Elvis and the Enduring Power of BrandBy Burkey Belser
November 26, 2014
My family moved to Memphis when I was 10, after Colonel Tom Parker had already locked Elvis Presley in a stranglehold that would last the singer’s entire short life (dead at 42, in 1977). Parker was a rapacious Rasputin who managed every detail of Elvis’ career. Those of us who loved Elvis hated “the Colonel,” as he was known in Memphis. His control over Elvis was complete and his greed singular, but the meticulous management of Elvis’ appearances as well as his physical appearance guaranteed Elvis’ legend would live on far beyond his death. Today, Elvis still lives through impersonators or, as recently reported in the Washington Post, through tribute artists.
The fact that the brand remained powerful through his transition from the hip-swiveling jean-clad singer to the hip-swiveling white jumpsuit-spangled singer is a testament to two things brand managers will appreciate: (1) only the conscientious devotion to every detail of the brand will build a brand, and (2) a strong brand can survive a radical makeover.
By the way, everyone has a favorite, uh, Elvis “tribute artist.” Mine is Martin Fontaine. He’s nailed the grooves, the moves, the voice and, most of all, the sneer.