The Sledgehammer

Paris Hilton, Marketing Goddess

May 12, 2022

Try to guess who these people are:

Person A:

  • New York Times best-selling author
  • Entrepreneur who owns both a successful media company and a consumer goods company ($4B total revenue)
  • Recently launched Metaverse & NFT business ventures

Person B:

  • Model for Guess and Christian Dior
  • Singer with a #1 song on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart
  • DJ who earned millions playing in Ibiza, Las Vegas, and Miami
  • Subject of documentaries on Netflix, YouTube, and Peacock

Maybe you’re thinking Mark Cuban or Tyler Perry for Person A? Usher or Britney Spears for Person B?

What if we told you that Person A and Person B were one and the same? And that individual is none other than hotel heiress, reality TV superstar, and marketing genius, Paris Hilton?

Credit: celebboySundance Film Festival 2008

Wait… Paris Hilton, marketing genius ?! The ditzy party girl with the little chihuahua?

Oh yes, you read that right.

Although she got her start as a public figure in a pre-Facebook and Twitter world, Paris’ career has flourished for over 20 years. Her $300M net worth and millions of social media followers are due to more than just a handful of reality TV roles in the early 2000s. They’re thanks to her marketing expertise, versatility, and visionary investing acumen.

In an industry known for producing passing fads and easily forgotten stars, Paris’ adaptability and longevity in a tough and crowded marketplace is especially noteworthy. In fact, she’s not unlike a popular healthcare brand facing new competition late in its lifecycle — staying relevant is key to fending off the steady stream of newcomers and maintaining its position.

Case in point: Paris’ long and storied career was achieved despite a perpetually shifting landscape that presented challenges like:

  • Competition explosion: The market size of influencers tripled from 2017 to 2020 and is currently worth $14B globally; 86% of young people say that they want to post social media content for money. And a proliferation of celebrity-created products (e.g. makeup lines, fashion lines, liquor brands) make it more difficult for someone like Paris Hilton to stand out.
  • Shrinking attention spans: The average human attention span has shrunk from an already measly 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds today. And it seems like our media fascinations can be even shorter than that. When was the last time you thought about Snooki, or the Ocean Spray Fleetwood Mac guy? Influencers and reality TV stars have rarely had staying power.
  • Constantly changing channels: What was the most visited site of 2021? Not Google, not YouTube, not Facebook — it was TikTok. Staying relevant requires finding audiences where they are, not where they used to be.

Given those headwinds, Paris Hilton could have aged out of relevancy years ago. But, if anything, her accomplishments have grown, and her brand has only gotten stronger. So how has Paris the polymath been able to thrive for so long, and what can we learn from her savvy?

She keeps up with current trends

Paris Hilton has consistently been ahead of her time, embracing trends before they pop. From being one of the first reality TV stars on The Simple Life, to popularizing the selfie before iPhones and Instagram even existed. And now, she’s found success as an early adopter and investor in nascent technologies, from cryptocurrency, to NFTs, to the metaverse with “ParisWorld” on Roblox.

Takeaway: When planning for your brands, are you researching how to best utilize new tools & technologies? Whether it’s running a campaign on an emerging social media platform or harnessing the power of AI, being an early adopter can be a huge competitive advantage.

She ruthlessly tests and learns

Paris Hilton does a lot. Like… a lot. By launching dozens of business ventures, she’s been able to reach a variety of audiences while diversifying her revenue streams. She has launched 27 fragrances in her career and has 45 Paris Hilton retail stores globally. She owns her own media and production companies, has programming on all major streaming platforms, and a Podcast channel on iHeartRadio. Not all have been successful, but the diversity of touchpoints means that when something doesn’t perform, she can change course and lean in elsewhere.

Takeaway: How aggressively are your brands using a real-world environment to test what works? Are you fighting to take risks in tactical execution, knowing that some might fail, while giving your brand room to soar elsewhere?

Her voice remains incredibly consistent

Paris Hilton has a strong, identifiable persona that has really connected with consumers and fans. Once you’ve seen Paris, her brand becomes unmistakable: matching sweatsuits, the color pink, little dogs with diamond collars, sunglasses, lip gloss, and a high “baby” voice. Recently, Paris has admitted to dumbing herself down and playing a character in public. For better or worse, Paris knows how to consistently give her fans what they want.

Takeaway: Is your brand instantly recognizable? You can iterate all you want, but customers will come to expect certain things from your brand. Consistency in your messaging and design establishes credibility and dependability, which are key tenets to building the foundation of a strong brand.

It might not be easy to see what’s behind the lasting success of a brand unless you look closely — perhaps past all the velour sweatsuits and barking chihuahuas — but longevity and staying power can be achieved if you have the right mix of insight, inventiveness, courage, and flexibility. As Paris would say… “That’s hot.”

At any given time, there are hundreds of actual sledgehammers floating around the Heartbeat office and resting on shelves in Heartbeaters’ homes. To celebrate their first year on the team, each HB’er receives their very own sledge — a nod to our daily pursuit of tearing down tiresome healthcare marketing. To determine what is built in its place, we often turn to outside industries, cultural forces, and personal experiences. We eagerly share them with one another, and now we’re sharing them with you. Clear the way — here comes The Sledgehammer.