If ever there was a reminder that every great brand needs a moral compass, Kim Kardashian just provided it, along with a reminder that this was a brand born from a sex tape. Now that Kim has filed for divorce without even letting the ink dry on her marriage license, she has crossed the line past harmless entertainment and is now stomping on a ritual we hold dear. Is this a jump the shark moment for the Kardashian brand?
Until now, we could enjoy watching the Kardashian life without being emotionally connected to it. The wedding special was an example of an event we can all relate to on one dimension – getting married, combined with something we can’t – spending 10 million dollars to do it. The Kardashian supplied antithesis took place a year ago when Khloe Kardashian’s speedy love affair with Lamar Odom proved to be very real. Watching their relationship blossom served to encourage audience interest in Khloe and by extension, the family. And then there is a shining reality-TV-star-turned-mogul example in Bethenny Frankel.
Bethenny’s greatest success has come since she expanded her family with a husband and baby. Her marriage was a springboard for her brand, helping to broaden audience exposure to different facets of her personality. Bethenny made the Forbes 400 list by exposing herself in a raw and real way – not in the Kardashian way. Bethenny is frequently filmed without makeup, crying, arguing, apologizing, and loving. Her candor was in full force when I interviewed her for Obsessed TV just before her engagement to Jason Hoppy. This version of reality has helped Bethenny rake in more than 55 million dollars last year, making her the 23rd highest paid celebrity. By contrast, Kim Kardashian made a comparatively small 12 million.
Kim’s wedding special showed us that the day before her wedding was the first time she had let her soon-to-be-husband see her cry. Had Kris Humphries ever seen her without full makeup? What else had he not been privy to? Perhaps this is another sex tape moment concealed in a wedding dress. Last time the Kardashians made lemonade from lemons, propelling a woman known as Paris Hilton’s sidekick into a household name. This current crisis takes a household name and paints her as someone who cares about money above all else; time for the wedding planning but no time for counseling. It looks like Kim will be left holding the lemons.
Samantha Ettus is a bestselling author and speaker on personal branding for women. Join her on Twitter @samanthaettus or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.