Is Kim Kardashian thinking two-steps ahead, and should Africa (and others) catch-up?

Kim Kardashian has co-founded The PE firm Skky Partners with Jay Sammons, a veteran of the global investment firm Carlyle Group. Does this unprecedented move by a reality TV star validate our brand thinking?

According to several articles, Kim Kardashian has teamed up with Jay Sammons, a veteran of the global investment firm Carlyle Group, to co-found the private equity firm Skky Partners. Articles[1] have noted that Skky Partners will make controlling and minority investments in consumer and media companies, and specifically focus on “consumer products, digital, e-commerce, consumer media and entertainment, hospitality and luxury” industries.

On sending the above article to a friend and investor in our vehicle, he responded while chuckling that “stranger things have happened.” Very true. We have little – if any – precedence of a socialite, social media influencer and reality TV star co-founding a private equity firm. But I would say that as soon as our first reactions wear off and eyebrows lower, we should look again – in the full context of our commercial moment – and recognise how ahead of the curve Kim and Jay appear to be.

“stranger things have happened.” Very true. We have little – if any – precedence of a socialite, social media influencer and reality TV star co-founding a private equity firm.”


The gravity of Skky Partners’ founding was aptly articulated by the hosts of the All-in Podcast, who got their thoughts in ahead of us. David Friedberg, an entrepreneur, investor and one of the four podcast hosts mentioned “I have a strong belief that in the next 30 years or so, all traditional brands are going to die.” Justifying this statement, he brought up Kim and her sister Kylie Jenner’s billion dollar consumer brands Skims and Kylie Cosmetics respectively, and stated that “Mr Beast (a famous YouTuber) launched a chocolate bar [which] became the number one chocolate bar in the country. He [Mr Beast] just opened up a burger restaurant last week… it was like the number 1 restaurant opening in history.” I would sum up David’s argument with two points: firstly, that certain individuals have themselves become brands, by creating and pushing out content consistently that aligns with their genuine selves; and, secondly, due to this, these individuals have built audiences that resonate strongly with who they are, rather than their product service, which enables them to move audiences to their genuine likes (and dislikes!). David, sees a future where “all advertising and marketing gets replaced by content creation.”


Chamath Palihapitiya, David’s co-host, described the influencer advantage in simple commercial terms: “it’s all about subsidised CAC”, or customer acquisition cost. In essence, the influencer’s act of creating content over time that draws people in to know their happenings/story and character, leads to the building of a channel through which products and services that naturally align with the story and character, can organically flow. And, as David said, distribution channels are “the number 1 problem for all consumer services and goods.”

“Chamath Palihapitiya… described the influencer advantage in simple commercial terms: “it’s all about subsidised CAC”, or customer acquisition cost.”

SKKN by KIM

Credit: SKKY BY KIM

So what’s my conclusion? I have two, a statement and a question. Firstly, I find the founding of Skky Partners interesting as it appears to validate our thinking at Mustard that the most powerful brands relate as humans or human avatars, and so must convey emotions and character, and have a story. For example, compare the content of powerful brands like Nike, Red Bull and Coca Cola with that of other companies like Notion (fyi, a company with a product I love!). You will find that the content of the latter is mostly if not solely pure play marketing: customer testimonials, product updates and how-to videos. However, much of the former three’s content are emotive, and centred on their central themes of belief, energy and happiness respectively.


Secondly, I consider Africa’s position in the brand building game, and personally recognise that there are no global consumer brands that stem from the continent. Would you agree? However, there are individuals of African origin who are growing in influence not only across the continent but also around the world (Black Coffee recently won a Grammy, Burna Boy made history headlining Madison Square Garden, Eliud Kipchoge ran a sub 2-hour marathon, et cetera, et cetera). My question is whether we think such individuals are yet themselves global brands with enough renown to found their own global brands? Or have the music majors and Nike (in the case of Eliud) backed the wrong horses? Are the building of consumer brands even worth the effort, or are VCs, influencers and now PE veterans wasting their time? Or perhaps in the African context we should focus solely on the non-trivial, like the areas of impact, infrastructure and SDGs?

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