James Glover, founder and creative director of Fluid gets thinking about about the next life, the death of the King of Pop and the effect is has on his brand legacy.
This latest development got me thinking about the earning potential of those existing in the afterworld and the ethics surrounding the marketing of such.
A few weeks ago in this very spot, Sue Little wrote an intelligent and insightful article on the public and commercial reaction to the sudden death of the icon. Amongst numerous interesting points, Sue pointed out that Jackson had long since transcended from being a very talented artist in to something far greater, an icon , a status symbol and most importantly a ‘brand’ in his own right.
Now, as every student of marketing knows it doesn’t matter how engaging, interesting or clever you are ,one does not become a brand purely on one’s own. merit . Rather, ‘Michael’ the man was only one part of a huge multi layered business empire employing hundreds of people all of whom I’m sure will still be keen on getting paid.
The Jackson empire need not worry too much though, as there is considerable evidence to suggest that brands do not need to be breathing to be profitable . Forbes Magazine produces an annual list of the ‘Top Earning Dead celebrities’. It may come as no shock to hear than Mr Presley presides at the top of the charts pulling in an estimated $52 million dollars in 2008 (more than Madonna).
As one self proclaimed King of Pop joins another member of Rock n Roll royalty it will be interesting to watch how the legacy of these two icons fair head to head in the afterlife marketing game. With Neverland set to open to visitors, could it be that Graceland will get knocked off it’s top pop tourist spot? Or will the original King reign superior?
The other interesting side effect in the death of an icon - particularly an untimely one-is that all the strange, questionable and often straight up illegal behavior that accompanied the now deceased lifestyle, seems to get somehow magically erased from the public consciousness.
Take the case of Jade Goody for example. The ultimate reality television star, she became a brand in herself, with all the book deals, perfumes and merchandising that goes along with it. Skip forward a few Big Brother seasons, cue some poorly thought out comments and an on screen temper tantrum and the media of the world has her labeled a racist ‘chav ‘and the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with society today. That is until, she’s diagnosed with cancer. Brand Jade is then forced to live out her last days being depicted angel-like in soft focus pictures, gracing the front cover of every publication that had previously sought to drag her down. The phrase ‘live and die by the sword’ springs to mind.
Terrible as it is ,death provides the ultimate PR ‘get out of jail free’ card that can both save a failing brand and preserve it’s legacy for years to come.
At the time of his death Jackson was millions of pounds in debt and one might quite fairly question the real reasons why a seriously ill man would agree to do 50 consecutive performances after a gap of how many years?
Ultimately the fans – the consumers- didn’t want a frail human being with all the misgivings and inadequacies that go along with that. They wanted a carefully crafted brand that was built to satisfy their every need by the professionals who know how to give it to them.
In marketing from the afterlife I have no doubt that the Jackson brand will go from strength to strength. Now he’s not here to hang babies out of windows the risk element has been removed and the professionals will be left to do their job.
Mercenary though it may sound, there is an argument to suggest that once an individual makes that transition into brand they cease to be a sole trading entity and become property of the shareholders, in many instances it seems, even in death.