Living the Bitchie Life: Lessons in Growing a Brand

What can you say about Necole Bitchie? One could simply take the easy way out and just write her off as a black gossip blogger — albeit a possible $20 million gossip blogger. Necole Bitchie is a brand, a personality, but most importantly she’s an entrepreneur with some serious tech savvy. Aside from the flagship property NecoleBitchie, there’s BitchieTV. Her Twitter is running at full steam into all hours of the night and her Facebook page is loaded with friends trying to get the latest scoop. She’s built up an empire on the foibles of celebrities and her audience loves her for it.  Primarily a one-woman show, Necole has her hands in every aspect of her business from the design to the social networking. Her drive is paying off with the latest addition to the Bitchie brand, Bitchie Life.

Bitchie Life is a natural offshoot of Necole Bitchie. A lifestyle themed site, it still deals in celebrity, but instead of celebrity outings, Bitchie Life provides a deeper insight into your favorite celebs. Targeted at African-American women in their 20’s and 30’s, it’s a more mature site. More importantly, it’s focused on the reader. Have questions about Brazilian Blowouts or want to get a Hollywood body? Check out Bitchie Life.

“I wanted [Bitchie Life],” says Bitchie  “to be a place for young women that look like me can come and vibe. I also wanted it to be a place where they can get information on fashion, beauty, health and relationships.”

Although she has been able to achieve success on her own terms, it hasn’t come without its share of doubters.  There are still people the power of branding and how that influence translates into dollars. Bitchie who is listed at #59 on our “100 Most Powerful Black Women on Twitter” list has parlayed her heavy presence in the social media arena creating a brand that is recognized among her target audience which Necole says, is no small feat when you have a curse word in your name. Although Necole Bitchie is an established brand, it’s been difficult getting support behind Bitchie Life.

“People get Necole Bitchie, but if you say Bitchie Life and they’ve never heard of me, it’s like ‘what?’ People don’t get it.”

Add to that the recent report that black firms account for only 1 percent of internet startups and receive on average less than their white and Asian counterparts, its a wonder that an established brand with a questionable name can receive any support at all.

“As an African-American woman, it’s definitely different. There are things that [Perez] Hilton gets away with that I could never. Some of the stuff he pulls, he still gets advertising dollars for his site, while I would probably get shunned. It’s different because you feel like you have the black community on your shoulders. I’ve had a lot of people that wanted to invest in me, but I wanted to show them what I could do with no money. I could start this t-shirt line on this iPhone application and not have one dime behind me.”

Speaking of apps, when asked about leveraging her Web properties into apps. Bitchie wants dollars to make sense.Even though it seems that apps are the new black, she’s not buying it. After conducting some research, Necole doesn’t see the profitability in running to the app store right now.

“I’ve been talking to iPhone and Blackberry developers and the thing I’m struggling with is making sure if I invest all that money into an application that I get a return on my investment…A lot of people download apps and never use them so how am I going to make money after everyone initially downloads it?”

Until she finds her own version of the winning app formula, Necole Bitchie will continue to draw a crowd and expand her brand using all the tools in her digital toolkit.



AnjaliToo says:

What about Android? I'd hazard a guess that a larger percentage of your subscribers use Android and Blackberry over the iPhone. Not to mention Android integration and development is a lot easier and cheaper.

nandoism® says:

What a great piece. I learned a lot from this well-researched post. And even picked up a tip or two about my own branding and the iPhone app I've been developing. Thanks!

KweliWright says:

Good for you Necole!

Mrs Debs says:

Gosh I luv this article too. Great write up….. I'm 41 and still check into Necole Bitchie's, Bitchie Life lol lol. All I can say is that both of you are doing a great job, keep it up……….
Blessings xXx

chatterboxpr says:

I can personally attest to some of the hurdles and objections that Necole experienced in the early days. Having to explain who she was in 30 seconds when bloggers (typically) left a bad taste in most people's mouths (especially with a curse word in her name) was truly a challenge. She went from being underestimated in the blogging world to being one of the most envied in less than two years, making all socially savvy take note beyond blogging.

Necole Bitchie says:

Quiana good feedback. I would love to speak to a few more people who have apps. I want to know how much maintenance they do on their apps as well as if they are making any revenue. Is it worth the investment. I know it's not always about the dollars but that money can be invested in something else that can help build the brand. As far as mobile sites, i haven't built a custom one for Bitchie Life yet but according to my stats, more than 1/3 of my visitors are accessing the site from their mobile phones.

I think you're amazing, I've been tracking you from your 'other' site – I am… Your posts are great. I your drive.


Necole Bitchie says:

Hi ChaCha France! I haven't completely shunned the iphone app (i'm actually working on a blackberry one right now) but I wanted the full user experience with my app…not just a blog feed but something that my girls would want to use not only once a week, or once a day but several times a day. Something very inter active and every quote i've received for what i wanted was 15k-25k. I could just create a simple app for 99 bucks but I'm a perfectionist and I feel like if you are going to do something, it should be done right. So we'll see what happens in the future.

Thanks for the support mama!

ChaCha Fance says:

I have been a subscriber of Necole's blog for over a year now and yes I do enjoy what she does. I don't think she should be focused on making money from an app though…….. I think it will be good just to have the app out. I'm sure she has revenue streams from many other places so no need to worry about an app.

I like this article and it is great to see that Necole is using technology to grow her business.

Ms. Boss

Quianawright says:

I don't see Bitchie needs an app at this point. Yes, getting into the app store is relatively inexpensive, but getting found in the app store is a whole different ball game. Not to mention to costs of API/content delivery system and app upgrades and maintenance.

Furthermore, all of these African Americans with smart phones are also accessing the mobile web in even higher instances that they are using applications (with the exception of MAP, Phone and other core functions). Why do I need an app if I can just go to necolebitchie.com and get a mobile optimized experience for accessing a relatively simple content delivery experience?

I personally would love to see many more black entrepreneurs building apps and establishing a mobile presence, but its has to make sense for the content and platform.

Kagem says:

I don't think the app store is the issue. It's important not to fall head over heels in love with a trend just because everyone is doing it. Mobile is the future but perhaps not as a middle man operating system?

I mentioned this on another post on BW20 about gossip blogs. I think Necole Bitchie is a personal brand, but I think in order for it to grow as a brand, she could detach her personalisation a bit. Just a thought, because personal branding can only go so far. If she wants to stop the blog, it will keel over because it is so imbibed with who she is.

Other than that, it's a clean looking site with good coverage on African-American celebrities from the Southern states.

Mike Street says:

With 49% of African-American on cell phone/smart phone going into the app store is the natural progression. Whoever can create apps and tech that appeal to the target demographic will make money without have to write and product content on a daily basis. Content creation is expensive. Building and updating an app pays for itself.

iluvblackwomen says:

I would respectfully disagree with Nicole's hesitation to get into APP Store what amount does it cost? appmakr .com allows creation of app for FREE and its $99.99 to become Apple Developer with a brand like hers i would argue she is losing money and brand realestate by not being in the APPS Store. You know how businesses say established since 1907, very soon people will be saying In the Apps Store since 2010 proudly. I love what Nicole does as businessperson/woman/blogger i would just tweak her perspective on the app store to reverse the cost of doing an app to the cost of NOT doing an app.

I'm a always amazed byt the gossip columnists. Bitchie, does what she does and she's certainly one of the best at what she does, but don't you wish we had someone with this much influence of serious issues instead of what celeb went with panties? I'm interested to know what ms Bitchie is doing for the community.

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