Celebrity endorsement is now big business – and getting bigger each year as more and more brands find an excuse to participate in our ‘famous for 15 minutes’ culture. Miley Cyrus twerked her way to $76m in 2013, eclipsing even David Beckham’s $42m – and who can remember any of her songs!
And it goes back a long way: Queen Victoria featured in posters for Cadbury’s chocolate. Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe all featured in ads for shampoos.
Who can blame them – it’s easy money!
But what is it about these people that makes us want to buy the products they are promoting? After all, we know it’s a con, and they are doing it for the money, rather than their love of the brand.
More to the point, what does it tell us about ourselves.
Well, on a simplistic level, maybe we want to imitate them – to be like them, to bask in the reflected glory of their endorsement. It’s a bit like showing off, by sharing the good taste of the star: glory through association.
Perhaps we are role-playing when we buy these products: trying to act like them, deluding ourselves that we are every bit as good as them.
All this is true. But it goes much deeper than that.
We live vicariously through these stars. They fill a void created by our own sense of inadequacy. We are fed a diet of glittering lives by the media, which creates the feeling in us that we are not getting as much out of life as these beautiful people are.
So rather than address these inadequacies in our own lives, we project ourselves into their world of make-believe, gaining some vacuous and short lived satisfaction in the process. It’s so much easier to go into a shop and buy the product than it is to learn to accept ourselves as we are, and be content with that.
It is a rare thing to encounter a person who is at ease with themselves: ‘comfortable in their own skin’, as it is sometimes described. And as the celebrity culture exerts a stronger and more habitual influence over our lives, they are going to become even rarer!
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