Thursday, July 03, 2008

Postmodernism Lives!

Ok, call me perverted, but I love this: the Fundamentalist Curch of Latter Day Saints, the Texas LDS sect that recently had all their children removed and then returned by the state because of unproven allegations of child abuse, is launching a clothing line. And here's the beautiful part: it's a children's clothing line.

And why not? The minute any person or group becomes famous in America the first thing they do is launch a clothing and/or perfume line. Gerry Garcia sold neckties for crying out loud. I doubt he wore a necktie anytime in the last 50 years of his life. Diddy, J-Zee, Regis, Trump, J-Lo, they all jump on the band wagon. Paris Hilton? Please! Basketball players have it easy because they kind of have a franchise set up through Nike or Rebok. All they have to do is license their names and their shoe appears.

Seabrook is right: the brand is the filament linking culture to marketing. The primary goal of every person trying to break into the cult of celebrity (as opposed to those athletes, actors and singers who are truly into it for their art--a decidedly modernist attitude) is to create a brand around themselves and then sell their identity through licensing deals or their own product lines. Even guys in obscure fields like hunting and fishing have their own clothing lines and lines of lures, marinades, or game calls. There is no such thing anymore as non-commercial space. There is also no such thing as a non-commercial person. We are all both consumers and producers. We are all commodities. And those of us who successfully exploit our own personal brands are the icons of today's marketing culture. The secret of Michael Jordan's popularity is not that he was the greatest basketball player alive. It's that being the greatest basketball player alive made him the greatest pitchman alive. His popularity extended far beyond basketball, mostly through commercials and his shoe line. The same is true of the other big earners in sports: Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Junior, Tiger Woods, Shaquile O'Neil, and Michael Shumacher. Shumacher used to be the highest paid athlete in the world until his retirement two years ago. Now, in spite of being retired, he's the 5th highest paid athlete int he world. Jordan, also retired, is the 10th highest paid athlete. Woods, who made $100 Million last year, only made $11 million in winnings. The other $89 Million was in endorsements. It is all about Brand Tiger. As Jameson would say, it is "the logic of late capitalism."

So why shouldn't the FLDS start a children's clothing line? We've been watching the women of the sect, for the past to months, parade across our TV screens in those prairie dresses they wear. It has become kind of an identity for them. Of course they are going to take advantage of it. Marketing these days is all about niche marketing, and while the FLDS look is unlikely to catch on in the main stream it can certainly make the sect a whole lot of money.

I am so amused.


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