April 17, 2021
WRITTEN BY: Alexandra Canal
Kim Kardashian West is officially a billionaire (or at least on paper, according to Forbes) — with multiple booming businesses including shape-wear and loungewear company Skims.
Skims was recently valued at $1.6 billion, and adds to the riches created by the 40-year old’s cosmetics line, KKW Beauty, which was founded in 2017. Kardashian-West currently owns 72% of the company. Last year, she sold a 20% stake to beauty conglomerate COTY (COTY) — which pushed her even further into the 10-figure tax bracket.
But behind the scenes, Kardashian’s personal life has taken a potentially thorny turn as she prepares to divorce rapper husband Kanye West. The problem? Kardashian officially added West’s last name following their marriage in 2014, and used her newly minted initials to create multiple businesses — from KKW Beauty to a perfume company titled KKW Fragrance.
So what could happen after the couple finalizes the split?
Tungsten Branding President & Founder Phil Davis told Yahoo Finance that if Kardashian were his client, he’d advise her to “slow down and pump the breaks.”
He added: “Some of these things are emotional reactions, and you have to separate that out from what’s really going on in the business.” A brand like KKW Beauty, which has become ubiquitous in the space, “acquires a secondary meaning” and can often times “live on its own. The brand becomes what it is.”
Recently, a source told E! News that Kardashian is undecided on altering her name, which has implications beyond just branding.
“If she left it, it would be for her to share the same last name as her kids. Her kids and their happiness are her main priority. She is very protective over them,” the source added.
The art of repurposing
There’s precedent for women thriving with their married names after a divorce, like Anna Mae Bullock — best known to the world as Tina Turner (she’s kept the name even after re-marrying).
According to Tungsten Branding’s Davis, if a client was adamant about a name change, a good compromise could be to repurpose its meaning. In the case of KKW, instead of the ‘W’ meaning ‘West,’ Davis suggested that it could be repurposed to mean ‘worldwide’ or ‘wild’ — something other prominent corporations have done in the past.
In 2013, AARP rebranded from “American Association of Retired Persons” to “An Ally for Real Possibilities,” allowing the company to maintain its widely recognized brand identity.
Davis added that a repurposing could help KKW become more timeless, while also lessening the burden of a complete brand overhaul.
However, Kardashian’s case might be a bit more extreme, as the KKW brand exists both online and in-stores — another logistical challenge.
“Her businesses are largely consumer and product facing and that has a real ripple effect,” Davis noted. Altering packaging, shipping and printing labels — and even domain names, SEO and URLs — would likely be expensive and time consuming.
“It’s a pretty substantive change, so I’d just make sure that whatever is the driver, that there’s reason enough to do so,” he cautioned.
Is Kardashian the exception to the rule?
Kardashian is in league of her own with over 214 million followers on Instagram.
Could she be the exception to the rule?
“There’s this dirty little secret in branding which is this: When a company is dominant in their industry they can break the rules and get away with it,” Davis said — referencing Apple’s 2010 iPad name debacle.
In Kardashian’s case, “I don’t think she’d have an issue creating waves — it’s more so the logistics of it all,” he explained, adding that potential trademark issues could arise, as well as pushback from investors and stakeholders like COTY.
“The bigger you get the more ramifications to your moves,” he said.
Overall, Kardashian has time on her side given her star power and fan loyalty — something Davis said she should continue to lean on before making any type of decision.
“The most important question is not if she identifies with KKW, but whether or not her fans do,” he continued.
“It’s paramount to think through all of the pieces, talk to the people around you, analyze those ripple effects and make a clear-eyed decision that’s not fueled by emotion,” Davis added.
About Phil Davis
Brand Naming Expert
With over twenty-five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought-after naming expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.