Understanding The Value You Bring To The Table (The Kardashians-Sears Brand Disaster)

You would think that since I am so passionate about branding, that my entire job would be to brand my organization. Not so.

I have heard more than once that what they really like is that I can process a lot of information quickly, churn it in my brain, and spit it back as a fully digested one-pager along with a strategic action plan. Secondly that I get technology. Third that I can troubleshoot a lot of different things. Fourth that I am heavily networked. And fifth that customers like me because I am focused on helping them solve their problems - sometimes where the marketing bleeds into operations - and that I never give up till the job is done.

All of the above are perceived ROI. None have a thing to do with branding. And that's fine.

It's a bruise to the ego when the thing you are passionate about is not the thing that people want you to do. But it's a consolation that at least they want you to do something. And when you realize that it's precisely your passion that makes you less valuable to the customer, particularly if the thing you do involves organizational culture and politics, you don't feel bad at all.

The Kardashians are passionate about fashion. They want to "bring fashion to the masses." But that is not the value they bring to the table at all. And that is why the partnership with Sears is a brand disaster.

The problem with the Kardashians' brand management, unfortunately, is that the Kardashians themselves appear to be managing it. They need to take a huge step back, hire a good consultant, and do what beefs up their brand equity while minimizing the foolish, equity-squandering mistakes they have made so far. Dash is fun as something to talk about on the reality show, but it is not serious fashion to me or anyone else that I know.

The reality is that the Kardashians are a lifestyle brand. They could sell replicas of their home (the "Kourtney," the "Khloe," the "Jenners"). They could sell a franchise of branded nightclubs. They could sell a line of clothing only if it were limited to characters on the show who are truly unique and people want to imitate - maybe Scott and baby Mason. They could sell something related to the Mom's midlife crisis - maybe a line of romance novels. They cannot sell things they are passionate about or that they are just exploiting to make a buck.

The ROI of the Kardashian brand is the Kardashian experience - the fantasy of living their life - much like Martha Stewart sells the fantasy of a country home in Connecticut. And notably, that fantasy is built by TV producers, not by the family themselves. 

I didn't agree when Martha Stewart put her stuff in K-mart, but she succeeds because her products truly are unique and have a vision no matter where you put them. Versus the Kardashians girls' fashion is truly forgettable.

It's a painful process to go through, to isolate your brand. Which is why although it's not hard to figure out what your value is, it's critically important that you get someone skilled and objective to do it.

I wish the Kardashians great luck - they have brought me tremendous joy and laughter watching their show, and I like their family ethic - but I do think the mom has to step down if she is the orchestrator of their brand.

Have a good day everyone - and good luck!


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, www.AllThingsBrand.com and www.DannielleBlumenthal.com, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.