The Absurd Power of Branding … or Not

stephencolbertRecently Stephen Colbert took aim a what he referred to as the absurd power of branding. In truth I believe he, as others do, has mistaken celebrity with branding. His particular rant was about Kanye West’s new clothing line with A.P.C., and specifically his $120 Hip Hop T-Shirt. The shirt is described as: “Collaboration between A.P.C. and Kanye West. Very loose T-shirt in Egyptian cotton. Short sleeves. Ribbing at neckline. Reinforced neckline and shoulders. ‘A.P.C. KANYE’ silk screened inside neckline. Washed Egyptian cotton jersey. 100% Cotton.”

A quick online search found Egyptian Cotton Shirts, and for $23.50 you can have what appears to be an identical shirt. Appears is the operative word. What makes one shirt worth almost $100 more than the other?

One shirt has Kayne silk screened inside the neckline and the other doesn’t. Is that worth $100? Apparently. Is that branding value? No, it’s celebrity value. And as long as Kanye West is a valuable celebrity, that premium can hold.

But, celebrity value can be fleeting. Lance Armstrong wrist bands anyone?

Don’t confuse celebrity with brand. Is a celebrity a brand? Sometimes. Can a brand be a celebrity in its own right? Occasionally. But the two concepts are different, and marketers who miss that do so at their own peril.


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