Lessons From The Changing Face of Celebrity

Lessons From The Changing Face of Celebrity
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Brands can learn a lot from the changing nature of today’s celebrities, says strategist Daye Moffitt.

Behold, The Celebratisation Nation, where both old and new media play key roles in transforming all that is ordinary and everyday into objects of stature, fame and fortune.

Within the last decade we’ve witnessed the rise of the celebrity gardener, chef, builder, fashion designer, model, non-specific fame-seeker or housemate and last, but so incredibly far from least, the humble household pet.

The celebrity pet is without doubt the nonpareil of this pop-cultural phenomenon.

One needs to look no further than Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat, as an ideal case-in-point. You may be surprised (and green with envy) to discover that this permanently peeved animal is earning an astonishing six-figure annual sum.

Thanks largely to the internet and her meme agent (insert eye roll), Grumpy Cat’s myriad of meaningless merch includes: best-selling books, beverage lines, iPhone cases, mouse pads, mugs and t-shirts, plus much, much more.

And little lady Grumps is not alone. There are literally hundreds of other internet pet sensations producing entire product lines, all of which leverage little more than their adorable (and in some cases, ill-favored) little faces. There’s a term for this: stupidly brilliant!

Whilst I could talk about the memeconomy all day (hence its popularity), it’s also worth discussing the role democratic mediums such as YouTube have played in changing the conventional confines of celebrity.

Traditionally, a celebrity has been defined as someone recognisable to people beyond their immediate fan base. For example, I don’t watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. And not because I consider myself above totally mind-numbing television, bien au contraire, I just don’t have Foxtel.

Foxtel aside, I know Kim Kardashian’s face like I know my own mother’s, sadly. Traditional celebrity is all about breadth of recognition; it’s not about advocacy. The philosophy: who cares if no one likes me, the point is: everyone knows me.

To avoid eventual extinction, traditional celebrities (such as Tailor Swift, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus etc.) are already changing the game and taking guard against lost limelight as a new breed of micro celebrities take to the stage. Cue the applause.

The micro celebrity is defined as one who has millions of fans but is recognised by virtually no one outside of that fan base. Their net worth is based on their number of followers or subscribers, how often they tweet or get retweeted and popularity is maintained through careful and consistent fan management.

Examples include beauty vlogger Michelle Phan who has 6.7 million subscribers. Michelle posts makeup tutorials and shares life advice, because like derr, where else would you get important life advice?

There’s also The Fine Brothers who direct films that feature on any one of their multiple channels. They have 9.3 million subscribers.

Or The Shaytards, who are a family of six which launched in 2008 when Shay (the patriarch) begun uploading his weight loss videos. The Shaytards have 2.4 million subscribers. The list goes on… And on… And on.

It appears that no category is safe from the constant changes and triumphs of the digital medium. Video may well have killed the radio star, but it looks like YouTube may eventually kill the actual star (metaphorically speaking of course). Sayonara Biebs, you wont be missed.

Daye Moffitt is a strategy director at Principals 

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