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The marketing of deceased celebrities. The marketing of deceased celebrities.

The marketing of deceased celebrities.

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A two-billion-dollar industry, that’s what it has become. The marketing of dead celebrities attracts a lot of big brands and with that, controversy.


Was he “under pressure”?

On January 10, 2016, David Bowie died. Even his biggest fans didn’t see this one coming. The English singer, songwriter and actor died in his apartment in New York City. He had liver cancer and during the last year and a half, he had kept his illness private. The world was in shock.


Two days before his death, Bowie released his twenty-fifth studio album; ‘Blackstar’, was released on his 69th birthday. Was this a ‘parting gift’ to his fans or a smart strategic marketing move? Did he know he was going to die? And was that why he released a new album?


Five months later, the album ‘Bowie – Legacy, the Greatest Hits’ was released. Memorials were created in London, Berlin, New York City and in other cities where Bowie had spent part of his life. Sales of his albums skyrocketed. A celebrity’s death makes marketing people do weird things. Gaining money out of someone’s death by releasing a ‘best of’ album only five months later. Is that smart or disrespectful?


Yes, celebrities are wanted. Dead or alive.

Of course, David Bowie isn’t the only celebrity worth serious amounts of money, even after his death. Do you remember the Coachella festival in 2012? Tupac appeared on stage as a life-sized hologram, fifteen years after he was fatally shot. ‘He’ strutted across the stage, and stunned the crowd by yelling out ‘What the f*ck is up, Coachella?’ He not only sang and danced with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, he interacted with them. It was so astonishing, as a matter of fact, it makes you wonder if a deceased musician could now go out on tour. Would you buy a ticket?


You can ask yourself the question: why wouldn’t you merchandise all kind of things? Delebs (oh yes, there even is a word for dead celebs) remain famous. If not immortal. Their looks are frozen in time, and with technology, they can be made to say and do anything. From a marketing point of view, they attract a lot of money, attention and controversy. Many celebrities become even more valuable in memory than they were in real life.


You are a marketer and consider jumping on this train of success? Well, you will gain awareness, people will remember your brand but you will have a lot of controversy too. Maybe it is better to make a deal with celebrities who are still alive.


Whether you work with celebrities or not, we believe that you as a marketer, have to find the meaning of your company. Does it fit with the identity of your brand? Make meaningful elements an integral part of the brand, its identity and its products. George Clooney and his cup of Nespresso are a perfect match. Tiger Woods and Nike were the biggest bromance until Tiger messed it up. But they are cool again, now. They connect and make each other stronger.


And David, don’t worry. You will never become boring. In a couple of years, you will have your own hologram. So long, Major Tom.