Kardashian is a Global Household Name
If you don’t know them, you must be living in a disconnected yurt. Kris, Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, Kendall, Kylie (and Rob) comprise the Kardashian/Jenner family. Their antics and extravagant lifestyle have dominated reality TV airwaves through twelve different shows. The most popular, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, is in its 15th season and is shown in over 167 countries worldwide.
Success on TV can translate into an empire of product endorsements (Jennifer Aniston) or branded product lines (Gwenyth Paltrow’s Goop). Kardashian women have done it all and are on top of the beauty and business world. Their makeup lines include KKW Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics, and Kendall’s Estee Lauder lipstick; clothing lines include Khloe’s Good American Jeans, Kourtney’s Kardashian Kids, and a new design collaboration with retailer Ardene of Canada. Endorsements are a true art form with Kardashians – at the time of this writing, there were 3,264,044 views of Kourtney demonstrating a unique way of eating a Kit Kat bar. That seems like pretty good return for eating candy in a simple YouTube video.
The “Queen of Snapchat” Can Move Social Media Market Value
The Kardashians have doubled down on the one place they can truly be ever-present – your cellphone. From Snapchat to Instagram to Twitter, the Kardashians extend their dynasty, advertising and promoting their own products while recommending others. The power of a single comment from any one of the Kardashian/Jenner sisters sends markets into a frenzy. And their influence doesn’t extend merely to what makeup or jeans you buy.
Snapchat recently updated the layout of its app, a move that provoked the usual complaints from ordinary users of the app who disliked the new format. But when Kylie Jenner, whom MTV dubbed the Queen of Snapchat, suggested over Twitter that she might stop using the app, Snapchat shares dropped 7 percent, losing $1 billion in market value – a coincidence?
When you have market power like that, and with the explosion of consumer spending through in-app purchases, the Kardashians are not content to simply exploit existing app platforms like Snapchat. Taking it to a whole other level, they’ve created their own apps, in their own images, to push their own line of products. And that’s how the Kardashians are “kashing” in on the global app economy.
Apps Have Become Really Big Business
Young people spend an average 5 hours per day on their phones – 92 percent of that phone time is spent in apps. Social media and messaging apps are the most popular. Gaming, music, entertainment, lifestyle and shopping apps hold strong engagement as well.
The Kardashians have a sizeable presence in every single one of these categories with eight different apps (down from nine since Kendall deleted her app nearly two years ago). Some are lifestyle apps with in-app purchases, advertising all types of products, from clothing to music to food, bringing in millions of dollars every year. Kim Kardashian West’s gaming app, “Kim Kardashian: HOLLYWOOD,” with over 40 million downloads, is the highest grossing Kardashian app – bringing in $72 million in 2015.
By creating and promoting their own apps and popularizing other mainstream social media apps, the Kardashians help fuel the app economy, an industry that connects communities and individuals around the world, and employs nearly 1.73 million people in the United States, according to the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).
The app economy took off when Apple introduced the first iPhone as a platform for apps, and Google Play (formerly the Android Market) quickly followed. In its report, 2017 U.S. App Economy Update, PPI estimates that global app revenues amounted to $45 billion in 2016, a figure that does not measure economic activity or jobs connected to the development of free apps with no in-apps purchases.
App Annie projects that the annual number of mobile app downloads will grow 45 percent over the next five years, from 178.1 billion apps downloaded in 2017 to 258 billion annual downloads by 2022. They forecast that much of this growth will come from first time smartphone buyers in emerging markets like Vietnam, Egypt, Ukraine, Poland, Indonesia, and Brazil. Of course, China will drive an outsized share of growth as more smartphone users come on line in smaller cities. China holds the top spot for number of downloads last year with 79.3 billion, and was also the top spender in app stores at $30.2 billion. The United States came in a distant second in spending in app stores at $15 billion.
App usage is a global phenomenon, creating its own economic ecosystem, like the Kardashian empire. Love them or hate them, the Kardashians’ countless business ventures are stimulating both the app economy — and the larger world economy.
Paige Nelson is a Research Intern with the Scholl Chair in International Business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). She is a rising junior studying International Relations Global Business at the University of Southern California.