‘…(AND HOW TO DO IT RIGHT)’ part five

by Jeetendr Sehdev
Published by St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9781250107527
eBook ISBN: 9781250107534
Copyright (c) 2017 by Jeetendr Sehdev

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“Getting SELFIEd

And this is how I came to name the Kim Kardashian Principle. I realized that uncovering the truths about how people ‘really’ build relationships with celebrities and how the most successful celebrities communicate with their fans could be marketing gold for anyone with an idea, product, or service to sell. Let me take you through my discovery of SELFIE, the six fundamentals of the principle.

I’ve always been more of a high tea than a hip-hop guy, so little did I know that an invitation to a party in the Hollywood Hills would change all that, not to mention net me a few death threats. At the bash, I noticed the DJ was playing everyone from artist A to B to C, but not artist Z. Of course, I’m talking about Mr. Shawn Corey Carter, also known as Jay Z. The music world had perpetuated an image of the rap star as phenomenally successful and equally influential, with extra points for bagging Queen Bey. But that perception didn’t quite ring true at the bash and amid his target audience who prided themselves on being “real.” I’ve rarely been fooled by the smoke and mirrors of Hollywood, but even I had assumed Jay Z was the king of hip-hop, so I was transfixed. I decided to investigate this odd discrepancy, in the name of better understanding hip-hop audiences and their relationship to celebrities. What I discovered was that, far from being influential, Jay Z was viewed as a phony, a sellout, someone who was no longer authentic.

In 2013, when this—my first big interview—was published in Business Insider, the reaction was immediate and visceral. The story went viral. Having surveyed a thousand Millennials, I had struck a nerve—a really raw one. While the media had been telling the world that Jay Z was the best thing since sliced bread, I had revealed the exact opposite. And it wasn’t just my opinion, it was a demonstrable fact. The conclusion was simple but striking: staying true to your roots and keeping it real, by not having some sort of façade, is what resonates with audiences. 

I was blown away by the public. I had never expected my first interview to make headlines around the globe. Nevertheless, I was keen to use my newfound notoriety, and methodology, to examine other phenomena we take for granted. It was just a matter of time before I turned to the world of sport. As a Brit, I’ve always been baffled by the rules of American football. The thought of drinking beer and watching players of the “big game” inflict their fellow countrymen with brain damage was a far cry from strawberries, champagne, and center court at Wimbledon. So I turned my attention to Super Bowl XLVIII and the selection of singer Bruno Mars as the halftime performer. Despite Mars’s quick rise to fame, many questioned the NFL’s decision. He wasn’t a megastar like Madonna, Prince, or Michael Jackson (who performed in 1993, surrounding himself with 3,500 children—what could go wrong there?). However,  despite the lukewarm sentiment, I believed Mars to be a clever choice. Apart from the fact that he’s an amazing live act, Mars’s performances are incredibly intimate. Rather than some distant, unapproachable star on a faraway stage, he seems to almost speak to each member of the audience as an individual. I was so confident in my opinion that I wrote a centerpiece for Adweek just before the event, commending the choice. They were brave enough to run it. Turns out, they were clever enough too. Mars proved to be a super hit for the Super Bowl, attracting 115.3 million viewers, the largest audience in the history of the event, and his performance was met with rave reviews. Mars proved, finally, that larger-than-life is out and intimacy is in, and woe betide the image or event manufactured by professionals—authenticity is the key.

I was now convinced that I was on to something. Debunking myths and exposing the truth was proving addictive. My friends started calling me “the truth teller” (a marginally more flattering term than cyborg), but I was just doing me, doing my best to process a rapidly changing world and shifting entertainment industry.

A trip back to London from glitzy L.A. never fails to provide a timely reality check. It usually comes in the form of my mother; however, this one came from my then-thirteen-year-old nephew, Aakash. Over dinner he asked me, if I was the world expert on celebrities, why wasn’t I talking about real celebrities? He was referring, of course, to YouTubers. While conventional wisdom leads us to believe mainstream stars have more power, presence, and influence than their DIY counterparts, my nephew convinced me that a YouTube star’s fame was of equal—if not greater—value, and that Millennials are far more likely to be influenced by these candid, honest, and relatable internet icons than more aloof mainstream celebrities. I decided to put his thinking to the test. The rest, as they say, is history. My study went viral, again, and I revealed how YouTube stars have become much more reliable influencers of Millennials than traditional celebrities.

YouTube celebrities were more engaging, relatable, and authentic than their mainstream counterparts because they’re not products of the PR industry and Hollywood handlers. Almost as soon as the study was announced in Variety, the Sunday Times and Ad Age, I saw the industry shift before my eyes. Hollywood started to redefine celebrities to include digital influencers. My results not only demonstrated the sheer power of YouTube as a medium, but they also showed me the power of leadership. These new celebrities were leaders because they were raw and intimate, not in spite of it. They represent a new opportunity for brands that have the courage to lead with their hearts—to be real, no matter how awful it might look. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki seemed to agree and decided to build her VidCon 2015 keynote around it. I was honored. 

I was bona fide hooked. I read magazines and newspapers, watched talk shows, joined chat forums—anything for inspiration. I started applying the JAAM to corporate brands: I predicted the demise of the NFL within five years when interviewed by ESPN in September 2014. I kept fine-tuning my authenticity detector and seeing through superstar images to the reality behind them. And the idea caught on, in a big way. My social media following exploded; I was suddenly the go-to guy for commentary on stars, their images, and their antics. 

Along with the love, however, came the hate. There were many who challenged my predictions, which included Ellen DeGeneres’s success hosting the Oscars, Neil Patrick Harris’s failure at the same gig, Justin Bieber’s ability to turn his brand around, and the inevitable disaster of the Oprah Winfrey and Weight Watchers partnership, among others. I welcomed it all, including the radio silence after I was proven right.

This excerpt ends on page 20 of the hardcover edition.



How do social media stars attract such obsessive attentioneven more than the Hollywood A-list? And what can they teach us about making our own ideas, products, and services break through? The worlds’ leading authority on celebrity branding, Jeetendr Sehdev, whom Variety calls “the best in the business,” tackles these questions head-on.

Sehdev shows why successful images today, the most famous being Kim Kardashian, are not photo shopped to perfection, but flawed, vulnerable, and in your face. This total transparency generates a level of authenticity and intimacy with audiences that traditional marketing tactics just cant touch.

The Kim Kardashian Principle reveals the people, products, and brands that do it best from YouTube sensations like Jenna Marbles to billionaire tech mogul Elon Muskand proves why the old strategies aren’t working. After all, in a world where a big booty can break the Internet and the president is a reality TV star, self-obsession is a must-have. No posturing, no apologies, and no shying away from the spotlight.

The Kim Kardashian Principle is a fresh, provocative, and eye-opening guide to understanding why only the boldest and baddest ideas will survive and how to make sure yours is one of them.


 Jeetendr Sehdev is the world’s leading celebrity expert. A trailblazer in pop culture insights, he has become one of the most prominent figures in celebrity news and a sought-after advisor to top international companies. Jeetendr’s research on the power of YouTube stars continues to make global headlines and has gained him influencer status and over a million subscribers on social media. He is a familiar face on shows like Access HollywoodThe Insider and CNN Tonight and he regularly writes opinion pieces for publications like The Guardian and Forbes. A graduate of Oxford University and Harvard Business School, Jeetendr is a British national who now lives in sunny Los Angeles where he teaches at the University of Southern California. 

This week’s selection ‘KIM KARDASHIAN PRINCIPLE: WHY SHAMELESS SELLS (AND HOW TO DO IT RIGHT) by Jeetendr Sehdev appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

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