Say what you will about Kim Kardashian West, but one thing is for certain: when it comes to business, she knows what she is doing. The reality-television star has leveraged her social-media following, which totals nearly 150 million people across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, to build a personal brand arguably more influential than most Fortune 500 companies, has amassed a net worth of $175 million along the way, and brought the whole family (and some others) with her.
With multiple television shows, clothing and cosmetic lines, digital products, games, emojis, well-timed pregnancies and so much more, the family has established itself as an example of good brand management — no matter how much you might make fun of them. From Kim Kardashian’s social media savvy to Kris Jenner’s impeccable sense of what works on reality TV, the Kardashians show that capitalizing on a massive presence can result in tremendous success.
With 107 million followers on Instagram and 58.7 million on Twitter, Kim Kardashian has one of the largest social media followings today. But it’s not just about how many people follow her; it’s about the way she uses social media.
It’s how she talks to her fans while simultaneously promoting her always growing brand. From prompting fans to send her Kimojis on Twitter, to detailing her makeup routine on Instagram and her own personal app, Kim’s savvy social media skills show how connecting with fans makes business sense.
In his book The Kardashian Principle, celebrity expert Jeetendr Sehdev wrote, “her stunning popularity represents a seismic shift in the way ideas catch on and how people, products and services can capitalize on this change to build stronger, more intimate connections with consumers”.
Kim understands the mindset of her audience and does everything she can to appeal to it. She has a diverse portfolio of products, but each is centered on her core themes of beauty, glam and luxury. These are the themes her audience associates with.
Kardashian is no stranger to the app world, having launched an official app earlier in 2015 promising personal diaries, Q&As with fans, live streaming video and beauty, shopping and fashion tips for a monthly subscription of $2.99.
Meanwhile, her “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” mobile game has made more than $113m since its release in June 2014, leading its developer Glu Mobile to sign up more celebrities like Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj, for similar titles.
In December 2015, the initial release of Kim Kardashian’s emoji app, aptly titled Kimoji, received a whole lot of attention, as the reality star’s set of icons, which sold for $1.99 per set, generated an impressive amount of downloads, totaling more than 9,000 per second, according to reports at the time (which meant, subsequently, Kim may have been making about $1 million per minute at one point). There was also some controversy as to whether or not her Kimoji crashed Apple’s app store or not. In response, Kim tweeted, “Apple, I’m so sorry I broke your app store!” (Apple later denied there was any issue).
While Kimoji wasn’t truly the first celebrity-focused emoji app or sticker pack, it was the first one of its size and scope — and let’s be honest, the first one featuring an icon. Kimoji is what started all of this. “This” being the custom emoji industry, which has quickly become a massive money-making market — much of it was spurred, or at least inspired by, Kimoji.
Today, countless copycats have emerged, and custom emojis are now a full-fledged industry. Today the App Store hosts custom icons for celebrities like Sia, Kevin Durant, Simone Biles, Justin Bieber, DJ Khaled, fashion icon Iris Apfel, and even Jerry Seinfeld. Brands like Starbucks, Ikea, Coca-Cola, General Electric, and Comedy Central are also no exception.
With Kimoji, Kim brings users into her world, and uses her empire and her constant engagement through social media, TV, and products to give the fans another outlet to connect and interact with. Fans have access to some of their favorite Kardashian moments at their disposal, ready to share with friends, family, and the rest of the world.
When initially creating the content of the emojis, Kim said, “we first started thinking of all the emoji that we thought were missing and kinda went from there. It’s been so fun coming up with these different ideas. I wanted it to be fun and relevant. I wanted to create emojis that everyone wishes they had. And we wanted to push the limits as far as we could, LOL!” Little did we know that this would change the way in which the world saw the emoji.
Kimojis are often funny, verging on self-deprecating. They aren’t afraid to poke fun at a not-so-fun moment. Several Kimojis are realistic, almost painting-like, depictions of what the team calls “weird faces”: moments caught on camera that have taken on lives of their own as memes among the Kardashian fan base. These extend to Kim’s sisters, husband, and children.
Kimoji certainly pushes the limits. For Valentines day, Kim launched candy hearts as a new set of Kimoji, along with a bouquet of roses, a heart-shaped pizza, a bottle of lube, a sheet of contraceptive pills, the Kama Sutra, and a set of furry red handcuffs. They join classic Kimoji, like Kim’s world-famous booty, booze, junk food, and fancy cars, along with Kimoji made for super-fans, like a ticket for birthday sex, a bento box, Kim’s driver’s license, a pregnancy test, and a flying pig that actually flaps its wings. The most popular Kimoji? Kim’s iconic crying face.
Kimojis arrived on the scene with a glossier, more lifelike image – a more three-dimensional style that give the stickers a very real feel, focusing on emotion, expressions, and body language for the animation – a standard for emojis that Apple only recently began to adopt.
What makes Kimojis, in particular, work? Kim and the Kardashian family’s incredible influence over millennials with their constant engagement with fans. “Kim is Kimoji,” “She is the brand.” – Kardashian West’s personality is her brand, and her business is her ability to turn her life into marketing, says Joanna Figliozzi, one of the designer’s of the Kimoji app. The Kardashian’s power lies in making you feel like you are a part of the family– the ultimate engagement between user and product. With Kimoji, users get a balance of the insider Kardashian world vs. mass appeal; something that would work even if you weren’t a diehard Kardashian fan.
When Kim has ideas for new Kimoji, which are often based on real-life moments that she finds funny and wants to share with fans, she sends Figliozzi a message with images for inspiration, and the process begins again. New packs of Kimoji are released every few months. With constant updates and over 1000 custom emojis found only on the app, they are consistently updated with the family’s brand and show. The same phrases, products or “moments” that happens on the show or that the family advertises on their social media, can also be found in the app, and are shared with fans. By regularly updating the app with new icons, the design team manages to stay on top of trends. Constantly tweaking, iterating, adding to it, and changing the design, keeps the audience on their toes.
Custom Emoji Market
“Kimoji put this trend on the map (custom emojis), Kimoji kind of … I don’t want to say dignified it, but it put it on the radar. It’s a very lucrative space and you need to do it to stay relevant and engaged with your users” says Oliver Camilo, the founder and CEO of ‘Moji’, a San Francisco–based custom emoji-app maker.
Nothing is too outlandish, wild, or ridiculous and no artist or public figure too big to be shrunken into text-message size and cartoonified. It is, of course, a marketing tactic, and a damn good one. For a long time, social internet advertising had been about putting your brand everywhere, on Instagram with a filter or on Twitter with a hashtag. But those efforts, while necessary, simply join the stream of content. On the other hand, becoming an emoji is a status symbol. It takes you from participating in something, to being the something people are participating in. In that way, it’s perfectly Kardashian.
The custom emoji market is bursting at the seams with content and with branding agencies, for good reason. The economy of chat — both private and group — has become more interesting than posting for public consumption. Being able to insert yourself (or your brand) into these smaller conversations is incredibly important. Hashtags are meaningless if all the “real talk” is happening inside a DM.
“You need to have your own emoji. We’re moving away from the mentality of, ‘Let’s tweet or post things for the world to see,’ and moving to group texting and private chats, and that makes it harder to reach people and interact with them,” says Oliver Camilo. ‘Moji’ makes many celebrity packs, including Amber Rose’s MuvaMoji. “So how do you reach people once they’ve moved to smaller, more private social apps? You do it in a way that’s more natural. It lets the user kind of evangelize [the celebrity’s] brand for them. There’s no call to action. Kids are getting smarter about marketing, and emoji are still fun and exciting and relevant.”