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Images in the Media

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One of the first lessons learned in marketing and advertising classes is the definition of a “brand image” = The perception of your product or brand by the consumer. In the media, this idea is sometimes scrutinized to result in breaking points and disasters. Can someone be an actual brand, though? Oprah? Donald Trump? Possibly. One could argue that they have built a personal image of themselves that allowed the public to continue to add value to anything they sell and endorse. One could also argue that they paid little attention to the branding of themselves. Instead, they are praised for making wise business decisions that allowed them the freedom of expression and profit to do what they wanted. This caught on to others that wanted to do the same. Nowadays, with social media existing in our everyday routines, things have changed. Everyone is a photographer. Everyone is the paparazzi. Everyone is under the microscope. Could you handle that?

Remember when we had to call people up on land line phones and most likely wait a day or two for a response? I freaked out when I saw a pay phone at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, waiting in line for the ATM at the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic this past January. I’m not saying that I don’t love the thought of “instant” connections with people, even random strangers from time to time, but being in the spotlight also gives cause for concern if you aren’t someone who can handle it properly. Online media has spread like wildfire. Facebook has recently partnered with thousands of respectable companies to promote their updates and newest advertisements at a faster, less expensive pace. Take for example, the celebrity end:

Socialites like The Kardashian sister’s, who are more or less exploited in every fashion, are making upwards of millions of dollars in revenue from their reality television show, a clothing line, and several major products the girls personally endorse. (image via iGossip)

I’m not knocking the fact that they aren’t beautiful, but I don’t think I can take any of them seriously.

Newsflash:  99% of reality TV is scripted.  Aside from the unrealistic aspect of it all, people do watch, and it is entertaining (sometimes) to see what the fashionistas will wear next. But, will she get fat? Will she lose more weight? What athlete is she dating next? Will she wear something I won’t like? Do I REALLY care? Reality television is far from actual reality, though “Jerseyday” and status updates that read, GTL (Gym, tanning, laundry) on Thursday evenings seems to be the highlight of some of my friends’ day. As well as the #1 topic of watercooler conversation (love to the ladies of 2607).

Choosing to be in the spotlight, though, could easily put a damper on how people view and respect someone, including over-analyzing the choices that they make.  When I first signed up for twitter, not a lot of my good friends were on it. It hadn’t quite turned into a craze yet, even though Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) was hopelessly promoting it. I was following him, and yes, @KimKardashian. I settled for many E! News celebrities, aka ones that are annoyingly in the spotlight, yet we just can’t seem to get enough of. Innocence seems to disappear.

Celebs say they are on twitter  and other social media sites so they are able to retaliate with the truth and address any rumors quickly to the masses. This I actually agree with. I think the media can twist words or skew video into making someone not who they really are. If I was in their position, I’d want the chance to be able to defend myself. As a celebrity or athlete, especially one who is very recognizable, image branding should be a main priority in that they must be able to market themselves appropriately.

However, the general consumer public doesn’t quite get this concept yet. I wonder though, under a microscope, do we actually consider these people role models? It all goes back to images and branding. Although we feel more connected, and thus in support of those we interact with on a regular basis, celebrities and athletes have to work extra hard in promoting themselves the right way, more than just a business or company does for a particular product or service.

I hate to use this as a transition, but lets take a look at Justin Bieber. He is someone who is not even close to being able to vote in America yet, but selling out Madison Square Garden, worlds most famous arena, in less than 30 seconds. Awesome? Sure, it’s pretty amazing for this 16-year-old to accomplish such a feat. But recently, he has taken precedent over much more important topics, like what is happening in Egypt and political and health issues prevalent in the US. Headlines read: MVP at All Star Game, LA has Bieber Fever. (He did have a pretty sweet crossover move and assist during the celebrity all star game)

But come on, right next to news articles about Hosni Mubarak and Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi? What? No. No one can tell me that this kid, who released his life [uh, at 16?] story in 3-D movie form a couple weeks ago is on the same level as world issues. At least Justin is a positive example of channeling the good from media scrutiny. What about those that are unable to handle the pressure? Magazines like US Weekly and the National Inquirer are just waiting for something juicy to tell the world about. I admit I visit Perez Hilton and on occasion, I even watch Joan Rivers tear apart celebrity fashion choices on E! News Fashion Police after award ceremonies, just waiting for someone to make a mistake.

Luckily, 90% of celebrities and athletes aren’t in the public eye, for a reason. If you actually hung out with these people, do you really think you’d enjoy yourself? Who knows. All we know is what we see on the outside and what we’re told. The key is, to keep an overall image of one’s self as positive as possible. The saying, “any press is good press” just doesn’t seem to fly like it did during the pre-Internet era.

Being in the spotlight is not all glitz and glamour as it might seem.  In the sports world, we can talk about Tiger Woods and his downward spiral for hours…or even the tragic death of Steve McNair. What about Albert Haynesworth? Millions and millions of dollars floating around and it seems that nothing positive can come of his situation. The most recent causality, Jarret Jack, backup point guard for the Hornets, was arrested late last night for a DUI (To read more, check out AJC’s article).

So I’ll ask, what can be done to prevent these role models from doing harm to themselves and damage to their own images? What can be said to the younger generation who want to live out their dreams of becoming professional athletes or A-List celebrities? Don’t mess up? Keep your mouth shut? Make sure you know the difference between right and wrong? Maybe. Any story line can have multiple angles and sides and dependent on the situation. Anyone, famous or not, needs to be aware of the bigger picture, that life is far worthy of living if you work hard for the right reasons and goals.

Fortunately, there are some good eggs out there, promoting positive and meaningful attitudes toward what life has to offer. Take Trevor Bayne, a 20-year old rookie who won the Daytona 500 this past weekend. A Cinderella-like story of a kid from Knoxville, Tennessee who is just breaking into the business. One whose official site still reads “Coming Soon.”

As a 20 year old, what would be your first purchase if you were awarded $1,463,813 from the purse on your birthday? Who do these people have to advise them on the right thing to do, financially and beyond?

I know, I know…each person is entitled to their own opinions and can make their own decisions, but surrounding yourself with those that are upwardly moral can keep someone not only motivated to have a strong work ethic, but maintain a constant ride towards a positive direction for success. At the end of the day, we know what we should or shouldn’t be doing and it’s ultimately up to us to make those decisions. A great saying is “If you’re an eagle, don’t fly with pigeons.” You be the judge. How’s it going so far?


  1. mcbias says:

    Ha, how amusing–I ask you if you have a blog and 15 minutes later you post. Great! Glad you’re giving blogging a shot, it can be really fun!

  2. BigBeefe says:

    Very Bill Simmons esque keep it up.

  3. Michael Tillery says:

    These are interesting times because we are truly no where near the precipitous of where the Internet will take us. You make a solid point of comparing reality stars to those of a more conventional nature. I just hope the casualties are kept to a minimum for if these 15 minute celebs don’t understand the game or have shoddy pr in support their lives will fall apart before the entire world and it won’t be pretty.

    I don’t know what to make of Beiber but I will say his machine is genius.

  4. “Brands” can spread like wildfire these days, thanks to social media, which makes it ever more important to be sure of what brand you’re creating! As for celeb news vs real news, I tend to think it’s easier to swallow, and more and more we as consumers choose what’s easy as opposed to what’s important. How to fix that, I’m not entirely sure!

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