The Internet Still Works: Life After #BreakTheInternet
It’s been over a week since Kim Kardashian proclaimed she would “break the internet” by posting a recreation of a photograph from Jean-Paul Goude’s 1982 book Jungle Fever. As we’re all well aware, the picture shows her bare ass and was followed by a full frontal picture a mere 24 hours later. The internet responded accordingly (as it unfortunately so often does) and demonstrated precisely why we are not allowed to have nice things. Social banter, followed by some (pretty funny) memes, everyone’s expert opinions on their social media channels (down to mine in this blog, I’m aware of that), and some very misguided “think of the children” commentary consumed the internet. This includes claims that Kim Kardashian is the world’s best marketer.
This statement related to marketing is where I draw the line. Now, before we get into that, let’s make a few things clear: I do not have any problem with the pictures nor do I have a problem with her decision to take them. I am also not on the “why didn’t you think of your children” bandwagon. Anyone making this claim must not remember that the only thing that made her famous (besides a well-known hotel heiress/part time wannabe DJ bestie) was the leak of a sex tape with a mediocre R&B artist. “Thinking of the children” was thrown out the window long ago. Besides, she’s allowed to make her own decisions on morality, and it isn’t right for anyone to hate on her for taking a few harmless photographs. However, #BreakTheInternet isn’t what we call “good marketing,” it’s what we call a publicity stunt by a woman who is desperate to find ways to stay in the limelight. Unfortunately, Americans took the bait and lost their minds. Like I said, this is one of many examples as to why we can’t have nice things.
For purpose of discussion, we should pinpoint a definition of marketing. The American Marketing Association defines it as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large. I’ve really tried hard to see if it falls into these guidelines, and for the life of me, I just can’t. Value for customers? Nope, it’s just a pic. No big deal. Value for clients and partners? Not necessarily. There’s some grey area here and I’ll get into that in a moment. Value to society at large? Absolutely not. Again, all it does is expose the American love of tabloid gossip and the total shitstorm of social media commentary that happens in the aftermath.
The reason I mention grey area in the above paragraph is because in some cases, an argument could be made for the photographs providing value for clients and partners. Everyone most certainly knows who Paper Magazine is now if they didn’t before. On November 12, their web traffic hit 6.6 million page views with 5 million of those being unique visitors. That’s pretty impressive; there’s no way I can deny that. However, does that make her the “marketing genius” or does it make someone at Paper Magazine really smart, because they realized this publicity stunt was a way to boost their own brand while using a well known public figure? Either way or, I still find this a far cry of crowning Kim the “best marketer alive.”
So call it a publicity stunt, call it a set of photographs in a magazine, call it whatever you will – but please stop referring to it as “genius marketing” or anything of the sort. The real problem here has nothing to do with Kim Kardashian’s photographs. The real problem here is the lack of any sort of critical thinking and the gang ability of the internet to latch on to pop culture. Don’t believe me? A space probe landed on a comet that week. A Google news search for “Rosetta Mission” brings up 212,000 results while a news search for “Kim Kardashian” brings up 9,090,000 results. I think the real issue at hand is abundantly clear here.
Marketing is all about providing value for your customer or for society. If you want to have a discussion about marketing, I’m all for it – but let’s just leave crap like this out of it and continue with our daily lives. There’s a fine line between “marketing” and “publicity stunt” when it comes to these issues. Believe me, it bums me out (no pun intended) that I’ve even been tasked into feeding into the hysteria and writing about this topic. As marketers, it’s up to us to decide which is which and go about our business crafting the best campaigns and return for our clients. There’s no need to get caught up in the madness.