Since 2007, Kim Kardashian has been a household name amongst pop and celebrity aficionados. Kim Kardashian’s rise to fame is a modern tale of how a reality star turned influencer became a billionaire. From her days working with her sisters in their own fashion boutique store DASH, to launching an online fashion subscription service called ShoeDazzle, Kim has always had the entrepreneurial spirit. As her popularity began to grow, she developed her first fragrance and later even capitalized on her iconic social media, meme-friendly “ugly crying face” seen on the hit Keeping Up With the Kardashians show.
When it comes to the modern idea of fame, the Kardashians, with their show, changed everything. They changed the way TV celebrities were perceived and how leveraging their star power has shaped present day influencer culture. All the sisters, Kim, Khloé, Kourtney, Kylie and Kendall are owners of multi-million (and some, billion-) dollar businesses and are followed by millions of people around the world. The New York Times noted that what makes the Kardashians different is “their promotion of said brands, which were woven into the show as well as the publicized interpersonal conflicts and life changes that made viewers feel close to the family.” Marketing 101 would tell you that the key to a brand’s success is to find ways to be personable and relatable to your consumer. It is this point that underlies the business model to Kim Kardashian’s marketing triumph.
When social media was on the rise, the fashion and beauty business mogul was amongst some of the first reality personalities to take advantage of platforms like Instagram and Twitter to increase her fanbase. Now in 2023, Kim Kardashian is one of the most followed people on Instagram with 364 million followers and with those numbers, it is hard to deny Kim’s popularity and influence. Kim’s success comes from her ability to leverage her audience; so much so that in 2015, Kim sold upwards of 30,000 copies of her coffee table book titled Selfish, which only featured selfies she had taken. At the time, New York Times crowned her as the “queen of selfies” upon the release of the photobook. While the concept might have seemed insipid, it was actually a much more strategic and calculated release than one would think. The book gave fans an intimate look at her life, making her more personable and further propelled her to become a marketing mastermind of our generation.
With all of Kim’s projects, there seems to be a pattern that sees her focus on the direct-to-consumer relationship. In 2021, Forbes estimated Kim to be worth $1 billion USD due to two lucrative businesses KKW Beauty and SKIMS. Kim founded KKW Beauty (now rebranded to SKKN) shortly after Kylie Jenner found success in Kylie Cosmetics. Taking a page from Kylie’s book, both of Kim’s brands relied heavily on social media marketing.
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For both SKKN and SKIMS, Kim takes a direct approach to informing her consumers. From appearing in her own tutorial videos to starring in many of her own campaigns, and even teaching her consumer base how to subscribe to SKKN, Kim is proving that she is not just the face of the brand. Kim shows her fans that she is heavily involved in all the processes, while personifying the relationship consumers have with the labels. Across social media, Kim has built a loyal fanbase globally. By strategically integrating SKKN and SKIMS into her own persona and everyday life, she leverages her reach and relationship with her fans to create a strong association between herself and the brands. By personally attaching herself to SKKN and SKIMS, she effectively drives awareness while continuing to generate interest to make her products desirable by consumers.
Looking at SKIMS’ success, Kim’s social media presence plays a crucial role in making the label a household name. Her transparency when sharing behind-the-scenes footage, product launches and testimonials on her social platforms all play into the sense of authenticity and connection consumers feel when they see and react to the content. She shows her fans that she listens, most evident when SKIMS was initially “KIMONO,” and later received cultural appropriation backlash which led to the change in name. Fans also feel like they are a part of the process, further making the brand more appealing and relatable. A major part of the brand’s success is capitalizing on the power of user-generated content (UGC). Fans are encouraged to show how they incorporate SKIMS and SKKN in their lives. The brand engages by reposting the content, further amplifying SKIMS and SKKN’s reach and fostering a community amongst consumers.
With social media, Kim has the ability to get immediate brand feedback from her fans and make real time adjustments to the product. One of the biggest movements brands must adhere to presently is the attention to diversity. Long gone are the days of just making statements of support. Consumers are now demanding real change and inclusive options. Understanding this and listening to her consumers on social media, SKIMS’ baseline is to provide options for various skin tones and cater the products to all shapes and sizes, paving the way for the shapewear industry. Successful collaborations with other brands and celebrities also allow SKIMS to tap into newer communities. These campaigns, which feature the likes of Snoop Dogg and NFL star Patrick Mahomes’ family, generate major social buzz, resonating with a broader group and growing her target audience.
Kim’s understanding of how to leverage her social media fanbase to create a community has ultimately been the key to her success. The reality star turned billionaire entrepreneur has created a blueprint for modern brands proving that everything she touches turns to gold. Beyond social media, the rise of SKIMS teaches businesses today the importance of strategic partnerships, authenticity, listening to consumers, embracing diversity and committing to inclusivity. Kim Kardashian builtan empire with SKKN and SKIMS, and with her SKKY Partners private equity firm, she is proving that the possibilities are limitless.
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