A celebrity is not just a significant brand in her lifetime but can become an influential brand even after death. We must start investing in posthumousequity-management programmes inspired by the best practices of handling living icons while adding necessary layers of permanence so that their inspirational impact lives on not just anecdotally, but in a structured fashion under the auspices of a Forever Branding programme.
A Forever Branding strategy will differ in key aspects from the standard Celebrity Management programme, though united by the common purpose of maximising the potential of the client. When alive, the celebrity is focussed on gaining maximum mileage during success, true definitely for sportspeople and filmstars, an often-transactional relationship where the brand attempts to gain disproportionately. After death, what remainsas permanent memory is just the evidence of success and thus the original cause of inspiration. When Rajesh Khanna passed away, everybody remembered fondly the epic series of superhits and forgot the ‘flop’ stature of over two decades, a pattern true for every celebrity anywhere in the world. The equity management process can thus reboot from the highest possible ground, in order to define the finest permanent role.
In fact, the power of the celebrity’s actions to be a timeless inspiration, at least influence, will define the success of the Forever Branding Programme. Sridevi is truly a superior inspiration for every generation aspiring for stardom and not just for her stunning track record. The ability to break the barrier of language through the power of emotions, making light of education and exposure to achieve superstardom, reinventing successfully in tandem with age, balancing family and stardom and of course being a supremely talented actress who is always glamorous. Such multi-dimensional equity can lead to a talent academy above any, a production banner committed to new talent, a digital magazine dedicated to actionable glamour or simply a global movement for boosting self-confidence as brought to life by physical experiences. Not to mention tangible representations of glamour like a fashion range, salons, perfumes and even restaurants and luxury hotels. The possibilities as ever are truly endless and will work as long as they are drawn from finely-filtered legacy.
Which is exactly why any such exercise must begin from a clear strategic understanding of what exactly is the potential for timeless inspiration, quite like scientists, creators and explorers. We always remember Charles Lindbergh as an aviation pioneer no matter whatever be the current stateofscience just as we cannot forget Tiger Pataudi or Vilayat Khan or APJ Abdul Kalam. Each name mentioned, and so many more, still stand for a unique value that is genuinely permanent and must be unearthed through traditional brand-analysis techniques. If this value qualifies as an abiding ‘inspiration’ then a Forever Branding Programme can work well. Thus, it performs a powerful societal function, not just a money-making role, in its ability to make subsequent generations benefit vigorously from the aura of a superstar, through sustainable engagement programmes.
While some of these initiatives may take longer to brew, a viable startingpoint may be the continuation of the celebrity in prevailing advertising contracts. Unlike the current mistaken notion that the influence of the endorser dips sharply when she dies, the impact as a business endorser can in fact well continue as long as the target audience is still enamoured by the endorser. In fact, adding to a previous point, one can well argue that since the person is now immune to popularity fluctuations, she can actually be a safer bet than current stars whose fame fluctuates like a pendulum. Rajesh Khanna the matinee idol can still be used as a successful brand advocate as long as the audience is enamoured and it does not quite matter if he is no longer with us. Just as Sridevi will be exceptional as a pure-play advertising endorser for at least another decade, in categories not smitten by an obsession for youth idols.
By definition and intent, the celebrity is a larger-than-life figure and so death must be considered as just a transition and not the very end. Forever Branding programmes when rendered sensitively can extend the inspiration quotient of such superstars to way beyond the current franchise, immensely benefitting future generations. The best minds in communication must concentrate on such exciting challenges instead of resorting to mindless newscasting.
(ShivajiDasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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