‘OG Influencer’ Paris Hilton: ‘How I Work With Brands Now’

The global star talks brand disruption and going from reality TV to real business exclusively with Adweek

Brendan Forbes

In an exclusive email interview ahead of her IAB Brand Disruption and Adweek Women Trailblazers Summit appearances, Paris Hilton discusses going from reality TV star to creating Paris Hilton Entertainment, an integrated media and product organization with 19 products that have done over $4 billion in sales in the last decade.

Adweek: How do you define “brand disruption?

Paris Hilton: I think about brand disruption in a couple of ways. One is when a brand earns enough trust to be able to change the expectations of consumers. Lyft is a great example. By pressing a button on our phone, we know a car will help us get to where we want to go. 

Speaking at an IAB summit might seem out of character for you. How do explain your appearance at the event?

The IAB keynote is with my partner Carter Reum, who is both a great boyfriend and the co-founder of the venture firm M13. We joke that we both spend all day looking at consumer behavior. We talk about how it has changed because of Covid-19, and that the changes will lead to more innovation in the next two or three years than it has in the last 20 years. That’s the other type of brand disruption: brands that are able to get in front of shifting trends. 

Can you give us an example of a disruptive brand or how one should display itself to the public?

One new device that I am loving is Opte. It’s a digital scanner for your skin. Companies like this are a great example of changing expectations of consumers. Why would anyone want to buy a messy bottle of creams, for example, if we can get custom skin care thanks to one simple piece of hi-tech? Opte is part of M13’s Launchpad who helped them launch quickly and directly to consumers online; that direct relationship with consumers is something I have and appreciate more than ever. 

Are you planning any similar product launches? 

I’m building an integrated media and product company. On the product side, I’m focusing on health and wellness, longevity and beauty. I share my boyfriend’s passion for consumer tech investing and will keep investing in the next generation of great entrepreneurs like Rachel at Daily Harvest, where I’m an investor.

How is the Covid-19 pandemic going to alter your product offering/marketing plans?

In these uncertain times, I’m very concerned for everyone’s health and safety. Carter and I are thinking a lot about how consumer behavior will [influence] the new normal. What products, companies and ways of interacting with products will people need? Where do consumers go and who do they trust for social, information and entertainment? That interests me, and I’ve seen creative innovation in the live shopping space. 

You are widely credited as the original influencer, dating back to the early days of social media. What’s different for you now versus then? 

When social media first began, I recognized the power we all had to create our own stories and take control of our images and narratives in a way that hadn’t been possible. In my documentary, THIS IS PARIS, I mentioned I realized I was a walking billboard 24/7. Back then all we had to worry about was the paparazzi.

How has that early social influencer experience shaped your business philosophy?

I make both business decisions and investments using my gut and my instincts. I’ve been able to build my businesses using those instincts and thinking two steps ahead of others. Being true to myself has helped me evolve as a person and as a business leader, and I’m excited to keep growing. I’m using those same instincts to invest in the next generation of great founders as I love the idea of paying it forward and supporting them.

@ronan_shields ronan.shields@adweek.com Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.
@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."