In Focus: The Kardashians: End of an Era
Updated: Jun 27
In 2003 a patriarch is laid to rest. He leaves behind a wife he had married weeks before his death and four kids from a previous marriage. The kids ranging from 16 to as old as 24 at the time would have to make their way through life without the guidance from the man whose last name they share.
Fast-Forward four years and the second to oldest child of the dead patriarch is in middle of a mild scandal. A video tape of her and her superstar musician boyfriend is released showing some of their very intimate moments from a Mexican getaway.
At the time the video is a bigger deal for the musician who is known internationally than it was for the girl who most people outside of southern California didn't know. That year, 2007, would be the last year that the girl from the video, her two sisters, and younger brother would be anonymous.
Several months after the sex tape was released the girl in the sex tape and her family would debut their reality show on the E Network, and they would change the economy forever.
The show, Keeping up with the Kardashians would become an instant hit for the E Network and make super stars of the entire family.
As the show's production moved along from season to the season, its fandom grew along with its critics. However, rarely did anyone take a moment to tip a cap for all that the show, and the family had done to usher in the New Economy.
The New Economy
The new economy is what we're in now. It's getting paid for having a large amount of Instagram or Twitter Followers. It's getting paid ad-sense from a YouTube Channel, it's making money for yourself, off yourself and your experiences, it's making serious money without the need of being validated by anyone other than a fanbase.
Prior to the Kardashians, there was a narrow path to fame, you could either act, sing, do stand-up comedy, model, or be in pro-sports. And to officially be put on the path of fame people needed to be validated by someone else famous or very talented. The Kardashians changed that.
Before the Kardashians, brands went to famous names, like actors and musicians to push their products, the Kardashians changed that too.
The fan base and the fame of the Kardashians grew in unison, and this gave the family an audience to push products to, which they took full advantage of. Kim Kardashian alone has been an ambassador for jewelry, skin care products, a shoe brand, a shoe retailer, liquor, nail polish, and an app just to name a few things. Prior to the Kardashians those opportunities went to actors and musicians, reality TV people rarely got any national work away from their shows.
The Kardashians had an influence on the face and bodies that companies wanted attached to their products. Prior to the Kardashians, models were to be tall and thin, the curvy model wasn't a thing. The Kardashians changed that, curves were now accepted everywhere.
And the infamous sex tape would change how people viewed sex tapes. Pre Kardashians a sex tape was enough to derail or even ruin a career, but even that changed with the Kardashian's success. In the years following the Kim K sex-tape, the public would witness semi-celebrities create their own scandals around releasing their own "leaked" sex tapes, in hopes of gaining fame or infamy, a fanbase, and an audience to sell products to.
Hollywood had long used fictional drama to sell products, but the Kardashians gave a class on how to profit off your own drama, no matter how embarrassing that drama would appear to some.
Building an audience by using the adventures and misadventures of your life, then pushing products to that audience is a part of the new economy that the Kardashians mastered while many business people didn't even know it existed.
The naysayers will say that Robert Kardashian, the father of Kourtney, Kim, Klohe, and Rob Jr. left his kids a multi-million dollar trust, so they were already rich. Others will say that momma Kardashian AKA Kris Jenner leaked the sex tape herself in an attempt to make Kim famous.
The easy rebuttal to naysayers is that many kids have been left vast amounts of wealth and didn't accomplish what the Kardashians did; and there have been celebrities with sex-tapes prior to the Kardashians that never obtained the level of fame or success the Kardashians did.
And it's true that people were vlogging before the Kardashians and doing public appearances for money before the Kardashians and taking pictures before the Kardashians, and modeling before the Kardashians. Similarly, computers were around before Microsoft and the internet existed long before Amazon, but we celebrate how Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos were able to leverage the available infrastructure to create wealth for themselves and their families. The Kardashians, in the same vein as Gates and Bezos were able to leverage what was already there to create a family fortune.
Unfortunately one thing prevents the Kardashian clan from being recognized as titans of business, and it's their vaginas. If this were a group of men or women being led by a man or a group of men, those men would be celebrated as much as we celebrate Gates, Bezos, Jobs, and Zuckerberg.
Recently Kim Kardashian announced that the upcoming season in 2021 will be the family's last season doing the show. But it's nothing to be sad about, after 14 years it's probably time, and I doubt they will disappear like someone who has been aged out of Hollywood. I'm sure they will stay productive and active in business.
I've always thought the Kardashians did not and don't get enough credit for what fame or celebrity looks like now, and how people are able to capitalize off of their fame now. What would the word "influencer" mean in 2020 without the Kardashians? Would there be Tik Tok stars without the Kardashians? Would we know how to break the internet without the Kardashians?
Over a decade plus we've witnessed an unknown girl in a sex-tape become a household name and her family name become internationally known.
Because of the Kardashians you no longer need to be famous to get started, you just have to believe you have something interesting to share and put it out there.
The new economy was masterfully dominated by the Kardashian and Jenner clan before a large part of the world even knew that there was a new economy being formed. Their lessons on brand building, content creation, and digital marketing have been copied by millions, and many of those millions have been able to create small fortunes of their own.
The lesson we can all take from the Kardashians is to survey the infrastructure and think outside the box. Many people are going about Tik Tok or YouTube a specific way or going about Instagram a specific way. There likely is another way to leverage all of the tools available to us now to reach the level of success we are all after, and we just need to figure out the combination to achieve that success.
Before the Kardashians, people wanted large friend counts on MySpace, and then Facebook, and a large follower count on Twitter, but they weren't thinking about monetizing those friends and followers, the thrill was in just having a high number of friends and followers, the Kardashians changed that.
For investors the lesson is to embrace the new and get comfortable with what's different. For the early part of the Kardashian run critics felt that the family was famous for no reason and that they didn't have any talent. In America and in business everywhere, people aren't paid for "nothing" or "no reason".
So to the Kardashians and Jenners, I tip my hat, congrats on what you've created.