The Kardashian family has made a fortune branding themselves through social media. Regardless of how you feel about this family, their self-promotion techniques have been so effective that the name “Kardashian” is synonymous with a number of products, most recently Calvin Klein, but if anyone were to ask what exactly they are famous for— before having a successful reality show— most would draw a blank. Essentially, the Kardashains have become “famous for being famous” in such a way that the name speaks for itself; to be blunt, there is no brand associated with the Kardashains— they are the brand.
It’s not just speculation, either. Look around, there’s a host of information on the Kardashians as a brand written everywhere from Forbes magazine to books on The New York Times Bestsellers list. People are trying to figure out how to duplicate the success of this model because it has proven profitable for one family, but, questions remain: Can this work for everyone? What makes a good brand great? Finally, how do I brand myself and get people talking about me on social media?
In an interview with BookTrib, Rina Plapler, co-author of Brand Intimacy: A New Paradigm in Marketing talks to us about how the particular type of branding we see with the Kardashians works, how technology has changed the way people present themselves and how to gain followers, specifically on social media!
BookTrib: Just to start out, let’s talk about technology. We see that a lot of people are using technology, specifically social media to connect with people. What kind of effect has that on brand-building, both good and bad?
Rina Plapler: Our book talks a lot about the good and bad implications of technology and building intimacy. Another interesting nuance we’ve found is how the smartphone is becoming the window to our world, fostering our social connections, communications, entertainment, finance and even our mobility.
We’ve found that any brand associated with a smartphone (manufacturer, content, service providers, apps) does better being an intimate brand than brands outside this ecosystem. This suggests the powerful role this ecosystem can play in fostering intimacy.
BookTrib: A new company, Brandless, whose selling point is that they don’t have a brand. Yet, they have a very loyal following. In an environment where every company and market wants to have a definitive brand, why do you think Brandless has done so well?
RP: Ironically, Brandless has trademarked their name, so they are a brand for all practical purposes. They may call themselves Brandless, however, they are building relationships by offering quality products at a good price. In fact, their brand promise is: Here at Brandless we put people first, which means value and values stick together. Better stuff, fewer dollars, no nonsense… sounds like a value brand to me.
BookTrib: Now, this book, Branding Intimacy, is about creating consumer intimacy with a brand and creating an emotional connection between the two. This sounds a lot easier than it actually is. How did you go about breaking it down in a way that was easy for readers to understand?
RP: We started by listening to people describe their close and intimate relationships with brands. This was our initial data, 20,000 stories from 350 consumers over 10 weeks in online communities. We observed the language they used, the ways they connected, the stages they went through in their relationships and how those relationships impacted their lives. Those insights became our initial approach, we modeled it after real people describing real bonds with brands. The approach then got validated and refined through quantitative research.
BookTrib: In the book, you say that brand intimacy is rare. Besides creating a connection between the customer and the brand, is there a concrete way to foster and keep that connection?
RP: Our research indicates about 25% of people report being intimate with a brand. Brand intimacy takes work. Even when you create that connection, you need to foster it. This is really no different than any human relationships. They need attention to thrive. We always emphasize fostering and building engagement, further the two-way nature of the relationship and to never stop trying to deepen the bond.
BookTrib: What’s been the biggest change in brand-building that you’ve seen?
RP: Broad changes are things like the consumer control and social media as a vehicle for democratizing brands. From a client side, it seems like there’s more pressure, shorter timelines, greater expectations and the continuous need to demonstrate results.
BookTrib: Lastly, when creating a brand, what is the most important thing to remember?
RP: Build it based on emotion!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Rina Plapler is a Partner at MBLM and has built brands for over 20 years. She leads strategy at MBLM in New York and has held executive positions at FutureBrand and Gormley & Partners. Rina has worked with B2B, B2C and B2G companies and has extensive strategy experience across a variety of industries including financial services, tourism, health care, technology and telecommunications. She was the creator of FutureBrand’s Country Brand Index and MBLM’s Brand Intimacy Study. Rina has degrees from McGill and Harvard Universities.
Mario Natarelli is the Managing Partner at MBLM in New York and an established marketing leader to executives and their companies. Over the past 20 years, Mario has helped companies of every size and type, working across the globe to transform, align and manage their brands to deliver growth and value. Prior to MBLM, Mario was the CEO of FutureBrand North America and Middle East and was the co-founder of HyperMedia. Mario is a graduate architect with a degree from the University of Toronto.