Twitter and the Branding of the Celebrity Self

Curator's Note

Twitter, like other new media platforms, has reconfigured the ways the celebrity image is constructed and circulated in culture. One key function of Twitter is as a promotional tool in which celebrities (and/or their cultural intermediaries) commodify and brand their images by blurring the distinctions between the private and public self. They can market their latest projects, drawing audiences back to the public work by engaging in private or "real" talk about that work (as opposed to a seemingly more stage managed interview or television appearance). But Twitter also promotes the celebrity brand more broadly by allowing the celebrity to attach her image to appropriate cultural products under the guise of the "authentic" private self.

Kim Kardashian (who currently boasts over 5 million followers) is a master of this mode of Twitter.  Her tweets play a key role in allowing her to control and monetize her celebrity brand across media platforms.  She regularly tweets reminders to watch new  episodes of her reality shows as well as information on upcoming personal appearances, drawing them to her public self through private appeals (see slides 1 and 2). Kim has extended her star brand beyond reality television by endorsing fashion, beauty, and diet products that shore up her glamorous fashionista image as the preferred reading of her “real” self, and reinforces this image through Twitter.

Twitter supports this controlled cross-platform branding by enabling the star to directly advertise products that help support the preferred reading of her image, but in a way that tends to counteract the idea of direct advertisement by stressing her “real,” not staged, involvement with a product.  For example,Kim is a paid QuickTrim spokesperson who regularly appears in print ads for the diet aid (see slide 3).  But she also uses her Twitter feed to update fans on her own weight loss progress in ways that highlight her private and “real” self in ways not available in the ad (see slides 4 and 5).

Twitter feeds extend the reach of the celebrity as a paid endorser by explicitly stressing a direct connection with fans (see slide 6).  This Kim is “real” as opposed to the staged public self projected in the print ads, but retains the same meaning and thus successfully manages her brand.  By offering a glimpse of the celebrity’s private life that appears authentic, Twitter enables new forms of celebrity branding that simultaneously commodifies the image and allows the celebrity to more actively define the her brand by intentionally blurring the public and private selves.

Comments

Kenna Shirvanian's picture

A Little Birdie told me to go here for free advertising...

            As a person in America with little knowledge on Twitter and how it operates, I found this article to be very informative on its true nature. In the past I had only seen Twitter as just a creepy invasion into people’s lives. It seemed strange to me that regular people like me thought others would want to follow them online and know what they are doing and where they are going. This article by Erin Meyers allowed me to see that not only does Twitter blur “the distinctions between the private and public self” but now it is a new (and free) marketing tool for people. Especially celebrities, like Kim Kardashian, are taking advantage of this free promotional tool by tempting their fans and followers into buying products they advertise and support. Twitter provides an outlet for celebrities to appear as their “real” self instead of the staged celebrity we are use to and disconnected from. By making this distinction of an authentic appearance they are able to brand products to their image through this free advertising. Kim’s tweets feel as if they are personally appealing to us, as if we are a friend of hers not just a distant fan, so we feel more compelled to acquire the items she mentions. By following and supporting these celebrity twitter accounts that stress “a direct connection with fans” we are just falling for another new marketing scheme put on by advertisers and the media.       

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