The Kardashian Effect

From reality stars to entrepreneurs with billion dollar businesses, what is the secret to the Kardashians success?

Molly Rees
December 12, 2022
3 min
The Kardashians

The Kardashians are no longer B-list reality TV stars, instead they are fully-fledged entrepreneurs, with businesses collectively making billions of dollars. But how did they get here? And what is the secret to their success?

Why is SKIMS so successful while Lemme is, well… Lemme?

While the Kardashians have been dabbling in their own businesses for a while, from Kim’s early perfumes, to the DASH fashion boutiques, the brand that can be credited as the beginning of the Kardashian brands as we know them today is Kylie Cosmetics.

The combination of millions of followers, a boom in the beauty industry, and a viral trend of ‘Kylie Jenner Lips’, led to one of the biggest launches in make-up history.

Launched in 2015, Kylie Cosmetics began with Kylie recognizing the viral sensation that was the public interest in her lips, and she knew how to capitalize on it, creating her own lip product so fans could ‘get her look’. She also used social media marketing, announcing her new products with swatches on her Snapchat stories rather than through a traditional advertising campaign, which clearly connected with her Gen Z audience. The brand has been so successful that it has not only made Kylie a billionaire, but has also launched two sub brands, Kylie Skin and Kylie Baby.

Kim used a similar tactic when launching her own beauty brand, KKW Beauty, capitalizing on the contouring craze of the time that she was at forefront of, by releasing a contouring stick as her first product. She also kept the brand very much in-line with her own style, with simple packaging and neutral colours that were signature Kim.

One of the largest Kardashian brands currently, Kim’s shapewear and loungewear line, SKIMS, was launched in 2019, and again reached huge success not only due to Kim’s dedicated fanbase, but also Kim’s signature neutral branding that her audience knows her for, and the marketing of the products as solution shapewear with Kim using her famous curves to demonstrate the products herself, showing, for example, how her unique one legged unitard was perfect for wearing a dress with a slit on a red carpet, solving an issue many women may have. This marketing was clearly a success, with SKIMS becoming popular outside of Kim’s direct audience and into the mainstream, overtaking Spanx as the largest shapewear brand, and now valued at $3.2 billion.

Other Kardashian brands that have used this recipe for success include Khloe’s Good American jeans, capitalizing on the gap in the market of well-fitting jeans for women with curves, a problem Khloe herself could relate to, Kim’s Kimoji, capitalizing on the current custom emoji trend of the time and the many Kardasahian memes that were made into the emojis, and Kim’s new SKKN skincare line, capitalizing on the current skincare trend with more people increasingly interested in skincare over make-up.

It’s also impossible to deny the impact of the Kardashians star power and their huge audiences for the success of their businesses and selling their products. At Genflow we believe having an audience is the most powerful asset in the world, and the Kardashians and their brands exemplify this.

The success of these brands leaves Kourtney’s new brand, Lemme, which has not seen the same buzz and hype, as an interesting case study. This ‘failure’ can be put down to a few things; not only is the product itself, vitamin gummies, not something that Kourtney is known for, or particularly trending right now, but the colorful bugglebum branding is not in-line with Kourtney’s signature style at all, which has always been more sleek and neutral, and has even taken a gothic/rocker chic turn since dating Travis Barker. Kourtney’s other brand, Poosh, a blog/e-commerce site, has reached much more success, connecting more with her branding and providing what her audience wants from her, such as product recommendations.

Kendall’s alcohol brand, 818 Tequila, which launched in 2021, has also seen less success than brands like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics. Again this could be credited to the lack of prior connection between Kendall and Tequila, having never famously loved the drink, and the lack of connection between an alcoholic product and Kendall’s audience, who are mostly young girls, many who cannot afford expensive alcohol and many under drinking age.

When looking at the Kardashian brands as a whole, there's a clear pattern of what creates their success, and key lessons that we can all learn from.

When you combine millions of dedicated fans with a viral trend, a connection between a product and the face of the brand, fulfilling a need from an audience, and promoting your brand directly where your audience is (which these days is often social media), you have the the ultimate recipe for success.