The media world is constantly changing and evolving in response to technological advances and public demand for information. This means that for those people whose careers are dependent on the media, they need to be flexible and be prepared to adapt to these changes. With her millions in the bank and followers worldwide, Kim Kardashian has successfully manipulated the media to create her personal brand, which has turned her into a household name globally. Her immense public profile has been carefully created through astute business acumen and her ability to converge her ‘brand’ using various media platforms.
The name Kim Kardashian is synonymous with success, scandal, controversy and, ‘breaking the internet’. Born on October 21, 1980, Kardashian is the daughter of the late Robert Kardashian and Kris Houghton (Biography.com, n.d.). Kardashian attended the prestigious Catholic Marymount High School in Los Angeles along with socialite Paris Hilton and did not pursue tertiary education.
Robert Kardashian was the founder of the marketing and music company, Movie Tunes, Inc. and was also heavily involved in the O.J Simpson murder trial. Kardashian died on 30 October in 2003 and his connections within the entertainment industry paved the way for Kim in her quest for fame and fortune (Biography.com, n.d.).
Kardashian ’s three marriages have attracted intense media attention, which has financially boosted her family’s fortune and her career. Her first marriage to music producer Damon Thomas in 2000 lasted three years. In 2011, she married NBA player Kris Humphries. The wedding preparations and ceremony heavily featured product placement and endorsements (Biography.com, n.d.). Whilst the blatant commercialisation of the marriage disgusted many people, the negative publicity fuelled even more attention for the Kardashians. In early 2012, Kardashian became romantically involved with famed rapper and close friend, Kayne West. In June 2013, they welcomed their first child, North. They married in Italy the following year and later in December 2015; Saint West was born (Biography.com, n.d.).
Kardashian’s career has catapulted to great heights due to a constant presence in the media spotlight, which she cleverly exploits to her advantage to promote her brand and products. Her high school friend, heiress Paris Hilton, introduced her to the socialite scene in the early 2000s. Kardashian worked for the family business, Movie Tunes, Inc. for a few years before opening boutique fashion label and store D-A-S-H with her sisters (Page, 2015).
It was not until a leaked sex tape in 2007 with then boyfriend and singer Ray J, that Kardashian became a household name. This controversial tape was the catalyst that launched the successful TV series Keeping up with the Kardashians (KUWTK).
It was through the proliferation of KUWTK that Kardashian extended her ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ to becoming an A-list celebrity, establishing her name and her family’s careers. Throughout the formation and evolution of the Kardashian brand, Kardashian made appearances on Dancing with the Stars, America’s Next Top Model, CSI: NY and Wrestlemania XXIV (Contactmusic.com, n.d.). These appearances helped propel her career, which included launching several fragrances and beauty products, workout videos, a successful app, books and three spin-off reality shows. It was also through a myriad of product endorsements, being the cover girl for magazines like Paper, Playboy and Vogue America and Australia and her savvy use of social media, that Kardashian has maintained a public profile (Page, 2015).
Although Kim Kardashian has been labelled as being talentless, vain and frivolous, Forbes listed her net worth in 2015 at $52.5 million (Page, 2015). Time magazine has also listed Kardashian as being among the 100 Most Influential People in the World. She turned a horrific invasion of privacy into a business opportunity, which spawned an empire which spans the globe. She is one of the most successful women in the world. Martha Stewart wrote in the Times, “Despite the flamboyance, the self-aggrandizement and the self-promotion, Kim comes across as an enviable big sister in a clan where everyone seems to love one another” (Stewart, 2015). I have chosen Kardashian because I admire how she has controlled the media to develop her personal brand to such a degree, that she is a figurehead of entrepreneurial success. Her use of social media as a marketing tool for her name – and therefore her brand – is something that I want to emulate in my own career.
Media Convergence is when content that has traditionally been confined to one medium appears on multiple media channels (Turow, 2009). Kardashian is a prime example of media convergence in action, in her proliferation of social media accounts, vast range of products and media platforms. Kardashian holds a variety of social media accounts including Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter which she uses to promote herself, brand or endorse products.
By holding such a variety of accounts across different social media sites she is able to reach a large, global audience which has attributed to her success. As of March 2015, she has 42.5 million followers on Twitter and 65.3 million on Instagram. Kardashian is an avid user of the latest technology trends, releasing the app, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood in 2014 that CNN estimated was “bringing in $700,000 per day…one of the top five most downloaded apps in store” (Lobosco, 2014). In December 2015 she also released an emoji line named Kimoji that crashed the app store when it became available with 9000 downloads per second (Santhana, 2015).
With an expansion of products such as fashion label Kardashian Kollection, makeup, jewellery and fragrances there has also been a convergence into fashion which has given the Kardashian brand an element of sophistication. “Kim steadfastly refuses to sell anything but herself. Or, to be more specific, she refuses to sell anything but the image of herself,” wrote The Atlantic journalist Megan Garber (Garber, 2014).
Kardashian has used her social media accounts to promote her brand to all her followers and demonstrates how converging advertising for products- whether it be endorsements or her own- has had a positive impact upon her career.
Kim Kardashian is an internationally recognised name and brand and her career has been positively impacted by globalisation. “Globalisation is a worldwide movement that focuses on developing interconnections between societies, cultures, institutions and individuals on an international level,” (Business Dictionary , n.d.). Kardashian’s career has capitalised from the effects of globalisation. As the expansion of western culture has grown, so has the Kardashian name and brand – due to Kimberley’s fame.
Another factor that has contributed to her success is the growing power of social media. With globalisation there is an increase accessibility to smart phone technology and with that an increase of social media accounts where Kardashian’s brand is available. With 300 million monthly active users on Instagram in December 2014 (Statista, 2014), meaning that there could be potentially 300 million people who can see or access Kardashian’s brand. As the spread of globalisation – and therefore western culture – continues throughout the globe, the name Kardashian has also become a household name on a local, national and international level.
Fourth Estate is the concept that “the media’s function is to act as a guardian of the public interest and as a watchdog on the activities of government,” (Australian Politics, 2012). Although Kardashian is not a journalist or figure head of media, she has contributed to the fourth estate in her consistent campaigning for awareness of the Armenian genocide. On the 96th anniversary of the genocide in 2011, Kardashian wrote on her blog “It’s time for America to speak openly and honestly about this horrible crime against humanity, and the only way this will happen is if WE speak up first,” (Asbarez, 2011). For the 100th anniversary Kardashian visited the memorial in Yerevan, Armenia and once again called upon the American government to recognise the massacre for being a genocide. Kardashian expanded on her views via Time “The whole point of remembering the genocide is to make sure it doesn’t happen again. A million-and-a-half people were brutally massacred, and a country can just pretend like it never happened? I don’t think that’s right…there aren’t that many Armenians in this business. We have this spotlight to bring attention to it, so why would we just sit back?” (Kasperkevic, 2015). Kardashian demonstrates that even though some believe she has no substance she proved them wrong with her persistent campaigning for justice for the Armenian people therefore contributing to the fourth estate.
The public sphere is a metaphorical term that is used to describe the virtual space where people can interact, “where people’s conversations, ideas and minds meet… to exchange ideas and discuss issues where information, ideas and debate can circulate in society, and where political opinion can be formed,” (McKee, 2005). Kim Kardashian has dramatically changed and influenced the public sphere and this has helped drive her career.
Kardashian is the embodiment of the trivialization of the public sphere with many concerned that the public sphere is influenced by the “public (who) are too interested in unimportant news: celebrities, diets, (and) sex tips than serious political issues” (McKee, 2005) It is due to the changing demands of the public sphere that Kardashian’s career has taken off. She can be found on every tabloid’s front page, on every social media platform therefore there is a high saturation of her activities and latest posts.
For Kardashian, any kind of public media exposure means potentially more consumers of her brand and therefore her products. Due to the shift of the public sphere from political debate or issues to the frivolity of celebrities, Kim Kardashian has been able to promote her brand more successfully and has been able to promote her brand everywhere.
Kardashian is the quintessential social media doyenne, immersed in her online communities and attuned to the latest social networking trends. She has converged a variety of media platforms in order for her brand to be easily accessible. Kardashian has capitalised on her fame to grow her empire into a global business. She has attained stratospheric success in the cutthroat entertainment industry – love or hate her, everyone, everywhere, has heard of Kim Kardashian.
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