Marie Kondo scored on a primal need with her 2015 best-selling book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Her 2019 Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo released just as her popularity was at an all-time high.
In the series, she helped countless people in America clean out those wardrobes and get rid of all the clutter piling up on their living room shelves and in their linen closets. Her methods scratch a deep-seated itch for people, a desire to have more while also having less. To find joy in simplicity rather than through an overstuffed L.L. Bean catalogue.
This week, Kondo announced an e-commerce extension to her popular konmari.com website. The consumer looking to simplify can now buy a wide range of aromatherapy, bath, decor, cooking, and tabletop goods through the site.
It's this move that I find sets an entirely different tone, because essentially Kondo wants you to fill your house back up with her boutique line of lifestyle products.
Kondo defended her turnabout in a statement that accompanied the e-store launch, as The Atlantic reported: "My tidying method isn't about getting rid of things--it's about heightening your sensitivity to what brings you joy. Once you've completed your tidying, there is room to welcome meaningful objects, people and experiences into your life." Kondo's representatives declined to provide further comment, and probably for good reason.
I'm not buying the spin. Some of the "meaningful" objects you can grace your home with include a brass mirror for $150, a dirty grapefruit mini-soap for $22, a tuning fork and rose quartz crystal for $75, a large cheese knife $180, a large serving bowl $220, and a bottle of laundry detergent $21.
I believe in karma and kindness, but I also believe that using joy as a marketing thread is a cop out that needs to be called out. How much meaning and deep joy will a $150 brass mirror bring you?
Here's why this move doesn't make sense.
I get why Kondo sells implements to help you tidy up, like high-end storage bins and closet organizing implements. I even get the push into lifestyle goods purely as a sales opportunity. The items Kondo is now selling on her site all look elegant, clean, and eye-catching.
But this isn't Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop lifestyle empire or Kim Kardashian's shape-wear line. Those are unabashed, straightforward celebrity plays to go into adjacent territories that make sense with who they are and that are intended to make money.
I'm all for capitalism. But in this case, I feeling like I'm being capitalized upon. It feels too much like a set up, out with the old (literally) as the business model, in with the new (lifestyle goods) as the brand extension. Except this is a brand extension that doesn't fit. It's more of a brand reversal.
Crest toothbrushes as an extension of Crest toothpaste? Got it. Sunkist Vitamin C tablets as an extension of their orange juice? Should have done it sooner. Selling me a $96 soup ladle after convincing me to toss all my mismatched ceramics? Not so much.
I worked in marketing at Procter & Gamble for 24 years and can tell you what happens when brands launch extensions that make no sense. The core value proposition of the brand comes into question. Consumers get confused about what the brand really stands for. They have a harder time not only buying the brand, but buying into the brand. This is especially true for lifestyle brands because you're asking the consumer to buy into, well, a lifestyle.
If the brand extension is bad, it causes damage to what advertising executives call the "brand character." If you met a brand at a party, how would you describe him or her? You want the answer to be something consumers can relate to.
But when brands start launching contradictory extensions, it creates confusion and even suspicion about the brand character. When people do contradictory things it cause you to question their character, too. Is this brand just trying to grab my money? Does this person really fit with how I see myself now?
We'll see if Kondo's e-commerce u-turn turns out to be a harmless detour, a helpful detour, or a dangerous swerve off a sensible path.