New York Times bestselling author Jeetendr Sehdev has a message for today's brands: take a lesson from Kim Kardashian when it comes to marketing.
For his keynote, ‘Human 2.0: Sacrifice Everything If You Believe In Something’, at The Drum's Future of Marketing event last week (November 22), Sehdev laid down his six principles for building a brand.
Sehdev - who advises blue-chip brands about strategic alliances with celebrities - said his theories emerged from time spent stateside and witnessing first hand how the balance of power is shifting.
Recognising the power of 'new-world' celebrities, Sehdev questioned, "why wouldn't you study the way they interact with their fans? After all, if you want your ideas or products to be loved, obsessed over, and shared, then you need to follow the lead of the most loved, obsessed over, and shared celebrity there is - Kim Kardashian."
Here's his lessons for the future.
1. Find what's unique about you, and amp it up
It is Sehdev's belief that "for too long, we've been told to conform, and to be less of who we are in order to get along."
Would Kim Kardashian have broken through if she had abided to stereotypical norms of what it means to be a sex symbol in Hollywood, he asked.
For a brand to stand out, Sehdev insisted it needs to be honest and real, and own the unique aspect of whatever you're marketing and what you're selling.
An example of a brand that's done well, for Sehdev, was Thinx. Manufacturers of period-proof panties, it managed to turn the conversation around, by talking about periods candidly.
2. It's better to be exposed than edited
Sehdev said that in today's market, there is an opportunity to not only be transparent but to be overexposed.
"Consumers are instantly suspicious of caveats, halfheartedness, and pivots" he explained. While they've been faced with multiple should-be scandals, The Kardashians have stayed true to who they are and rarely hold back, which works massively in their favour.
Sehdev detailed the Subway scandal as an example when brands get it wrong. When Subway brand ambassador Jared Fogle was exposed as a pedophile, rather than address his failings, the company simply acted like he didn't exist and distanced itself from the scandal.
Sehdev argued that Subway could have instead used this opportunity to face the scandal head-on, and share the experience with their customers.
3. Ideas need to be 'you-centric', not audience-centric
What Sehdev sees as "the complete opposite of everything you've heard in marketing" is the idea that brands should stop asking consumers what they want and repeating it back to them, because they're still not buying the product.
The power of his so-called 'you-centric' approach is it instead empowers audiences to decided whether they like the brand or not.
Christian Louboutin is a perfect example of a brand who showed consumers what it stood for when Emma Thompson took to the stage at the highly publicised Golden Globes barefoot because the brand's shoes were killing her feet.
Responding cooly, the shoemaker replied: "If you can't walk in them, don't wear them."
4. Flaws make you fascinating, so embrace yours
"Perfection is passé" urged Sehdev, "imperfections can make you fascinating and make you relevant."
If figures like Kim Kardashian can use an infamous leaked sex tape to springboard to overnight fame and lasting success, then why can't brands use the same method in marketing?
Despite the promises of advertising, Sehdev feels "no one today believes that either stars or the products they sell are perfect."
Sehdev juxtaposed the marketing strategy of two leading female underwear brands, Victoria Secret and Lane Bryant, to exemplify the point.
Under fire last week for its starvation diets and obsessive training, Victoria Secret has been criticised for promoting an unrealistic depictions of the 'perfect woman.'
On the other hand, Lane Bryant, the over-sized clothing company's launched an 'I'm no angel' campaign, a direct reference to Victoria Secret's unattainable vision of beauty.
By encouraging women to embrace their imperfections, the brand resonated far greater with its audience, said Sehdev.
5. Honesty brings intimacy
For his fifth point, Sehdev's advice for brands was to "allow your audience to define what a product means to them."
Sehdev referred to UberPOOL as an example of a brand that's done this well. He told the story of Nick Marzano and Melissa Schipke, who got engaged six months after meeting in an UberPOOL. For the wedding, Uber sponsored the transportation, providing free rides for the 145 guests who attended.
By aping moments like this, brands can "create a level of intimacy" with consumers.
But "to create a believable image, what you show on the outside has to match what you feel on the inside," Sehdev stressed.
For his last point, Sehdev encouraged brands to be entrepreneurial without fear of the consequences.
"You've got to go out there and try different things to see what does and doesn't work," he advised.
Referring again to the protagonist of his six-point principle, Sehdev said "execution needs to be an integral part of any framework. "Kim doesn't sit around waiting for things to happen to her; she goes out and makes them happen," he said.