Once upon a time, companies made products. Your local weaver gained a reputation for excellence, because you saw her clothes day after day on your aunt and your neighbor and your classmate, and you knew they were worthwhile. Population grew, industry had a revolution, and ever-growing companies had to find ways to convince people they didn’t know that their products were worth purchasing.
Along the way, someone had a stroke of genius, a light bulb moment. If I pay someone who has earned many people’s trust to say that my company’s products are good, I can sell a lot more products. I imagine that brilliant idea could have been a tough sell to that first bean-counting accountant. (You want me to spend money on someone who has nothing to do with our production? Huh?) But over time, it’s been proven to be cost effective. I pay x dollars to the pitch man, I receive y dollars in sales. The celebrity endorser served the company. The parasite latched on.
Now we have 15 year old basketball phenoms already thinking about their product endorsement plans. The celebrity has grown bigger than the products they are pitching, and something about our entire system has gone askew. More and more dollars go to marketing, less and less to producing actual products.
The pinnacle of role reversal came last week, as Nike rolled out an ad to resurrect the image of their billion dollar, disgraced pitch man, Tiger Woods.
Think about this for a minute. Nike, a company that makes shoes and golf clubs (among other things), developed, filmed, and paid for an ad solely designed to help the image of Tiger Woods. The company is supporting the endorser. Host serving parasite. Money that could have made shoes instead goes to helping Tiger’s image.
They have no choice. They have entire brands with Tiger’s name. Rather than the product being king and the celebrity propping it up, the celebrity has made the product and given it all its value. So Nike must save the celebrity.
Does anybody else think this is scary? This is the self-destruction to which our celebrity culture has been heading for quite some time.