At 21, Kylie Jenner is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, thanks to a booming cosmetics business, a hit reality TV franchise and numerous high-profile brand endorsements. But it seems she’s only getting started.
On May 9, Jenner signaled her plans to tap into her new status as a mom — she and boyfriend Travis Scott welcomed daughter Stormi Webster last year — and build a baby lifestyle brand under her famous name, filing trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for “Kylie Baby” and “Kylie Baby by Kylie Jenner.” Both trademarks were filed across a range of categories, including apparel, shoes, skin care, diapers, food, home furnishings and gear such as strollers and carriers.
Although Jenner is diving into a highly competitive and often tricky-to-navigate business (due to stringent safety standards), experts say her new venture is a smart move — particularly as it allows her to leverage her massive fan base among millennials, more than a million of whom become new mothers each year.
“There is no doubt that Kylie is well poised to build a successful baby brand. She has already proven with Kylie Cosmetics that she possesses the business acumen to create a brand, be the face of that brand and, most importantly, have the marketing savviness to understand how to market that brand to her massive social following,” said Stacy Jones, CEO of Los Angeles-based Hollywood Branded, an influencer and product placement content agency. “If there is a category that appeals to female millennials who are obsessed with trendsetters and who live on social media, then she likely will succeed.”
When it comes to expanding her empire, Jenner’s biggest advantage is unquestionably her built-in publicity machine. As a global celebrity and member of one of the world’s most famous families, her reach is staggering. She reigns as the seventh-most followed influencer on Instagram (boasting more than 136 million followers), with her posts valued at more than $1 million each in equivalent ad value, according to social media analytics firm D’Marie Analytics.
Her post introducing newborn Stormi to the world holds the record as the second-most popular photo on Instagram, clocking nearly 19 million likes — a clear indication of the fervent interest in her new role as a mom.
She receives plenty of press attention, too. Before the ink had even dried on her trademark filings, news of her latest venture filled the headlines. According to media monitoring service Critical Mention, more than 725 U.S. media outlets have covered the story, translating to roughly 17.8 million TV impressions and 4.4 billion online impressions, which adds up to at least $287 million in free publicity. “All this without her even having launched the collection. This is the incredible power of her brand,” Jones noted.
Jenner’s foray into the baby business also comes at a time when interest in celebrities — and their children — has reached an all-time high, thanks to social media. Everyday fans now have unprecedented access to their favorite celebrities. Since giving birth to Stormi, Jenner has taken to social media to share many personal moments of her mom life, from family vacations and holidays to glimpses of her daughter’s enviable designer wardrobe.
The sense of intimacy this creates could spur people to want to buy into her baby brand, according to Erin Rechner, senior kids’ analyst for WGSN. “In today’s age, people strive to feel close to celebrities, and this is one way to fulfill that thirst,” she said, adding, however, that it will depend on where Jenner positions her brand on the price spectrum. “Will it be high-end luxury products that only people in her elite circle can afford? Or will she look to midmarket consumers — likely the majority of her fanbase — who would be willing to shell out money for something with the name Kylie on it?”
When it comes to launching a celebrity baby brand, Jenner also has precedent on her side. Jones pointed to several examples of stars’ stamping their names on infant products, among them actress Jessica Alba, who paved the way with the launch of The Honest Co. in 2011, offering everything from diapers and wipes to baby shampoo and sunscreen. Known for its use of naturally derived ingredients and materials, the company was estimated to be worth more than $1 billion in 2017.
Alba was followed by Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, who in February debuted plant-based baby care brand Hello Bello at Walmart. “Although the sales numbers have not been released, Walmart has clearly put an incredible amount of faith into [Hello Bello], believing it is fiscally worthwhile to move shelf space away from established brands to bring in this celebrity-backed line,” Jones said. “There is obviously a major mom market that has embraced these celebrity offerings.”
Still, the high-profile nature of these collections — and the famous people behind them — opens them up to much greater scrutiny and criticism. Alba learned that lesson when she found herself embroiled in a PR nightmare as photos of sunburned kids began popping up on social media posts that tagged Honest, charging that its sunscreen wasn’t effective. Her company was then hit with a series of embarrassing class-action lawsuits alleging that its sunscreen and other products fraudulently contained synthetic and toxic ingredients.
If Jenner hopes to avoid such entanglements, earning — and keeping — consumers’ trust in her baby collection will be critical, Rechner said. “For baby care, Kylie will have to be extra careful with what ingredients she chooses to stand behind,” Rechner noted. “It’s one thing to be known for her sexy look, which makeup plays a huge role in. But when it comes to baby products, I am not certain that people will fully trust her, especially as millennials increasingly demand transparency and a strong eco-ethos from brands.”
And because her brand is so intrinsically linked to her popularity and status as a public figure, Jenner also will have to carefully guard her own reputation if she wants to find lasting success in the baby market. “Unlike Pampers, Graco, Gerber and other traditionally known baby brands, Kylie’s line completely rests on her own image,” Jones explained. “If she falls out of favor by offending her follower base or makes a poor judgment call in life, she risks losing millions of sales overnight. She lives constantly in the limelight under paparazzi cameras and [the eyes of] her ever-watchful social media base. One wrong thing said, one mistake made — it’s a lot of pressure.”
Watch this video from FN about the most stylish celebrity kids: