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Unpacking Kim Kardashian’s lawsuit – PR crisis or strategic marketing?

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Unpacking Kim Kardashian’s lawsuit – PR crisis or strategic marketing?

Kim Kardashian is being sued

In the realm of personal branding, few names command as much attention as Kim Kardashian. Back in 2022, Kardashian gave a rare look into her minimalist SKKN by Kim office via a walkthrough YouTube video uploaded to her personal account. But an 11-second portion of the six-minute video has recently landed her in hot legal water.

“These Donald Judd tables are really amazing and totally blend in with the seats,” says Kardashian in the video published on 12 August 2022.

The non profit Judd Foundation, led by the late artist’s daughter Rainer Judd, filed a lawsuit on 27 March 2024 against Kardashian and the firm Clements Design, which allegedly fabricated and sold what the foundation is calling ‘inauthentic’ Judd furniture to Kardashian.

The Kardashian family’s carefully crafted image is built on a highly calculated and strategic approach to branding and publicity, which makes the inclusion of allegedly fake furniture in the video seem out of character.

This then begs the question: is this a major PR crisis or rather a tactical marketing setup?

Is there more to the story?

In an era where authenticity and transparency are paramount in brand messaging, the lawsuit presents a significant reputational risk for Kardashian.

However, sceptics speculate that there may be more to the story than meets the eye. Could the lawsuit be part of a broader marketing strategy masterminded by the Kardashian team? In an age where controversy drives engagement and headlines, the lawsuit has undeniably generated buzz and conversation across social media.

The video garnered more than 3.7 million views, but has since been removed from the platform.

SKKN by Kim office tour

Kim Kardashian’s deleted SKKN office tour video

Moreover, the lawsuit offers a valuable lesson for marketers about the delicate balance between risk-taking and reputation management in the pursuit of brand success. As the saga unfolds, marketers are left to ponder the broader implications for celebrity endorsements, brand partnerships and the intersection of legality and marketing ethics in the digital age.

Which side is benefitting?

On the opposing side, why has the Judd Foundation only now, in 2024, decided to launch a legal battle? Could the foundation’s decision to sue Kardashian be a strategic move to garner exposure and media attention for the late artist’s work? 

By thrusting themselves into the spotlight through a high-profile legal dispute, is the Judd Foundation capitalising on ‘free marketing’ to raise awareness of Donald Judd’s legacy and reinforce the importance of authenticity in the art and design world?

“Ms. Kardashian’s furniture is irrefutably fake,” said Rainer Judd in a statement published online. “The existence of inauthentic furniture undermines the integrity of Donald Judd’s original work which includes specifications of design, craftsmanship, and materials.”

Donald Judd tables and chairs

Donald Judd’s La Mansana Table and Chair 84

The foundation argued that Kardashian’s comments make it appear as though it had endorsed or granted her permission to use its furniture in the promotional video. 

In a statement to The New York Times, the design firm said the foundation has been “unwilling to settle on reasonable terms”, and even went as far as to say the “claims have absolutely no merit.”

Three days after the video first appeared, the Judd Foundation says it contacted Kardashian about the furniture. A spokeswoman responded to the complaint, according to the lawsuit, saying they were “incredibly sorry for any inconvenience this has caused the foundation” and offered to “update the video caption with a retraction.”

The foundation has said it wants the video deleted – which has occurred, the furniture destroyed and Kardashian to issue a public apology. But negotiations broke down ahead of the lawsuit being filed.

It’s well known in the marketing world that you’ll need deep pockets to get the Kardashians to speak about a product – supposedly $2.6 million AUD for a sponsored post on Kim’s social media accounts, but the foundation’s exposure seemingly hasn’t cost them any marketing spend and could likely be generating revenue.

Lessons for marketers

The Kardashians are renowned for their ability to turn bad PR into positive press. Kardashian started her career with what some might call a ‘tarnished reputation’ but has fought her way to the top of Hollywood’s rich and famous list through undeniably clever and tactical marketing.

Whatever she’s doing is successful, and it ultimately comes down to her team’s highly effective use of personal branding, a direct connection to her company’s products and branding, calculated marketing and other media tools. 

Whether Kardashian emerges unscathed from her alleged 11-second misstep, the saga serves as a stark reminder of the inherent risks and rewards of marketing in the limelight.

Meanwhile, the Judd Foundation’s involvement and two-year wait to sue underscores the complexities of navigating and combining art, commerce and celebrity culture in marketing.

As the lawsuit continues to play out, the competing narratives at play will offer valuable insights into the evolving dynamics of brand management and reputation in the modern media landscape. While the true motives remain shrouded in speculation, one thing is clear – in the cutthroat world of celebrity branding, reputation is everything.

Only time will tell if the impact of the high-profile dispute has lasting repercussions, but one thing is certain – the Kardashian-Judd battle has sparked conversation around both parties, raising the age-old question: is all PR good PR?

Photography attributed to SKKN by Kim.
Photography attributed to Judd Foundation.

Also, read about how partnership marketing is the way forward in 2024 advertising.


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Billy Klein

Billy Klein is a content producer at Niche Media.

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