The demise of Tiger Woods makes interesting discussion. The great golfer did not fail at the tee, lose the championship or suddenly discover his exquisite ability to putt had deserted him – no , rather he was triple bogeyed by a cultural value. Morality.

Since the criticism began, thousands of people have commented privately and publicly and generally there seems to be a lack of sympathy for the sportsman. But before you cast another stone, let’s examine this from a marketing viewpoint and let’s proceed with real honesty. What is it all about and who might be responsible?

I have to say that my profession must take its fair share of the blame. Marketers are manipulators. That’s right, our job is to create desire and meet need by manipulation. I have noticed that this word under the latest definition has taken on seriously negative overtones. One dictionary defines it so, “Shrewd or devious management, especially for one’s own advantage.” However according to the earlier dictionaries (1826) it is defined as, “The handling of objects or people”. In other words one can manipulate for good as equally as one can manipulate for evil. Sadly marketers use celebrities for the wrong reasons.
Marketers have persuaded consumers that what a celebrity says is credible, honest and truthful. That when they endorse a product it has their imprimatur. At that point they become spokes people and while the discerning consumers treat them with due caution, even scepticism, the less thoughtful are far less choosy, and they seem to be in the majority. Hence the ‘Celebrity’ becomes the ‘Sellebrity’.

Many ‘Celeb’s are mindless heirs, others are just plain mindless and yet we have taken them and made them graven images, worshipped them and deemed them important, when they are not. We hang on their every word and the media drives this fervour which becomes an endless commodity for the not so ethical.

Certainly unethical marketers are responsible, but so are the gullible public who, desperate to embrace a hero, find just what they want in the mundane and the banal – and the collateral damage?

The so called Celebrity, under constant surveillance is found wanting and is either destroyed or publicly pilloried. The consumer is dismayed and their method of retaliation is to portray the once worshipped ‘Sellebrity’ through unkind jokes and ridicule. The sponsor withdraws and the world returns to find another sacrificial lamb. The marketer meantime moves on to another unsuspecting future ‘sellebrity’ ready to place their reputation on the line and have their privacy destroyed, all for their moments of fame.

Marketers need to take responsibility sure, but it’s also time for us as consumers to wake up and smell the coffee. We need to decide how we will respond to celebrity status. Certainly we can admire them and respect their talent but understand that these folk bleed, like all of us, visit the toilet and suffer as we do. Being a celebrity does not qualify them to influence or intrude on our opinions, challenge our religion or politics, persuade us to use drugs by example or allow our moral compass to redirect itself and head south.

Remember, when we accept that a celebrity is more worthy or influential than we ourselves, we admit that we are smaller – lesser. In the words of one great intellect,

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our dark that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people do not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. Its not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people the right to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”