Kim Kardashian: Tabloid Goddess, Selfie Queen, Babe Du Jour… Brand Genius?

UPDATED: May 21, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 29, 2015

Kim Kardashian is one of the most powerful brands of this decade—and there’s no denying it, whether you love her or hate her. You can’t walk by a newsstand or scroll any trending news feed without running up against something “Kim.” What she’s wearing, where she’s going, eating, doing, and who or what she’s conquering. She. Is. Everywhere.

So what is it about her? Beauty, bucks and booty—and all three are literally in our faces 24/7. Kim is a true brand alchemist, building a vast empire based on her natural (and arguably not so natural) physical attributes, and you’d have to be completely and utterly out to lunch to not acknowledge the boldness of her brand and her ability to ride the wave of what’s relevant.                           

She’s not unaware of her limitations. In fact, it’s her complete awareness of her limitations that make her so powerful. She’s not pining for a record deal or a movie career. She’s not writing a novel or jumping on the “give back” bandwagon. She’s not trying to prove that beneath her fully loaded vixen exterior lives a rocket scientist.

Kim Kardashian is not trying to be something she’s not. Instead she lives and breathes who she is: tabloid goddess, social media socialite, babe du jour.

She knows exactly what she’s selling.

As legend has it, Kim Kardashian was catapulted out of obscurity with an adult home video of her with singer-songwriter Ray J (Norwood). What could have been a huge hall-of-shame moment for the 20-something actually had the opposite effect.  Within two years, she was making millions playing reality TV’s new darling, posing for a Playboy spread and getting crazy endorsement deals. This initial flurry of fame led to magazine covers, her own clothing line, several fragrances, a couple high profile marriages—and now her status as the most famous woman in the world.

But none of this came that easy—no matter what the critics say. Kim had been working behind the scenes, building relationships and making connections for many years before her name exploded. So make no mistake, she’s always had her eye on the prize: from her early teens working at her dad’s music media company, to her gigs as personal stylist for Brandy (RJ’s sister) and Lindsay Lohan, to busting her butt as a lowly personal assistant to Barbara Bach, Kenny G and childhood friend Paris Hilton. She paid her dues.

Was the sex tape leaked on purpose? We’ll never know. But there’s no arguing that Kim likes being famous—and she’s willing to bear everything to hold the world’s attention. That is exactly what her brand is all about: fame, in its purest form.

Her haters will go on about her lack of talent. “She doesn’t do anything.” “She comes from nowhere.” But that’s the point. Being famous has nothing to do with what she does at all. In fact, what she does is completely inconsequential.

Fame, dictionary defined, is “the condition of being known or recognized by many people.” And there’s no doubt that that is Kim.

Kim Kardashian is about fame for fame’s sake. She is a commentary on the rise of fame, living within the bubble of fame, the cost of fame and, eventually and inevitably, the decline of fame. That’s what her brand is all about.

Many can relate to her brand because, deep down, we all would like to be that laboring underdog, plucked from obscurity and handed the keys to the kingdom. We might covet her brand because, deep down, we are afraid our own labors will never be noticed and never pay off.

And relatability and desirability together are a powerful potion for success. They play on our sense of comfort and lust—that takes Kim Kardashian into the realm of hyper-relevant. We are watching her live out our own fears and fantasies, and whether you care to admit it or not, dang, it feels good.

Kim Kardashian was on the cover of SUCCESS? Yes, it’s true. Read the controversial story we ran for SUCCESS’ most talked about marketing issue. 

Timothi Jane Graham is a personal branding specialist, photographer and copywriter. She travels the world working closely with entrepreneurs and business leaders to reimagine and sculpt their business and personal brands. Timothi has spent more than two decades working in the realms of image branding, advertising and network television. Her articles have been featured in The Huffington Post, YFS Magazine and MindBodyGreen.