Author: Cheree Royster

Big name brands are distancing themselves from National Rifle Association in response to the Florida high school shooting this month. It was the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history and reignited gun control movements in both the political and social spheres. As news media was flooded with images of victims calling for a change in gun laws and high school students across the country stood in solidarity with them, brands have followed suit and are now cutting ties with the NRA.

Earlier this month SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon Heavy rocket ship, the most powerful rocket to be sent into space by a private company to date. Even though the launch was nearly flawless, paving the way for a new era of space exploration, the most talked about aspect of the launch wasn’t the rocket, but its payload – a red convertible sports car. Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX and the electric car company, Tesla, tested the ship’s carrying capacity by loading it up with Tesla’s Red Roadster. About four minutes after launch a live video feed of the car aired from space, featuring a mannequin dubbed the “Spaceman” who was strapped in the driver’s seat wearing a SpaceX spacesuit. Majestic scenes of earth in the distance silhouetted “Spaceman” as the car-laden rocket began its orbit around the solar system.

Celebrity branding is a marketing strategy that has been utilized for centuries and has become standard practice as brands look to broaden their audiences. The tactic was first documented in the 18th century when pottery maker Josiah Wedgwood created a tea set for the Queen of England and dubbed himself “potter to Her Majesty.” Celebrity endorsements by athletes followed, then movies stars and musicians – think Michael Jordan for Nike and Beyonce for Pepsi. Today, social media has changed the endorsement game by increasing the reach of these traditional celebrities and spurring the rise of a new generation of famous people – and animals – with built in audiences that marketers are primed to target through endorsements.

As our society’s social media usage grows, the power the medium holds to persuade the population grows in kind. This is evidenced in the role that Facebook and Twitter play in politics and social movements and the money that brands and news organizations have invested in creating a strong presence on these platforms. President Trump regularly utilizes Twitter to voice his policy and opinion, most recently responding to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear threat by tweet. Social movements have thrived on social media, rallying followers with Facebook groups and hashtags. New York Times writer Amy Chozick suggests in her recent article “Hillary Clinton Ignited a Feminist Movement. By Losing.” that national feminist movement #MeToo was ignited, in part, by the poor treatment of Hillary Clinton on Facebook during the 2016 presidential race. Brands have flocked to Facebook and Twitter because that’s where consumers are spending their time and advertising agencies have developed marketing campaigns around engaging those audiences through Facebook.