Love her or hate her, there's no denying that Kim Kardashian is a force to be reckoned with. From Paris Hilton's paparazzi partner to a global icon, Kardashian has redefined the term “celebrity" and profited off it--in a major way. But what is the secret sauce behind her fame? What makes her resonate so widely and so deeply? According to Jeetendr Sehdev, the author of The Kim Kardashian Principle: Why Shameless Sells (and How to Do It Right), it's a mix of vulnerability and blatant audacity.
“There is no doubt that Kim is a new world leader," says Sehdev, whose book serves as a part manual for fame, part thoughtful analysis of today's media landscape. “She is a cultural force. She is a phenomenon. We cannot ignore that or deny that."
With a focus on uncovering specific strategies behind her mass appeal, Sehdev, a celebrity expert and television personality, provides a roadmap for both individuals and brands on how to achieve relevancy and influence via the social waves. Spoiler: it has a lot to do with putting yourself out there.
“Kim Kardashian is one of the most desirable women in the world," says Sehdev. “She's busted down stereotypes, taken all elements of her personality and used them to her advantage," says Sehdev, underscoring Kim's unique ability celebrate flaws and promote a new paradigm of beauty. “She's not ashamed of herself or her body. She's not looking to conform. That attitude is especially pioneering in a place like Hollywood where you are told if you acquire a certain look you can be [famous]. She's shaping the culture. Many people think she has no talent but by whose criteria?"
"She's busted down stereotypes, taken all elements of her personality and used them to her advantage. She's not ashamed of herself or her body. She's not looking to conform."
Sehdev, who believes corporations have a thing or two to learn about personal branding from the reality star in terms of how to be authentic and vulnerable, says that one of his main points is that consumers of today are attracted to realness, rather than glossy perfection.
“I think perfection is passé," says Sehdev. “Kim allowing us in on her life creates a greater level of intimacy with her audiences and that transparency is what newer generations require today. You see that with YouTube stars. They are letting people in and being candid. Gone are the days where people are creating images [and advertising with them]."
He goes on to say that the move towards authenticity is a reaction to what Millennials are being conditioned to crave, thanks to a culture that thrives on “reality" thanks to social media. In addition, they've come to distain any form of blatant selling agenda, including product placement and pop up ads. What they do value is honesty and transparency from brands and even celebrities.
“There is a level of savviness among today's audience, so the best thing brands can do is show who they really are, and allow audiences to decide whether they want to engage or not, says Sehdev. “It's a liberating message, and today people want to be liberated."
Through a lens that focuses on brand-building, Sehdev says he was particularly fascinated with Kim's ability to polarize audiences with a non-apologetic approach to her public persona. He goes on to explain that without having "haters," you really don't have a brand, as strong emotions, and bring recognition, are tied to a fearlessness approach.
“Don't look to hide your differences, amplify them, because they are what makes your brand unique and that uniqueness will set you apart more than ever before," says Sehdev. “There is power around overexposure and transparency. Don't look to create contrived messages, instead let people into your brand, motives and intentions. That level of self-belief is contagious. Remember, all organizations are flawed in one way or another, so don't look to create perfection. Too many people have said all the right things in front of the camera then been caught behind closed doors saying another."
When asked why it was Kim who he chose to become the heralded protagonist of his book, Sehdev is frank. “Why not Kim?," he says.
“First and foremost, it was the fact that she has shaped our culture," he says. “There's the social following, but also there's a vulnerability, narcissism and sheer audaciousness that has propelled her from reality show laughing stock to cover girl and social media superstar. She is self-made and that is enormously powerful. The new breed of celebrity is not [thanks to] a talent agent from the old school world. She has promoted herself."
"There's the social following, but also there's a vulnerability, narcissism and sheer audaciousness that has propelled her from reality show laughing stock to cover girl and social media superstar."
According to Sehdev, his decision to write the book came from his own realization that the world was changing in terms of who was holding the influence over the masses, and just how they achieved that status. He especially found this relevant in terms of Hollywood.
“I was born and raised in the UK, and it was fascinating to me when I moved to Hollywood that there was this massive shift in the way people were thinking," said Sehdev, who began his career in investment banking. “It made me realize it's not about one culture being better than another or having higher moral ground, and it's not about values or being good or bad, it's just a different way [of achieving influence]."
When asked if he thinks that traditional advertising still can have sway over consumers, Sehdev remains optimistic.
“Every [advertising] medium has its role today; one medium isn't dead," he says. “Traditional advertising is great for raising awareness and social media for having a conversation. [Both are important]. Consumers are consuming content in very different ways and that has to be taken into account. "
Sehdev adds that traditional TV advertising needs to continue to become more dynamic and more focused on selling reality with all its flaws. "It's still a very curated forum; very stylized, the messaging is still overly researched, and that can often come through," he says. "At one point traditional advertisers will benefit from the tenants of overexposure to become more real and authentic."
This article was originally published on May 15th, 2017
WRITTEN BYBelisa Silva