Hi, I’m Liz. I’m a Brand Marketing Manager at BuzzFeed. All you have to know is that I think about brands and marketing all day long.
While I’ve studied marketing in school and in the "real world,” I’ve learned more about business and marketing in the past 3 months from watching Kris in ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ than any other book, course or job I’ve had to date… and want to pass that knowledge on because that’s what Kris would do.
You know Kris Jenner. If you don’t, this is she:
Kris is Kim’s mom. Yes, this Kim:
She’s also Kim’s “mom–ager” (biological mother + manager):
And she’s built a little empire known as The Kardashians. You may have heard of it:
I couldn’t care less about Kris or The Kardashians 3 months ago. I couldn’t tell you the chronological order of Kourtney, Khloe, Kim, Kendall and Kylie. I didn’t know the origin of the popular phrase “OKURRRRRR.” I didn’t realize just how family–oriented and business savvy the whole Kardashian clan actually was, and how familiar and relatable the Kardashians feel in their dysfunction. I certainly hadn’t anticipated I would be spending my weekends staying in and voluntarily studying business for literal hours through a reality TV show. Yet here we are.
I discovered Kris at one of those points in my life where I was feeling incredibly under-stimulated, directionless, and uninspired. Growing in my marketing career was becoming less interesting of a concept — the promise of free drinks couldn’t get me to another networking event, “impact” became another word on another word cloud, I couldn’t read another AdWeek article about ‘X’ campaign that was “disrupting” the ‘Y’ industry and “sparking conversations” around ‘Z’ #blaséblaséblahhhh. Work started to feel more like work. I began to question my role, career, life, the validity of bulletproof coffee and every decision I’ve made up to that day (yes, #millennialproblems). The thrill was lost and I didn’t know where to start looking for it again.
It was at that very moment Kris came into my life, when I needed her most. She said these wise words I’ll never forget:
“Shut the fuck up.” — Kris Jenner
With that, the greatest marketing lesson of my career began.
It was more like Catching Up On The Kardashians for me. I knew I was 10 years behind, with 14 Seasons to catch up on… so I got to work. The gateway episode was the Paris Robbery where Kim recounts her horrifying experience of the heist in her hotel while doing Paris Fashion Week that made international headlines overnight. Using that as the jumping off point, I went down the KUWTK hole one episode after another. The characters gradually started to develop and Kris came up on top like the queen that she is. It becomes evident, real fast, that Kris is the HBIC / Visionary / CEO / Creative Director / Producer / Manager Extraordinaire of this crazy–fascinating family, show, brand, and empire aka the modern Royal American Family. My approach was simple: Every time Kris spoke, I took notes.
10 Key Takeaways from Kris
Kris speaks like a true marketer: in sound bytes and catch phrases. Kris’ one–liners and quips are insightful, authentic, ridiculous and simple; the perfect cocktail her target audience has grown to expect and love. Kris has trained her daughters to be this way too. While each of the Kardashians stay true to their personal brands, personalities and quirks – they've all become mini master marketers themselves, thanks to Kris' mentorship.
Our turn! I’ve distilled what I’ve learned from watching Kris in KUWTK into these 10 takeaways:
1. Just ask for things.
Kris had something all of us have: family. Unlike the rest of us who sit around and just let family happen to us, Kris hustled. She didn't just see family, she saw opportunity. Kris packaged, positioned and pitched her family to Ryan Seacrest, asked for a reality TV show, he said "k", and they still continue to get filthy rich together a decade later.
2. Think brand consistency.
Kris must have been thinking about brand consistency as she was giving birth. She's made her whole family's names alliterations. Sure, there's that Rob Kardashian but strategy recognize strategy. He's the alternative emo lifestyle brand within the Kardashian household name.
3. Use your Type A personality for good.
Type A personalities can let their anxieties get the best of them and end up ruling the world –like Kris. It's this kind of need for control and innate distrust of the universe that builds empires. We witnessed this at extreme when Kim got robbed in Paris. Kris didn't even trust her then–boyfriend Corey Gamble to do security detail. She took matters into her own hands and made the executive decision to beef up and oversee security herself. A+.
4. Find a formula that works.
Sex tapes in 2007 were not like sex tapes today. Feminism and #mybodymychoice were not trendy yet and mainstream did not respect women's rights like it does now. Kris and Kim started to flip that script. When Kim's sex tape was leaking, Kris did not chastise her daughter for being a sexy ass ho, she prioritized business and monetized. Kris not only damage controlled the situation, she switched the power dynamic. She had Kim take control of her fate, lean into the inevitability of the scandal and just own it, while teaching Kim (and the little girls in all of us) the subtle lesson that we are the CEO's of our own body, actions and destiny.
5. Refuse to compromise (like a man).
Kris is not short of her own scandals. One of her more notorious scandals was her cheating on Rob Kardashian, Kris' then–husband and father to Kourtney, Khloe and Kim. I'm not excusing Kris Jenner of her shortcomings, but I am acknowledging the fact that Kris has learned to play a man's game in what used to be a man's world. In the business world, there is never a shortage of stories of men getting too comfortable and entitled. It's become industry standard for men to have wives and eat mistresses too. For too long, these men have been excused, if not admired, for their "bad boy" behavior while women have not enjoyed the same unjustifiable street cred. At the end of the day, Kris, is choosing to act selfish and putting her needs first like plenty of men before her... and I almost admire her for it.
6. Measure the ROI of your children.
Kris is smart because she doesn't let her children suck her youth, emotions, soul and money like other parents. She's engineered her children to become their own IP's and revenue streams. Look at it this way... Kardashian is the parent company (i.e. PepsiCo), each child is a sub–brand and separate revenue stream (i.e. Lay's, Gatorade, Doritos, etc.) while Kris acts as CMO. Kylie brings in millions through her lip kit. Kendall brings in millions by modeling. Kim brings in millions by simply being Kim. Each Kardashian profits millions just off their appearances on KUWTK. Kris has taken a big bet on her children, helped develop each of their brands, and is seeing a healthy return on investment.
7. Be always on, and go above and beyond.
Like other ambitious types, Kris can not turn off. She's constantly on her phone ... checking emails, reading the news, checking in on her profit–model (aka her children), all the while, going above and beyond in her extracurricular social life too. She's throwing extravagant graduation ceremonies and surprise birthday parties, planning family trips and even producing experiential events... like the time she randomly set up a "glamp" ("glamorous camp") in the backyard for her grandchildren.
8. Make time to work out.
No one is born looking like a Kardashian, even the Kardashians weren't. It's taken them a literal decade to get their aesthetic down to where it is today. It took a lot of hard work, money, plastic surgery and dedication to evolve their own looks and brand identities. While we're out here complaining about not having enough time to work out because we have desk jobs, the Kardashians are making time for squats on their family vacations...
9. Take risks and action.
What makes Kris successful isn't just her charm and having ideas. It's her ability to take risks, find the right people to delegate the work to, ignore the ones who are irrelevant, and just go for it. This touches everything from "must have" projects like getting Kylie a modeling contract with Puma (without considering family politics and asking Kanye for his blessing) to "nice to have" projects like filming her mom answering questions from her daughters to have for later. No matter how big or small the tasks, Kris commits to them, follows through, and delivers –fast.
10. You can be business and emotional. <333
Out of everything else, what struck me most about Kris was her ability confront, express and embrace her emotions on the job (because technically she's always on the job). She's not afraid to ugly cry, shout, curse, speak provocatively and tell it like it is. Not that this degree of ~feels~ would ever fly in a professional office setting, the point is that Kris is unafraid to be vulnerable – as a mom, a boss, as a woman – and still gets her shit done. Kris leans into her maternal instincts and womanness, and makes it work in her favor, not against her. When Kris was pitching the show to Ryan Seacrest 10 years ago, she promised complete access and transparency into her family and all the drama that comes with them. And she kept her promise.
Binging on Kris and KUWTK put me in check and reminded me why I love marketing.
I enjoy marketing as a career because it's not made to satisfy. And having an existential crisis about why marketing isn't fulfilling is like standing in the middle of a club and complaining that it's too loud – DUH. Marketing will never save someone's life.
But I'm reminded again that marketing is fun if you're someone who loves the chase, especially in the digital age. You're never off the hook – you're trying to grab and bottle culture as it swishes around in liquid form. You're constantly competing for attention, making products that already exist more interesting to look at and responding in real-time. Most of the time, you're doing work no one really asked you to do. Sometimes, it requires you to be provocative and not so precious about things. You're required to touch on things that are rooted in some sort of reality. It will always require you to be creative.
As long as money exists, entertainment and ads will too, the least we can do as marketers is make it worth someone's average 7–second attention span.
Whether you agree that Kris is a marketing genius or not, it really doesn't matter. She's already won the Marketing MVP Award in this lifetime. The Kardashians have made a big enough dent in culture today that history will pay some kind of tribute later. Kris' tears from all her ugly crying will probably be worth more than your stocks in Google will ever be. We need more women like Kris to be the face marketing. She's already influenced culture, made a fortune and real life #impact. Ugh.