Thursday, 13 December 2012

Celebrity worshiping lessons for marketing

If you think university learning is all about textbooks and journals, think again! This year we had the chance to learn about consumer behaviour from a professor who is also an accomplished film director and runs a production house within the Sydney University called Thinkbox. Marylouise Caldwell has been the recipient of six international awards for her film works.

Her documentary ‘Walk the Talk’ shed light into a pageant in Botswana, which was designed to stop the aggressive spread of HIV infection and promote dramatic lifestyle changes, and won the jurors' and the people's choice awards at the 2010 The Association for Consumer Research Conference. With all this richness of experiences, there was never a dull moment in class!

Her studies on celebrity worshiping led to the development of the ‘Living Dolls’ film based on the behaviour of the Cliff Richard Fan Club members in Sydney, which also won the people’s choice award at the 3rd North American Association for Consumer Research Film Festival. Entertainment factors aside, you may ask what celebrity worshiping studies have to do with marketing?

Everything! Fans engaged in the worshiping of celebrities enact consumer-brand relationships. Studies on consumer-brand relationships are critical to understanding marketing exchange. The celebrity worshiping behaviour also provides benefits beyond those directly linked to the famous person, for example, by creating an extended social network of people who engage in social activities and provide each other with emotional support. These are key elements of successful brand communities as mentioned on a previous blog post.

So what brand comes to mind when you think of worshiping behaviour? You got it, Apple and its countless evangelists, fans and followers. Apple, the brand, is indisputably a celebrity, possibly the biggest brand celebrity in history... What can you learn from it in terms of creating your own brand followers?

In the same way music celebs create a lot of secrecy in the development of an upcoming album, Apple goes to incredible lengths to preserve confidentiality during the development of its new products. Apple is the master of teaser marketing campaign building suspense and media buzz for months before the release of a new iPhone.

The illusion of scarcity around Apple’s new products also enacts the limited amount of tickets for coveted music gigs. Scarcity increases the value of the product and prompts procrastinators to jump on the bandwagon and secure the purchase. During the release of iPhone 5, which beat records of first-day sales, Apple only allowed pre-orders. Then, an hour after it went on sale, Apple announced the heavy demand resulted in delayed delivery, adding to the difficulty and desirability of owing the new iPhone.

What other similarities do you see between the brand-consumer relationship and the interaction between celebrities and fans?

Adriana Heinzen
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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