Kim Kardashian, the 31-year-old woman who graces this month’s cover of SUCCESS, has 6.9 million Facebook fans and 11.6 million Twitter followers. These people can’t help but keep up with Kim’s shows, books, fragrances, clothing lines and a dozen more business ventures bearing her name.
A Google search of Kim Kardashian produces 232 million hits. On any given day, Kardashian has hit the 24-hour news cycle at least once for news about her love life, her sisters, her businesses or her fashion. News outlets around the world watch her Twitter feed and personal blog for news and photos of her various adventures. Ad.ly ranks Kim as the second-most-influential celebrity in social media, behind fellow reality star Lauren Conrad (read more about Conrad in Celebrity Marketing: What Reality TV Stars Can Teach Us on SUCCESS.com).
Before she was a household name, Kardashian was just a California girl next door. One of four children of O.J. Simpson-attorney Robert Kardashian and homemaker Kris, Kim was 10 years old when her parents divorced. Her mother married Olympian athlete Bruce Jenner, who had three children of his own. Together, Kris and Bruce had two more children.
Since Kardashian’s first venture as a professional closet organizer at age 19, she has blazed her own entrepreneurial trail. When the singer Brandy was named to the worst-dressed list, she hired Kardashian as her personal stylist to help remake the R&B artist and actress. Kardashian had already built a clientele selling clothing at a high-end boutique in Encino. She expanded to eBay, building a business buying and selling fashion. She started to design clothes herself and also to work as a personal stylist. Kardashian expanded her business full time, aquiring clients Nicole Richie and Bernadette and Sugar Ray Leonard. Soon, the former shop girl was being invited to red-carpet events with famous friend Paris Hilton.
In October 2007 the Kardashians, including Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Rob, Kris and Bruce Jenner, Kylie Jenner and Kendall Jenner, were cast in the new series Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which promised to follow the chaotic life of a modern-day Brady Bunch. Ryan Seacrest signed on as executive producer (Read what Seacrest has to say about Kardashian on SUCCESS.com).
Kardashian understands what role she plays for fans. “I feel like I’m giving my sisterly advice,” Kardashian tells SUCCESS. “I’ll listen to fans’ comments and questions asking what skincare do I use or what fragrance I like, and I feel I’m in a position that I can answer those questions well.
“Every six months my mom and I set goals and visions for what we want to achieve,” Kardashian continues. “Then we write a goal that is outlandish and outside what we think is our goal range.
“We once said ‘Wouldn’t it be a dream to have a fragrance?’ And sure enough, that goal came true. It always happens that way. Maybe not that year, but those goals always come true.” The Kardashians have three fragrances between them and a fourth is in the works.
Inside The Mirage hotel in Las Vegas, a Kardashian Khaos lifestyle boutique features their exclusive Stila for Kardashian Khaos eye makeup palette. Kim’s Belle Noel jewelry collection is sold at Bloomingdale’s and the Kardashian Kollection handbag line is available exclusively in Australia. The sisters have a nail polish line with OPI appropriately named Kardashian Kolors, which launched on Black Friday 2011, and a skincare line, PerfectSkin.
Drawing on her experience as a stylist, Kim co-founded ShoeDazzle.com, a shoe membership club founded in 2009 and now valued at $280 million. (Interestingly, one of the founding investors is fellow O.J. Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro.) For a $39.95 monthly membership fee, members receive a pair of shoes, jewelry or a handbag from a stylist-selected showroom based on their personal style preferences.
“It might seem like we’re attached to so many products,” Kardashian says. “Actually, we’ve started to pull back a little bit so we can focus more on larger product lines, such as the Sears collection.” For every product they launch, she says, there are five that land on the cutting-room floor.
“People aren’t stupid,” Kardashian says. “You really have to love what you do and you really have to believe in what you’re working for, for everyone else to believe you.” She’s got that right.
For more on Kim Kardashian's brand of Celebrity Marketing, read how reality TV stars such as Bethenny Frankel and Lauren Conrad as well as celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez can teach us about branding, marketing and building an audience.
Journalist, podcaster and southpaw Shelby Skrhak is the former director of digital content and social media for SUCCESS.com. Before joining SUCCESS magazine, Shelby launched the weekly suburban newspaper Plano Insider, and covered topics ranging from cops and courts to transportation and fashion. Her handwriting should be a font.