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There has been lots of talk in the past weeks about Kim Kardashian.  When I spoke recently at Web Summit in Dublin, I touched upon the explosion of social media, growing a whopping 80% from 2013 to 2014. On the heels of all this, Kim allowed the release of a series of nude and provocative photos in the social sphere from a photo shoot she did for Paper Magazine, which was quoted in Adweek: “November 12, our traffic hit 6.6 million page views with 5 million of those being unique visitors. This is just direct traffic to the site, and does not include the billions of impressions created on social channels and news outlets.”

Not coincidentally, Kim’s “celebrity” status just reached an all-time high in terms of pop culture reach. This apex happens to coincide with the breakout success of her new Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood app which reportedly generates roughly $700,000 per day (projecting to net out approximately $200M per year).

The lesson from all this: in order to create enough weight to cut through the clutter in today’s world of fragmented media, one must be able to penetrate both traditional (mass media) and new media (social media). Kim and her “momager,” Kris Jenner, started figuring out long ago how to create “buzz” as Kim became known as a socialite and used their TV show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, as an engine to stimulate ongoing interest in her life. With all the talk about Kim’s recent photos in Paper Magazine, it is just one of the many catalysts that have been used for years by Kim and her team to fuel interest and spark conversation around her. This started early on with Kim’s sex tape then continued with her series of “train wreck” relationships and social exploits that were well-documented on the show where art imitated life. As a result, Kim increasingly became the subject of “pop culture” coverage (weekly magazines, TV shows). Then Kim discovered that by using social media, a significant number of people were interested in engaging with her directly.

In 2011, the Founder of Skechers, Robert Greenberg, decided to purchase an ad during the Super Bowl broadcast, and as CMO and President of Skechers Fitness Group, he challenged me to find someone that could not only star in the ad but also get a lot of “PR” as he called it—showcasing Skechers entry into the walking/fitness business. At the time, Kim Kardashian had about 1.7M Twitter followers, was regularly featured in a number of weekly publications, and was pretty well-known for her series of high profile failed relationships as documented in her weekly reality show. She had also done a lot of one-off endorsements—some successful and others not so much. However, one thing seemed evident, Kim had lots of balls in the air like so many women today and was challenged with a rigorous work schedule that made finding time to work out challenging. That was one reason, I thought she would be a credible candidate for our walking product . Moreover, because she already attracted regular attention in the media, I was hoping we could use the lead up to the Super Bowl to activate “earned” media, meaning traditional PR, coupled with social. It was a grand experiment to push the outer limits of how social and mass could combine to create exponential exposure.

The ad we designed was to have “art imitate life” and we staged a secret (“embargoed”) TV/video shoot where all we publicly announced was that Kim was going to “break up” with someone in front of the projected 110 million people which comprised the Super Bowl audience. At the shoot we didn’t let the media on the actual set but kept them outside and fed them video sound bites from Kim where she “teased” the spot and expressed her remorse and trepidation at the reaction of the audience to this “break up”. Not only did traditional media respond to the story enthusiastically, such as USA Today, weekly TV, print and electronic publications, but it also snowballed throughout the world of social media. The result was that we generated nearly 2 billion media impressions before the Super Bowl ad broke, which then garnered another 200 million or so views.

Watch the Kim Kardashian Skechers Super Bowl spot here if you want to see who she broke up with.

Following that campaign, Kim’s Twitter followers swelled pretty quickly to more than 15M. Soon she and her advisors devised an even more sophisticated, effective and efficient content production strategy around making Kim a personal media company aligned around Instagram photos and videos. This focus was particularly effective this past year since social interaction has grown at the rate of 80% with Instagram being the highest platform of all. Currently Kim has nearly 30M Twitter followers and over 22M Instagram followers.

So now you have all Kim, all the time. Open Yahoo, Kim’s on the front page. Open MSN or AOL and Kim’s on the front page. Go to the newsstand: she’s in People, Us, etc. Turn on TV, Access Hollywood, ET, she’s there as well.

So what does this tell us? In order to build a powerful brand in today’s fragmented world, you must address all forms of media (traditional and new media) and build critical mass as quickly as possible. Once you reach critical mass, with the right content production strategy, you can convert celebrity to brand and identify numerous unforeseen revenue streams like our friend Kim Kardashian has done.

Watch Kim and Kris introduce the Skechers launch here-

Published on November 15, 2014

Written by Leonard Armato