To begin on a slightly more melancholy note this week, we've had quite a few losses lately, haven't we?
The reaction of the masses to the passing of an icon (and in this case, two icons) is always an interesting social study. Celebrity deaths seem to bring out strangely raw emotions in people. How many in the world truly knew Farrah Fawcett? Or Michael Jackson, for that matter? Not many. But as with any celebrity, each gathered legions of fans, admirers, and in some cases, detractors, in their wakes. That familiar, albeit unwelcome, tug of grief at one or both of their deaths was felt around the world.
I don't want to go into the ways these two celebrities differed—they're too numerous to mention and we all have other things to do today. However, there was one striking similarity between both Farrah and Michael that struck me.
The hair. The glove. Separate entities, sure, but symbols of one thing: Their work might have been the medium, but their style senses were their brands.
Whether you loved it or hated it, Farrah's feathered, winged coif was adored and replicated by women (and men) for most of the 70s and early 80s. It helped her become the standout star during her short stint on Charlie's Angels, defined her iconic red-bathing suit photograph on the cover of Life magazine, and catapulted her hairstylist to international acclaim. You might be saying to yourself, "It's just hair." But let's not forget a more-recent example of a coif gone wild: "The Rachel," circa 1994. Seemingly instantly, every woman you knew was rocking Jennifer Aniston's shag. Farrah was the original, and her signature style spawned imitators around the globe.
Same goes for Michael Jackson. Regardless of how ridiculous the pieces sound out of context—epaulets, loafers with white socks, red leather and the solitary sequined glove—together, they conjure up the man, the myth, the legend that was Michael Jackson at a time when he was nothing more than the undisputed King of Pop. His unique style of dress became his mark, lovingly replicated by fans everywhere.
Fame is a funny thing, and its tendency to be thrust upon some while eluding others more worthy comes down to one thing. Branding. It is especially evident in the cases of both Farrah and Michael, and it's inescapable no matter how artists try to reinvent themselves.
Madonna? The queen of personal style evolution? For a certain generation, she will always be decked out in a tutu, a bustier, lace gloves and scads of pearl necklaces. And it's O.K. How else does a celeb seep into our subconscious?
We in the promotional products industry have made our livings based on this idea. Branding works. Branding gets through. Branding is eternal.
I talk a lot (some might say ad nauseam), about the importance of including the element of fashion in your promotions: knowing and adapting trends, keeping color choices fresh, and securing the best fit possible. What I don't talk about enough, I think, is the importance of the apparel's whole reason for being—the logo. Without it, of course, a promotional item goes back to being just a plain, old T shirt/polo/button-down. Without it, our industry wouldn't exist.
Are your clients elevating their signatures to their highest marketable power? New embroidery technologies, embellishment options and creative placement ideas beg to be implemented. We have the power to help our customers decide how they want to be remembered.
'Til next week!