An Open Letter To The Kardashian Sisters

Dear Kim, Khloe, and Klueless:

I’m one of your biggest fans and was wondering if you would autograph a picture of the three of you for me.

No, just kidding, I’m not one of your biggest fans. Truth be told, until recently if I heard the name Kardashian, I would think of that guy who was somehow affiliated with the OJ Simpson case. Is he a relative?

Thanks to a teenage daughter I have, I found out that the three of you have your own TV show. Congrats. That must be so exciting. I walked in on her one day while she was watching the show, and thought I saw a guy who looked like that Bruce Jenner fellow who won some gold medals in the 1976 Olympics. But it couldn’t have been him, since that was nearly 35 years ago, and the guy I saw didn’t look like he was 60ish.

Anyway, the real reason I’m writing to you is to insult you. (I don’t normally do this to people, but I’m counting on one of two things: 1) You will never see this, and/or 2) You won’t understand a word I’m saying if you do read it).

The three of you were recently involved in what should have been an absolutely brilliant business venture: Your own prepaid debit card.

I don’t know if you realized this or not, but prepaid cards are going to be really big business. To date, they’ve been associated with underbanked consumers. But the company that I work for, Aite Group (pronounced…oh, forget it), estimates that the gross dollar volume of prepaid debit cards will exceed US$100 billion by 2014, up from a little more than US$20 billion in 2010.

You could have ridden that wave with your product. The business potential —  and marketing synergies — was there. As I was quoted in an article on CNNMoney.com:

“None of these celebrities are going to get rich off of these cards — they’re already rich to begin with,” said Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group. “For the most part, this is an absolutely incredible publicity play.”

Shevlin said that by putting a prepaid card in the hands of their target audience, the Kardashians are attracting advertisers to their show who will come up with special deals and discounts that Kardashian fans can then hop online and use their Kardashian Kard to buy.

“I’m very convinced this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to celebrity prepaid cards,” said Shevlin. “It’s an integrated marketing play that is appealing to a lot more than just the Kardashians.”

But the very next day, bowing to pressure from a number of sources, you made the decision to kill the kard.

I’m sorry to be so insulting here, but I can only conclude that you were either greedy or stupid. Maybe both.

It’s mindboggling to me that a guy like CT attorney general Richard Blumenthal could make a comment that would influence your decision to discontinue the card. Ladies, this is a man who flat-out lied about serving in Vietnam. Hell, for all we know, the closest he’s even been to Vietnam is a Vietnamese restaurant in Greenwich, CT.

Did any of you bother to look at the fee structure of the card before lending your name to it? Did it not occur to any of you — or better yet, any of the people you must have who advises you on business matters — that these fees might possibly be seen as predatory?

If you (and/or your advisors) knew this, then you were greedy. If you didn’t know it, you were stupid.

In theory, the idea for your own prepaid debit card was brilliant. In practice, the implementation was a disaster.

I hope you haven’t ruined this for other celebrities who might be able to do something constructive with prepaid debit cards, which hold the potential to be a more cost effective alternative to checking accounts for about 14% of US households (these are people I call the Overbanked, but please don’t worry your pretty little heads trying to remember big words like that).

I hope Oprah is reading this. A well designed prepaid card from her could be an incredibly successful product.

Well, best of luck with your TV show and your future business endeavors. I look forward to your comments to my blog post.

Sincerely,
The Marketing Tea Party

13 thoughts on “An Open Letter To The Kardashian Sisters

  1. Couldn’t agree more.

    The Kardashian sisters had a perfect opportunity to introduce prepaid debit to a whole new demographic, with benefits, offers, rewards, etc.

    Instead, either ignorance or greed led to a massive train wreck.

    Honestly I’m shocked that Mastercard approved this program. Is there no oversight anymore?

    At the launch event an unnamed Mastercard rep is quoted as saying”The event was highly successful! All parties are satisfied and pleased to be partnered with the Kardashians.” ( http://eonli.ne/ihPOWE )

    Here’s hoping this fiasco hasn’t tainted the water for the solid consumer friendly, financially responsible, reward focused products we and others have in the works.

  2. Ron –

    Russell Simmons (media/rap mogul) also introduced prepaid cards around 2 years ago.

    I saw one of the girls describing their “brand” a week ago on a talk show. Needless to say they defined anything but what their brand was. Did you also notice they are banning Twitter until they hit their new fund raising goal? It’s almost like extorting their fans.

  3. Prepaidpro: Thanks for your comment. Great point about the lack of oversight.

    Joe: There are a few celebrities w/ prepaid cards. Simmons’ RushCard has a monthly fee of $9.95, so that’s not cheap either.

    As for the Kardashian’s “brand”, I think they blew it. As far as I’m concerned, they had the chance to upgrade their “brand” from “dumb shit reality TV chicks” to “possibly savvy business tycoons”. But, alas, as we would say on Twitter: #FAIL.

  4. Perfect balance between factual and facetious. Every blog should read this way. You killed it, Ron. Even your response to Joe was dead on. Well done.

  5. Right on! My 2 cents: Emerging areas are always rife with crazy and stupid attempts at good ideas. The Wild West has become the euphemism for new markets for good reason. Flash in the pan celebs are a perfect guinea pig for something like this, they will fade. Now bring on the real deals! I look forward to seeing how this plays out and future quality blogging like this from you.

  6. Jonathan: Thx for the comment and kind words. I’m with you on the “looking forward to how this plays out”. Couple of years from now, the K-sisters are gonna be pissed they blew this opportunity.

    Taylor: Greed is the operative word here. This point shouldn’t be overlooked: The guy who helped bring this product down LIED about serving in Vietnam. In other words, in our society, we’re more likely to overlook someone lying about something as important as serving in a war than we are someone who is greedy and predatory. Amazing that no one associated w/ that product could foresee the reaction.

  7. Kristin: Thanks for commenting. I think that World AIDS Day effort is great. Helping a great cause AND shutting up a bunch of dumb ass celebrities. Can’t ask for more that. 🙂

  8. Brilliant Ron! Kim and your-so-lesser-know-sister-that-I-dont-even-know-your-name, not so much.

    And WOW! An Oprah prepaid card. Can you imagine the brands that would line up for that?!? I say you get a cut for the idea.

    Cheers
    Barry

    P.S. Is Robert Kardashian their father? Gotta be. Right?

  9. Not to belittle or diminish the seriousness of the on-going AIDS epidemic (35,000 new cases in the US each year still. Over 200,000 dying annually).

    But, if it means silent celebs, could we have World AIDS Day every day? Please, Mr Bono? Pretty please!

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  11. Just absolutely brilliant. Thank you for providing both comic relief in a very stressful week and great reading material for a strategic planning meeting with our credit union client.

    What struck me as I have followed this attempt and its resulting demise is that it is unfortunately too representative of how business plans are constructed and discussed. We get so caught up in the “value capture” and “activity chain” and “business logic” (although logic is a hard word to use when describing this) that we fail to step back and just examine the human side of what we are thinking or doing.

    Thanks for yet again another great post.

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