lvis Presley is known to have been the label of rock and roll during the 50s and 60s around the world. He would end up being known as one of the most famous singers of his time, but with fame, there also comes a lot of hate that may be created by envy or simply the dislike of his character. Most, if not all, celebrities or brands in the world would enjoy being liked by everyone, but Elvis didn’t care as he used his haters to make himself even more famous and rich at the same time.
Behind every celebrity lies a great manager
With Presley’s upcoming success in 1954, he knew that he would need a manager, therefore he chose Colonel Tom Parker who stuck with Presley until his death. Parker saw the potential within Presley as well as the demand within the music industry.
His plan was to turn Presley into a money-making machine by making him something more than just a famous celebrity, a brand. His manager insisted he record a song inspired by the suicide of a man who jumped from the window of a hotel.
Everyone thought it was crazy, and even the record company didn’t agree with the idea as they knew something like that would not sell as it was simply too morbid and would be refused by the market.
After the release of the song, in less than a month, it became a top hit and stayed on top of the charts for seven long weeks. The idea was to have a controversial song that would attract a lot of attention, and that is what it exactly did.
Due to the nature of the song, it also attracted many haters who were publicizing Presley’s image even more. Any publicity is good publicity.
In order to make Elvis Presley a brand, Colonel Tom Parker chose to make Presley into a movie star as this was an old dream of Presley’s, and it would also attract more people to his brand. In 1956 Elvis Presley made his first movie, Love Me Tender, which was a huge success.
The secret behind the success of the movie was also the song also named after the movie. That is how the movie was used not only to attract customers from a different market but to attract customers from the music industry within the movie market by representing a new song.
The first merchandising campaign to be ever aimed at the teen market
Colonel Tom Parker saw an opportunity that no one else saw at the time within the music industry, that is, to create merchandise based on Elvis Presley. So Colonel Parker signed a deal with a Beverly Hills movie merchandiser for almost $40,000 (if we account for inflation, that would be $312,000 today).
The main attraction was the teen market, as this market was not yet exploited with merchandise of such nature. In just half a year, over 50 different types of products themed after Elvis Presley were produced and sold around America.
A report from the Wall Street Journal reported that by the end of 1957, the Elvis-themed merchandise had grossed over $22 million (if we account for inflation that would be $192 million today).
Make the whole market your customer
It is said that having the whole market or nearly the whole market as your customer is impossible, not necessarily due to the competitors but because some people will simply dislike/hate your product or brand. However, Elvis Presley’s manager had proven that wrong.
In 1958, a new type of merchandise product came out in the form of buttons with the message of “I Hate Elvis” which were exactly aimed at those who hated Elvis.
This product sold like hot bread on the shelf as Colonel Parker knew that Elvis had also created big hate around him, some from the envy of his success while others who simply didn’t like him, therefore, he took advantage of this “negative factor”.
Besides making lots of money from his haters, them wearing this merchandise would mean that they were indirectly paying to advertise Elvis’s brand. Therefore, his haters became his public promoters.
Elvis and his manager were able to see beyond the demand of the market, creating their own sort of demand or in this case feeding the hate of certain people with a product that was seen by the haters as a solution.
This sort of entrepreneurial mindset should be the principle for success as any product you come up with must solve a problem for a certain demographic within the market. If a product does not solve a problem or cover a need, then you are not giving a reason for customers to purchase your product.
A story like this shows how you can take control of a huge part of the market or even industry by attracting new customers by selling them merchandise specific to their needs or wants, therefore going beyond the call of duty to ensure that every demographic is happy.
This did not only prove to be an extension of the brand created around Elvis but also slowly turned the brand into a monopoly, not only within the celebrity merchandise market but also within the music industry.