marketing has taken a very strange turn. that’s not to say that marketing hasn’t always been kind of a strange phenomenon in and of itself (check check these vintage ads) but these days, consumerism has hit this weird plateau, wherein it’s not entirely that difficult to sell junk to the overly indulgent public. or maybe i’m watching too much mad men. i heard this really spot on quote a while back, right after when apple CEO steve jobs had passed away, that steve jobs didn’t know what people wanted, he created things and then made people want them. or a more eloquent version of whatever i just said. whatever. the point is, branding has a lot to do with it – slap the mac apple on it and immediately, people are sleeping outside futureshop in tents living off beef jerky and vitamin water for weeks just to get their grubby hands on it. that’s not to say that apple hasn’t produced some really incredible gadgets, ones that have changed the way we live our lives (and by that, i obviously mean “changed the way we encounter reality..aka not at all”). but seriously, i digress because this really wasn’t the direction i was heading, in fact, what i wanted to talk about is the celebrity label. and i guess mac is kind of related because apple is pretty much a celebrity label itself, even more so with the death of steve jobs. buckle up, kids, this is gonna be a bumpy one!
(fake) ipod ad featuring michael jackson via pulsarwallpapers.com
so, this post sprang from a chat i had with the head of PR at my work, about the man everyone’s talking about: kanye west. kanye’s style has the kind of uniqueness that few male celebs can hold a candle to. you’re probably wondering where i’m going with this – but actually it’s all pretty related (i promise i’ll even somehow tie in my ramblings about apple from earlier!) though his personal style is coveted, kanye’s personal design work is nothing special. kanye recently released his second collection at paris fashion week. how he managed to present at paris fashion week (for a second time!) is beyond me, considering the fact that his first collection was practically laughed off the runway. what’s interesting, though, is that inevitably, kanye’s line still sells incredibly well (to those wealthy enough to afford it). as forbes contributor blue carreon put it: “they are clothes for kanye’s tribe, women who have to attend the grammy awards in statement making clothes that reveal a lot of skin” – and lord knows everyone wants to dress like they belong in kanye’s crew. the fact of the matter is that kanye is 100% not a talented enough designer to have merited 2 runway shows at PFW; there are hundreds of aspiring young designers fighting tooth and nail to have that same opportunity, and they’re talented to boot. the name is absolutely everything. his personal style’s awesomeness is what makes people believe that his designs will be just as good (false) – even though there are a ton of us normals who have awesome personal style, it doesn’t mean anyone will think we’d make good designers. ah, the tough life of a normal.
kanye west ss’12 + fw’12 via style.com
i’m being serious though. it’s all about the celebrity label. this has its roots god knows where, but i can tell you that it’s gone as far back as when hermes named a tote after grace kelly, princess of monaco! the bag sold like crazy, and for sure it has almost everything to do with the fact that not only was this an hermes bag, it was the same one that grace kelly covered her baby bump with on the cover of life magazine. MUST HAVE, right? right?! (actually, i secretly still want a kelly bag…or a birkin, but soooo not just because it’s labelled…….)
the famous shot in life magazine via missolalablog.com
the celebrity label (or celebrity name-prefixed product) is a running trend. collab and capsule collections are everywhere, as are the ridiculous amounts of celeb perfumes and clothing lines (because really, who doesn’t want to smell like jennifer lopez?!) (i definitely wore glow by j.lo back when it was cool….) anyway, the point is that the majority of these products are nothing new, but the celebrity name is what makes the products seem desirable. take perfume for instance: the celebrity perfume market is rumoured to be worth over 250 million pounds in the UK alone. maybe this is simply a chip off the label block – labels are pretty important in terms of marketing, too. the biggest names out there barely have to make an effort to sell, relying simply on their name, because truth be told, it’s powerful shit. but it’s inarguable that celebrity namesakes have retarded amounts of power over the average consumer – jay-z sold his label, rocawear to iconix for a cool $200 million.
the influence of celebrities is uncanny. putting a celeb face on the cover of a magazine is one of the biggest marketing techniques in printed media (duh) (less duh, is the fact that this wasn’t always a “thing” – mags used to feature unknown models and drawings of women way back when). this carries over to literature in all shapes and sizes: cookbooks, how tos, newspapers, blogs..the list goes on.
apple is no different. it’s arguable that the apple apple has become a celeb label in and of itself. it’s as much a claim to celebrity as j.lo’s name (or something) – everything apple touches turns to gold. in a way, it’s one of the only ways us normals can feel like celebrities too, it’s one of the only things we have that they have too. and since it didn’t work out when i tried to buy a yacht or a swarovski crystal encrusted toilet, the iphone is a pretty awesome piece of equipment complete with celebrity status. seriously though, think about it. i’m not saying people buy iphones because celebs buy them, but “everyone is using them, including celebs” so that can’t hurt, can it? furthermore, there are far less people who buy the android or that other lesser known knock off iphone, simply because they’re under the impression that apple does it better. much in the same way that people buy chanel or hermes because they do it better, when in all reality, it’s probably all made in the same third world sweatshop (it’s a joke, relax)
it’s seemingly very easy to convince people of what they want, and that what they want is the hottest thing since sliced bread (yep). throw it on a runway, into the pages of vogue, give it a sexy commercial and a trendy name and everyone will want it. i know that’s making a pretty big statement, but that’s not to say that these marketing people aren’t talented, as a matter of fact, they’re all geniuses. nor is this a diss to designers – we all know i love me some lagerfeld. this is more a diss to society at large, myself included, because jesus, do we ever eat it up.
so, what about you? how guilty are you? scale from 1-10, i’m probably a 12.5 and that’s being pretty generous. are designers, marketers, inventors, whoever, just giving the public what they want? just doing their job as their job requires? or do we as a society let authorities brainwash us and tell us exactly what we want, and that we want it right fucking now? who is at fault? is this even a problem, or am i digging too deep?