Star Branding

These days, any Hollywood star with a shred of self-respect has his or her own web site. In most cases, these sites support fan-club activities. But, more and more, they are becoming revenue centers.

You could think of the money-attracting star web site like a gig. Most major world tours receive their revenue in a 30/70 split: Thirty percent of the revenue comes from sales of the actual product the music, the ticket sales and 70 percent comes from event merchandising T-shirts, caps, cups, CDs, etc.

The merchandise sold for chain entertainment restaurants, like the Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood and the Harley-Davidson Cafe, makes up a similar portion of revenue, though analysts estimate product sales account for around 40 percent of revenue and up to 70 percent of profits for these chains.

So where does this lead me? It leads me to wonder about imminent change in the star’s relationship with the world. Most film, pop and sports stars are soon likely to be earning most of their revenue from their web activities. Not many have done so until now. But the few who have taken the chance on the web have shown there’s substantial income in the idea.

I was probably one of the first males in the world to head down to the newsstand to purchase Oprah Winfrey’s new magazine, O, published a few days ago. I wanted to see how such a good example of human branding could be extended into a new revenue model. We already know her show the whole world knows her show. Now it’s time for us to know her magazine.

And interestingly enough, several pages in the magazine were devoted to promoting her next product: the web site. This website has, of course, interactive possibilities that would never be possible via the show or the magazine. I bet that within five years the 30/70 rule will apply to Oprah’s revenue stream as well: 30 percent revenue from the core product, her talk show, and 70 percent from everything else her entertainment factory produces. And, probably, most of this 70 percent will be generated by the web site.

Actor Robin Williams announced a couple of days ago his plans for a weekly half-hour talk show on www.audible.com. Williams, who possibly may never have wanted to present his own TV talk show, will, via the Internet, interview guests of his choosing, dig into archives and do some of his stand-up acts online. The most interesting fact is that he charges $US39.95 for a year’s subscription to the series, although the first eight weeks, up till May 18, are free.

Other Hollywood stars are also involved in promoting web sites: Pamela Anderson Lee deals with AltaVista, Anna Nicole Smith is promoting E*Trade, Sophia Loren is promoting GiftCertificates.com, and Whoopi Goldberg promotes Flooz.

And not only do they receive substantial options in the dot-com companies they have these relationships with, the experience offers them an opportunity to learn how to move their intellectual entertainment property onto the Net.

On the music side, stars have web sites dedicated to them. David Bowie, for example, is the subject of a number of sites (archives sites, for instance, like the David Bowie Megastore), and Hanson’s site is at Hansonline.com.

Some sites even charge visiting fans for per-second use when chatting online. Other sites offer downloads of never before released pictures for huge amounts of money. And the latest extreme is that some stars offer the use of their brand name as the URL in bidders’ personal email addresses. The result? Every time you send an email, your star’s name appears in your email address.

Star branding has taken a revolutionary direction. In the past, the stars were entities you could reach for but never catch. Now the Internet is introducing another dimension to the star/consumer relationship, one that makes consumer access to celebrities interactive.

The big picture from this focus is that it shows us yet another way in which the Internet is offering brand building new life. The Net introduces new approaches and new energy to what was seen as a well-defined, unimprovable formula.

Keep this in mind when you start working on your own brand building platform.

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