What businesses can learn from the Kardashians

Actually, quite a bit. There’s the obvious; just because you expose yourself doesn’t mean you can’t be overexposed. Or, nothing quite says commitment like 72 days of, well – commitment. Or, over time, you can always go from admiration to humiliation. That sums up my thoughts about Olympic decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner, who in triumph ran around the track waving an American flag; now he’s running around his house waving a much-needed can of dulling spray. Shine on, Bruce – hey, no harm, it’s just a reflection.

However, nothing quite sets me off as much as hearing people refer to the Kardashian brand, or the K brand. It just makes me want to get a hair transplant, a wax job (wait a second, that’s a conflicting message, something brands should never do), and maybe a peel. But brands don’t hide and cover up; could it have been that Confucius really meant to say, “He who covers up too much covers up nothing at all?” I don’t need to tell you the message here beyond saying brands aren’t about T&A, they’re about T&T: truth and trust.

Brands are divided into two parts. Brand structure and texture. There are four elements to a brand’s structure. They can be monolithic, pluralistic, endorsed, or sub-branded. I suppose flash, cash, and trash fit somewhere in here, but I’m not wasting my time to figure it out. In its most basic terms, brand texture is a promise to your customers, and a commitment to delivering that promise in a sustained manner. Seventy-two days doesn’t cut it. And whatever they’re promising, I’m not buying.

K-Swiss (I have a pair), Kmart (I’ve been in some), Circle K (OK), and Kay Jewelers (I’ve seen them) – now those are brands, good or bad. Brands are a serious part of any business, and the business of branding is serious, too. As I’ve said in the past, building brands is critical, but building sales is a requirement. More than ever, you will be exposed if you cover up parts of your sales process and motion. The willingness to show a flaw or two, and talk about improving them, is real character, not to be confused with caricature.

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