Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Re-branding of Michael Jackson


Michael Jackson's musical legacy is hard to argue with.

But it's his personal brand that fascinates me.

What's going on here?

The events of this past week have been bizarre to say the least.

Michael Jackson seems to have been re-branded overnight.

Gone is the controversial 50 year old that in recent years has had his share of troubles (financial, legal, medical).

In it's place is a undisputed "King of Pop" who is being embraced and flaunted as a symbol of triumph (not tragedy).

From a branding point of view, it's a situation we'd all like have. To be able to erase any negative perceptions overnight and replace them with an outpouring of public acceptance, tributes, and even financial success (his albums are selling better than ever).

Granted, the catalyst for all of this is a tragic event and something that none of us would wish for in the world of brand, or the real world.

Nevertheless, I am amazed at the 360 degree re brand and I can't help wondering why this is happening.

Is it that he's hit a nerve at a particular time in the Nation's psyche when we are so desperate for redemption that we are willing to overlook a lot to get there?

Is there a racial pride element here that is perhaps linked to the historic election of the Nation's first African American president? A need to continue to search out and elevate heroes? Or even a desire to protect ground that has been so painfully gained?

Or is it simply that in the case of Michael Jackson, that the good parts of his brand are so powerful that they outweigh the bad?

But if this is the case, then why wasn't he accepted back into the mainstream before his tragic death?

I can't think of another celebrity brand that has had this quick and successful of a re-branding.

Madonna has reinvented herself several times, but she doesn't seem to have ever had to come back from so far.

Britney has made toe dips into the waters of re-invention (with some fan support) but again I can't imagine this level of global tribute if something horrible were to happen to her.

Woody Allen has somewhat recovered from his fall from grace and the scandal with his ex- step-daughter, now wife. But one could argue his brand has lost some of it's luster.

Martha is back, but seems to have been humbled and not quite returned to her former glory.

What exactly is going on here that is allowing Michael Jackson to be re-branded overnight from a clearly troubled-soul who seemed to be struggling with his identity, to a symbol of pride and a beloved national (even global) figure.

Maybe in a year of horrible financial news, unparalleled betrayals (e.g. Madoff), and personal crisis where millions of us are forced to redefine our own personal brands and struggle with what our own legacies might be... that perhaps the world needs to believe in something simple, and pure?

Maybe that's why so many are so willing to wipe the slate clean and embrace a rose-colored glasses version of a well-known brand.

But I'm not sure, I still don't quite get it.

That's my point of view. What's your twist?
What do you think is driving the re-branding of Michael Jackson?

2 comments:

  1. I've been thinking a lot about this as well, and I think it goes back to how much value and power "transformative brands" have. Transformative brands (such as Universities, Foreign countries,and Michael Jackson) provide rich consumer experiences that have a major impact our lives. That's why people are willing to pay so much for University, Vacations, and Concert tickets!

    In most interviews with everyday people about Michael, you hear them talk about a memory they had dancing or singing to Michael...They talk about a distinct memory with others,there is almost a sense of nostalgia.

    I think brands that provide such POSITIVE PERSONAL emotional experiences are extremely powerful, just as brand that provide NEGATIVE PERSONAL emotional experiences are equally powerful in the opposite sense (hence the deep animosity to wall street and now Bernie Madoff as one who represents the "greedy villains" that right or wrong, people believe have put us in the financial state we're in).

    I think the Michael Jackson outpouring is just a sign and reminder to all that we as humans value experiences most and therefore will be more loyal to brands that provide us with positive ones.And by taking this insight to our professional lives and constantly striving to make consumer brand experiences better, we can increase brand loyalty (and brand forgiveness if ever needed).

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  2. Julie@BrandTwistJuly 3, 2009 at 6:52 AM

    Great comment Lauren. The experience angle is so important. Especially now when the value of "things" seems so random. But memories from experiences do last a life time. I remember how I remember where I was and how I felt when I saw his famous "moonwalking, silver glove" performance. I was awestruck. Thanks for sharing.

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