Jon Hamm, the actor who plays a 1960s-era advertising executive on AMC’s Mad Men, got a lesson in 21st century marketing when he called Kim Kardashian an idiot last week. Hamm, who’s in the midst of promoting Mad Men’s fifth season, told a British magazine, “Whether it’s Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated…. Being a [f---ing] idiot is a valuable commodity in this culture because you’re rewarded significantly.”
Kardashian, who has more than 14 million followers on her Twitter account, quickly Tweeted, “Calling someone who runs their own businesses, is a part of a successful TV show, produces, writes, designs, and creates, ‘stupid,’ is in my opinion careless.”
While Hamm might play a world-class advertising executive on television, Kardashian came out ahead in this war of words. She is a master of 21st century marketing, and Hamm’s character couldn’t know it yet, but even his kind will eventually have to embrace the type of direct-to-consumer marketing that Kardashian has, in many ways, perfected.
Consider Kardashian’s path to success: She first hit the tabloids as a friend of Paris Hilton, then as a stylist and personal shopper for celebrities. A few high-profile romances and one sex tape later, she landed her own reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which is executive-produced by Ryan Seacrest.
Along the way, she continued building her brand as a sexy, savvy, young entrepreneur, and began signing lucrative endorsement deals, for everything from prepaid bank cards to diet plans. (The cards have since been discontinued.) One tweet by Kim Kardashian, potentially viewed by 14 million followers, is arguably more powerful than a mention on the Today Show, which attracts around 5.6 million daily viewers.
With his public critique of Kardashian, Hamm seems as outdated as his character, and possibly as sexist. Does he really think someone who’s turned themselves into a million-dollar-plus commodity is stupid? And why the personal, curse-word filled attack that seemingly came out of nowhere? Why does Hamm have a problem with one of the most successful female entrepreneurs today?
The lesson for the rest of us is that if we want to understand how to stand out in the marketplace today, we all have to think more like Kardashian, not Don Draper. The way to build a name today is to be ruthlessly entrepreneurial while building a loyal fan base and grabbing the limelight in whatever way we can. A scary thought, perhaps, but a true one.