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'Delebs' (dead celebrities): Why some succeed and some fail

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The dead celebrity ('Deleb') market has received a lot of attention lately from both the practitioner (see e.g., Ellis-Petersen, 2015b) and academic (see e.g., D'Rozario, 2016a) literatures. According to recent estimates, this market is now worth several billion dollars in annual licensing and royalty revenues (see e.g., D'Rozario, 2016b). However, this market is dominated by just a few ('top earning') Delebs who ghoulishly return every year, with great success, most often in carefully crafted and executed advertising and marketing campaigns. No paper to date has examined why some Delebs succeed (as top earners) and others fail. In this paper, for the first time, we identify the key factors that spell success for these top-earning Delebs, as well as the factors that doom others to failure. We begin by defining some key terms. Next, since these Delebs come from a wide variety of backgrounds, ranging from art to science, we briefly survey their backgrounds, for the reader who may not be familiar with many of these Delebs. We also summarise these backgrounds via a table (see Table 1), for ease of reference by future researchers. Following this, we examine and categorise the major factors that explain a Deleb's marketing success, post-mortem. We also summarise all of these factors in a table (see Table 2) for future researchers to examine, test and build upon. We conclude with some key principles learned, look at some limitations of this paper, and suggest future directions for Deleb research.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2017

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