Is Kanye Killing His Brand Or Growing It?

AP Photos

AP Photos

Kanye has been on a roll as of late:  He’s gotten into a Twitter war with Wiz Khalifa, offended Taylor Swift on his new album, flipped out back stage at Saturday Night Live, threw support behind alleged rapist Bill Cosby, asked Mark Zuckerberg to bail him out of his $53 million debt, issued multiple versions of The Life of Pablo, and took the stage in LA last week and blasted Taylor Swift, Amber Rose, Beck and more.   

Is all of this erratic behavior hurting his brand?

First, we’ve got to determine Kanye’s brand. Wikipedia defines Kanye West as an, “American hip hop recording artist, songwriter, record producer, fashion designer, and entrepreneur. He is among the most acclaimed musicians of the 21st century, attracting both praise and criticism for his work and outspoken public persona.

Kanye is definitely outspoken and people are listening.  His recent negative press has translated into more social media followers.  According to, he has gained 1.6 million Twitter followers since January 31st, which makes sense.  I call this the “Charlie Sheen Effect.”  The crazier a star gets, the more people want to watch.  He is in full “Kanye Mode” and people are loving it.

Mr. West is one of the most talented artists of his generation and the bad press hasn’t affected his recent album, The Life Of Pablo, which has met critical acclaim; Rolling Stone gave it 4.5/5 stars, Us Weekly 3.5/4 stars, and Pitchfork 9.5/10 stars.  According to TMZ, Kanye’s The Life of Pablo was “streamed more than 100 million times” in the past two weeks since its exclusive release on TIDAL. West’s album doubled the subscriber base of the service from 1 million to 2.5 million, which according to the report, “could total up to at least $15 million in additional revenue.”

Kanye is also fashion designer and the public’s negative perception of him doesn’t seem to be hurting his sales.   His   Yeezy Boost 350   was anointed Shoe of the Year at the Footwear News 29th Annual Achievement Awards ceremony, dubbed the "Shoe Oscars.” They quickly sold out and were commanding a hefty price in the secondary market.  He also grabbed the biggest headline of New York’s Fashion Week, when he staged a fashion show/listening party for his new record, in Madison Square Garden, which was attended by approx. 18,000 people.

Although his finances might be a mess (he is reportedly $53 million in debt) it looks like business is good for Kanye.

But what about the intrinsic value a of a celebrity’s brand?  Has the value of his brand suffered in 2016?

If we compare his “Q Score,” which measures a celebrity’s likeability, from Feb 2015 to Feb 2016, there’s not much of a change.  

His familiarity (recognition) went from 67% to 69%, his positive Q score from 9% to 10% and his negative Q Score from 53% to 55%.  None of these changes are significant. 

The general public didn’t like him much in 2015, and guess what?  They don’t like him much in 2016.

Kris Jenner was reported as saying that she felt like Kanye might be damaging the “Kardashian brand,” which is interesting because the only celebrities who scored worse than West were the Kardashians, the Jenners and Justin Bieber.

So what does all of this mean? 

According to Steven Levitt, President of The Q Scores Company, “Kanye West’s low positive Q and high negative Q Scores place him in a group of performers/personalities that the public wants to know about but cannot support beyond that.  There is a world of difference between notoriety and likability.  It is pretty certain that America’s iconic brands will continue to distance themselves from him.”

And that’s OK. 

Damon Brown, author of Our Virtual Shadow, states that, “Our services should be polarizing. Not everyone has to understand it, but the people who do should recognize if it is for them or not. It should bring a knowing reaction among people who love it or hate it. Like politics, entrepreneurship is not the place for fostering neutral feelings.”

Kanye is an extremely polarizing figure and he seems to be doing pretty well despite the recent craziness and bad press. Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2015, he’s won 21 Grammy awards, he’s sold 32 million albums and 100 million digital downloads, and he’s widely regarded as the best producer of his generation. 

He summed it up perfectly on “Feedback” from The Life Of Pablo:

“Name one genius who isn’t crazy.”

What do you think? Is his bad press cause for concern or is his role as the villain working just fine?

Note:  This article originally appeared in Forbes.  To read the full article, please click here.


MarketingTom Ward