Selling Elvis in the Age of Instagram

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Image source: Vegas.com

Elvis never left the building after all. Seventeen years after his death, Elvis Presley remains one of the most lucrative names in show business. According to Forbes, he is the second wealthiest deceased celebrity, earning $55 million in 2013 through merchandising, licensing of his image, and his Graceland estate. And now, thanks to hologram technology, he will come to life in the digital age. Welcome to 21st Century branding, where yesterday’s artists can endure as immersive brands for a visual generation that speaks the language of Instagram and Vine.

According to Adweek‘s Michelle Castillo, Authentic Brands Group (which manages his estate) and Pulse Evolution are creating an Elvis hologram that will appear in commercials and movies — and host a residency in Macau and Las Vegas, the latter location being especially fitting given the legacy Elvis created in the 1970s through his extravagant shows at the Las Vegas Hilton. The residencies may even involve holograms of Elvis and Michael Jackson performing together (the King of Pop has already appeared at the Billboard Music Awards thanks to Pulse Evolution’s technology).

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Michael Jackson hologram appears onstage. Image source: Rollingstone.com

Jamie Salter, CEO of Authentic Brands Group, told Adweek, “We want you to go to the show and say, ‘Wow, oh my God! I saw Elvis 50, 60 years ago, and this is exactly the same thing.” But will the Elvis hologram appeal to a Millennial generation that never saw Elvis perform? I believe the virtual Elvis will resonate with both the Baby Boomer generation and Millennials for these reasons:

  • Elvis is a massive brand. Elvis lived large, died before his time, and captured the public’s imagination. As his standing in the annual Forbes list attests, his name is as big as ever. Everyone knows who Elvis is even if not everyone cares too much for his music, and name awareness is a strong foundation upon which to strengthen a brand.

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Image source: arts-stew.com

  • An Elvis hologram is tailor made for the concert experience, and concerts are one of the few reliable ways that the music industry can generate reliable revenue streams  across all generations (as I mentioned to Michelle Castillo in the Adweek article). Elvis was a charismatic performer onstage who engaged an audience. It makes perfect sense to bring him back for a residency, where all audiences, including Millennials, will see him in a new context.
  • A hologram is the perfect way to make a brand relevant to the Vine generation. Holograms are visual. Holograms are sexy. Holograms bring music to life visually. Elvis was a visually savvy musician who famously used both his body and his stage costumes to complement his singing.

Holograms will not work for every famous musician who has passed away. You need a musician with a strong brand, visual appeal, and a reputation for delivering memorable stage performances. We’ve already seen holograms create tremendous buzz for Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson. I can easily see Jim Morrison, Freddie Mercury, and Whitney Houston some day returning as holograms. Elvis is a classic, cool brand launched in 1954 when he began recording at Sun Records, just as the Ford Mustang was launched in 1964. And now we can conceivably enjoy several “Elvis models”: the swaggering country boy in a gold lamé suit, the confident man in black leather, and the larger-than-life spectacle who changed the nature of live shows in Las Vegas.

Who do you think will get the hologram treatment next?

How Acting in a Renaissance Faire Has Made Me a Better Executive

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Photo credit: Steven Bourelle

This summer, I have been living two lives. During the week, I am CEO of David J. Deal Consulting, helping companies build their brands with content marketing. But during the weekends, I transform myself into Nicolas Wright, a vainglorious barrister who walks a fine line between good and evil as he campaigns to be lord mayor of Bristol, England, in the year 1574. As a member of the cast for the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin, I have been scolded by Queen Elizabeth, robbed by gypsies, and stabbed with a bread loaf by a swashbuckling baker. On hot, humid days, my family and I, along with 400 cast members, wear layers of historically accurate clothing more suitable for a Chicago winter as we re-create the day when Queen Elizabeth visited Bristol, England, 440 years ago.

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Photo credit: Bristol Renaissance Faire

Why do I do it? Well, at age 51, I’m having a summer that children would envy. I am also learning lessons that are changing the way I do business and live my life — such as how to take a leap of faith, and the difference between elevating your customers instead of simply servicing them. Here is what I’ve learned so far.

1. Leap, and the Net Will Appear

I seldom make a decision without doing extensive homework. I don’t buy a bag of bagels without doing a cost/benefit analysis. But the Bristol Renaissance Faire has taught me the importance of making a decision based on faith in things unseen.

Bristol has been described as a cross between Williamsburg, Virginia, and environmental street theater. My family and I have attended for years because the make-believe Renaissance village north of Chicago hums with energy and good vibes as jugglers and fools mingle with courtiers, merchants, lute players, and all-around cool people. This year, we auditioned to join the cast in order to spread the joy that the faire has given us. We were excited when we all received the good news that we had become professional actors for 10 weekends this year. But when I told my friends and colleagues that our family had successfully auditioned for cast parts, I encountered plenty of skepticism — mostly in the form of polite but concerned questions such as, “Can you handle this kind of commitment?” “Won’t it get hot walking around all day in costumes?”

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Photo credit: Steven Bourelle

Indeed, being a cast member is a commitment. My wife, daughter, and I leave our home at 6:30 a.m. each Saturday and Sunday for a 55-mile drive one way, 10 weekends total during the hottest weeks of the year (plus five weekends of training and rehearsal onsite before opening day). Once we arrive at Bristol, we spend the morning preparing for a 10-hour, high-energy day of interacting with patrons who pay good money for an authentic, fun experience, rain or shine. On Saturday nights, we arrive home after 9 p.m. for precious rest before hitting the road again Sunday morning. By Sunday night, I am exhausted after portraying a bombastic barrister who campaigns Continue reading