When Kanye West appeared on the talk show hosted by Kris Jenner, he brought along pictures of his already famous daughter North. He also talked candidly—as West tends to do—about his concerns related to dating Kim Kardashian, noting that her “brand” could potentially undercut his artistic credibility.
It might not seem like a very nice thing to say to the mother of your girlfriend, but for Jenner, West, and the Kardashian family, the notion of a person as a brand, with implications and spillover effects on others, is nothing new. Much of this development stems from the spread of reality television, in which shows named for an individual or family become the focus.
The West interview also highlighted another recent trend that is advancing the notion of the person as a brand even further. Daytime television this fall is filled with talk shows hosted by personalities—in many cases, people famous mainly for being famous, or for knowing how to market themselves effectively. In addition to Kris Jenner, Bethanny Frankel has moved on from being a “Real Housewife” to developing the Skinnygirl brand to serving as tabloid fodder to hosting her own daytime talk show.
Meghan McCain might not have gotten her start in a traditional reality television context, but her presence in actual interviews and programs during her father’s 2008 run for the presidency thrust her into the spotlight. Her new show, on the recently introduced Pivot channel, seeks to cover more weighty issues than celebrity babies, including the future of feminism and privacy concerns. But it also remains firmly focused on McCain’s personality, fashion sense, and opinions and attitudes, rather than pure reporting.
Even Queen Latifah, who has established herself firmly as a talented musician and actor, has created a talk show that embodies her role as a personal and individual brand. The show itself is broken up by advertising blocks that feature her touting CoverGirl cosmetics, Pizza Hut restaurants, Zyrtec allergy medicine, and Jenny Craig weight loss services.
As one commentator summarized our current television context, “‘Brand’ is an overused word, but it is so imprinted on the ethos of entertainment that those who have one no longer distinguish between a private label and a personal identity.”
Source: Alessandra Stanley, “The Brand of Me, as Seen on TV,” The New York Times, September 17, 2013