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3 Lessons From the Cracked Kardashian Brand Collaboration

11/01/2011

At the risk of taking analogies about branding from the “made for TV” world, there are noteworthy correlations between brand strategy and the convoluted union between Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries.

Brand collaborations are tricky. It rarely works when one brand joins another to produce/sell/promote something cooperatively. Here are examples of why:

Big Brand and No Brand – the “Kardashian brand” is big. Like it or not. Kim is the fourth most “googled” name on Google. According to Forbes, the Kardashian family brand netted $65 million in 2010. Humphries? He’s a player in the NBA, with no major endorsements, making big bucks now but it’s a short-lived career.

Whenever a big brand hooks up with an unknown brand – there’s trouble ahead. Denim giant Levi Strauss has collaborated with CC Filson (the Seattle-based rugged outdoor apparel label) to make rugged jeans. I thought Levi’s were rugged. Weren’t they the jeans worn by the miners in the California gold rush? Not good.

Quality Perception of Both Brands is Sub-Par – The entire Kardashian clan is perceived as ruthless, attention starved and kooky. Kris? Well no body knows him but everyone questions his judgement as a result of participating in the over-the-top wedding to Kim.

In 2002, Ford redesigned its mass-market Mondeo car (sold in Europe) and introduced it as an inexpensive extension of its luxe Jaguar brand. The idea followed the lead of the competing “Baby Benz” and BMW cars that proved popular among younger drivers in the 1980s and 1990s. Ford publicly predicted that the Jaguar X-type would help bump overall Jag sales to 200,000 models a year. But the so-called cheap Jaguar didn’t fool consumers, who saw it as a cheap Ford with a Jaguar hood ornament.

Illogical Brand Extensions – The $10 million dollar wedding was a publicity stunt. Expensive (about $138,888 per day of marriage expensive). But a stunt. Sure, Humphries’ first name began with a “K” but that’s about as close a connection as could be made. It didn’t make sense.

Often brand collaborations leave consumers to scratch their heads. In 2003, Hooters known for scantily clad waitresses launched a brand extension skyward with Hooters Air. The fledgling airline ceased commercial flights in spring 2006, although the planes (and scantily clad flight attendants) are now available for chartered flights. The company blames the failure on the general slump in the airline industry. Sure, the post-September 11 travel environment and rising fuel costs pose serious challenges for airlines, but that wasn’t the only problem. First of all, the airline business model requires a broader customer base than a niche restaurant chain. Also, Hooters’ beer-and-chicken-wings demographic doesn’t necessarily include lots of frequent flyers. And then there’s the safety perception. I mean, who’s piloting the bird anyway?

Perhaps these three correlations are a stretch. So what? The principles are what matter. Good stewardship of your brand is imperative. Don’t get distracted by $2 million dollar rings, scantily clad waitresses or the allure of slapping luxe on something that’s not. It never works and it always hurts your brand.

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