Innovation & Insights: The Art of IP - Kim K & Kanye Changed The Game


How many people are willing to buy a product without even knowing what it is? How many people will follow a brand into totally new markets without batting an eye? Up until a few years ago, the answer was easy: not many.


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Enter Kim Kardashian and her KKW Beauty and KKW Fragrance lines. Both sold out in minutes, netting the star a total $23.5M.


As a public figure and wife of a famous musician, Kim Kardashian is no stranger to shaping her public image.  Say what you want about her, but when it comes to business she knows what she is doing. Kim has built a personal brand that is arguably more influential than most Fortune 500 companies. Her nearly 205 million dedicated followers (Instagram, Facebook, & twitter) anxiously await her communications and shopping preferences, providing a unique direct-to-consumer sales platform. 



Simply put, Kim Kardashian is brilliant when it comes to the art of personal branding. In recent years, she has demonstrated such aptitude by leveraging that brand into a portfolio of extremely valuable Intellectual Property (IP), which can be defined as follows:


“a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc.”


IP is unquestionably the most valuable asset a company or individual has. Why? Because it is 100% owned with potential that is bounded only by one’s creativity. With the evolution of social media, the growth of streaming as a medium, and the dominance of original content, developing and growing your IP has become one of the most accessible and innovative ways to create additional revenue streams and grow an audience. This new age of “digital” has allowed both companies and individuals to reach the masses in a personal way. The audience is currency. The bigger the reach, the bigger the impact, the bigger the check. 


Kardashian has built her IP to include everything from retail stores, motivational speaking engagements, fragrances, skin-care products, make-up, clothing lines for adults and children, collaborations, housewares, appearances, tv shows, endorsements, and others. True to form, she was also one of the first to capitalize on the technology sector with her apps, which leveraged a freemium model for driving additional revenue, and were instant successes.



Similar to Kim Kardashian, her husband Kanye West also crafted a strong personal brand and leveraged his massive cult-like following to create intellectual property in addition to his music. For years, Kanye has been pushing the boundaries of fashion. He positioned himself to his audience as the most forward-thinking person in fashion, a self-proclaimed “creative genius.’’ He has repeatedly used his fame and his platform to provide up-and-coming creatives opportunities and exposure that come with his level of celebrity. 


West’s company Yeezy partnered with Adidas 2013 and is now reportedly valued at $1.5 billion dollars. An authentic sneakerhead with a knack for design, Kanye predicted where the market was going. He created exclusive limited releases of each product line, manufacturing hype and demand. The Yeezy sneaker collection has become one of the most sought out sneakers of this generation; they’ve been sold in resale sneaker markets for values ten times higher than the original sales price. In fact, some of Kanye’s earliest shoe collaborations with Louis Vuitton are available in the resale market today worth upwards of $60,000 dollars a pair. 


Not surprisingly, Kanye West and the Yeezy brand have revived Adidas, a huge international corporation that (like all retail juggernauts) often struggles to reinvent its image with consumers. Adidas’ sales rose 31% the first year after Kanye joined them and in 2017 Adidas surpassed the Jordan brand in sales by over $2 billion dollars (the Jordan brand has reigned supreme for ten consecutive years prior). Like his spouse, West has been wildly successful in leveraging his IP to include 8 Studio Albums, over 30 different sneaker designs, a clothing brand, and a new real estate development company. 


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For years, celebrities longed for blue chip endorsements to expand their reach and collect long-term revenue checks. The new era of intellectual property, which is being opened up by the likes of Kardashian and West, will allow for residual revenue streams that take advantage of well-crafted personal brands and celebrity. Although Kim started her career in reality television and Kanye in music production, the power couple’s intellectual property now transcends traditional market boundaries as a result of their demonstrated ability to reinvent themselves and set trends that define generations. 


All things considered, Kanye and Kim’s true talent is their ability to stay relevant in the hyper-competitive marketplace that is the modern world. By understanding the value of their personal brands, the pair has been able to innovate new IP that caters to the desires of their fans. In turn, this innovation has created trust between them and their audience, with their fans willing to purchase their products before knowing what it smells like, feels like, or looks like. As the audience’s familiarity with their personal brands deepens, the pair is able to manufacture demand by leveraging their personalities on untested products and content. This is the true power of IP: creating demand. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are redefining the celebrity endorsement and leaving their trademark on culture today. 


How will your brand do the same?



For more information on intellectual property, please reach out to Rachel Link 

Imagery: Kim Kardashian (Dia Dipasupil), Kanye West (@catchmyfocus), Kardashian-West-Family (Eli Russell Linnetz)