I am not a big fan of social media “influencers.” (Gosh, I’m rolling my eyes even as I type the word.) I find most of them rather phony and entitled, their reach being grossly overestimated.
That being said, I can’t help but marvel at the astronomical success that the Kardashian-Jenner clan has had in the field. Paris Hilton might have originated the occupation of being famous for being famous and profiting from it, but the women of Kim Kardashian’s family have elevated it to a whole new level entirely.
Take the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters, for instance. This week, Forbes magazine featured the 20 year-old reality TV star and model on the cover of their annual issue covering the richest self-made women. Despite not being legally old enough to drink, Kylie Jenner’s personal net worth has been conservatively estimated at around US$900 million.
It’s even being said that she is set to go down in history as the youngest billionaire in a year’s time, surpassing the record previously held by tech titans John Collison and Mark Zuckerberg.
While the millions that the social media star earns from her reality shows, endorsements, and after-tax dividends from her cosmetics company already add up to a 9-digit figure, it is the latter that accounts for majority of the young mogul’s fortune. Kylie Cosmetics debuted back in 2016, with US$29 lip kits containing a duo of lipstick and lip liner in various shades. The company has since sold more than US$630 million worth of makeup, and is now estimated to be worth US$800 million.
Here’s the thing, though: the company’s products were largely marketed online, specifically through its proprietress’ social media accounts. Jenner might have more than a hundred million followers, but judging by her company’s sales figures, her reach extends even further.
What I find especially compelling about this whole narrative is how it highlights the limitless potential of digital marketing, especially in the current climate. Millennial purchasing power is increasing, and since they’ve been shying away from traditional forms of media such as television, newspapers, and magazines, traditional businesses have their work cut out for them when it comes to getting this target market’s attention, let alone their $$$’s.
Jenner’s exponential success with social media platforms ought to be one heck of a hint for companies who want to stay in business as millennials continue to wrest market share from older generations. Unlike TV commercials or newspaper ads, social media allows brands to directly interact with their customers and in real time at that. It also amplifies any campaign’s reach, what with several million people from all classes the world over scrolling through their feeds at any moment, looking for the next big thing.
Yet, perhaps what makes social media so powerful as a marketing tool is that it promotes connectedness. Had she launched her company ten years earlier, Kylie Jenner would just have been one of many celebrities endorsing one of many products. Beautiful and aspirational, sure, but also rather distant and not especially relatable. In the age of Snapchat and Instagram, however, her constant updates on both the mundane and glamorous aspects of her well-documented and expertly-curated life has held her enormous audience captive, with each post giving them a vicarious thrill.
And if you can’t be Kylie Jenner, the next best thing is living or looking like her, and making clients feel like they have a portion of the reality star’s charmed life (never mind if it’s something as miniscule as the lipstick she wears), is perhaps what’s driving the blooming tycoon’s digital marketing campaign into the force of nature that it is today.