, service or lifestyle.

They have been variously described as fucking idiots and promoting idiot culture. But they continue to be on all major newspapers and magazines almost every single day. When I come up in the morning, in a city far from USA, the face that I see after my wife’s is some Kardashian. World’s biggest brands spend billions to be in similar position and still fail.

So, what is the lesson here? What do you do to promote your brand in a world where vanity and senselessness are so greatly rewarded? It is important to remember that brand managers are not artists. They are not given a decade to create a body of work. Companies are built on balance sheets and no art is so closely tied to accounts as brand building and promotion.

The question is how to deliver results and fast without diluting the brand image? I don’t have any answers but here are brands that that are doing it just right.

MittiCool – fulfilling a need is the best advertisement

It is the most unlikely success stories to have come out of rural India. A struggling clay potter tries his hands at different businesses until he stuck the idea to mechanize the earthen tava making process. Out goes manual potter’s wheel replaced by electrical wheel and presses. He made little changes to the process until he was producing hundreds a day and selling them at just 65 paisa per piece.

Cutting the long story short, he was soon producing water filters, cookers, thermoses and even refrigerators, all made of clay. Now, he is working non-stick clay tavas and on a house that will not need any electricity. He has got free and extensive media coverage on Discovery Channel, Aaj Tak, NDTV, IBN 7, DD News, BBC and Vividh Bharti and AIR. Read the rest of the story here.

You can also read about Warby Parker and Zovi. The last one is quite an interesting case study, which is the subject of my new post. In the emerging and intensely competitive Indian ecommerce segment, they have been cornering their share without any television or other expensive media expenditure, which is favoured by other large players. We will look into it in more detail later. But you get the idea – under the 360 degree evaluation that every brand is subjected to, it will no longer serve to be a Kardashian. You need to be more and the ‘more’ will define you.