When I first conjured up the premise for this article Steve Jobs was still alive (and barely) kicking and Apple were about to announce the suspected iPhone 5 to much hysteria. A few days later and everything changed radically. The world lost a great visionary and Apple’s stock took a nose dive because they happened to have marked their latest product with a 4S rather than incrementing its version number to a 5. Follow the news and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were reading about the lives and activites of actors or pop stars.
And you wouldn’t be wrong. Corporations today, and often the people that run them, have become celebrities in their own right, imbuing more than just the ideals and functions of their products but actually existing as icons, whether rightly or not, for inspiration and gossip. It seemed that not long ago we couldn’t care less what the boring world of business was up to but now we read about them on a daily basis. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Groupon, Facebook, Twitter, the list goes on, present an endless stream of modern companies that fascinate us enough to hold them up in the same light as Brad Pitt or Madonna. Corporations are the new celebrities and we just can’t get enough of them.
Corporations are the new celebrities and we just can’t get enough of them.
It’s not necessary a bad thing either and one could easily argue that these corporations have added more value to the world than the likes of Paris Hilton but it seems, however, that we are still fickle in our choice of businesses to celebritize. Whilst Goldman Sachs may be infamous now for its economical power, it doesn’t quite inspire the same degree of loyalty or admiration as the likes of Apple, Amazon, or even Facebook, companies that were started from scratch in their founder’s bedrooms and have since risen to such prominence that they influence are daily activities and the way we live our lives.
In many ways I can understand these corporations’ celebrity status and our utter infatuation with them as they perfectly embody the American Dream and the modern ideals of capitalism. We are taught, all over the West, that we are free to work hard and create anything we desire and while only a handful of us ever fulfil this privilege, deep down we all love and admire (and perhaps covet) those that succeed. By turning companies into celebrities and making them more than just faceless, for-profit organisations, we are condoning and sanctioning their existence, putting our stamp of approval on their success.
Just like the human need to look up to our peers and, however strangely, use celebrities as role-models we are also starting to do the same with corporations but now our bond is closer than ever because we can actually own a piece of them. By buying Apple products (or shares even), we are part of Apple and part of everything they represent, a kinship that is often milked by marketing and advertising. Likewise, you only just need to look at Facebook or Google to see them becoming inseparable pieces of our lives and perhaps their celebrity status is a result of our reluctant acknowledgement of the power they hold over us.
Steve Job helped stoke the fires of controversy with his famous disdain for his competitors
This creates fierce loyalty too and just like the fans who screams their lungs out at Britney Spears concerts, countless minions have been indoctrinated into the fan club of Mac and would, quite likely, fight a PC advocate to the death over which platform is best. And just like the leader singer of a famous band, Steve Job helped stoke the fires of controversy with his famous disdain for his competitors. He was certainly happy not to be a silent and faceless business leader.
I’m not surprised about our changing views towards corporations and I can’t say I’m particularly adverse towards our newfound desire to turn them into modern celebrities. While we need to be careful that we remain rational in our appraisal of their products and not find ourselves in the trap of mindlessly buying their wares out of some conditioned loyalty and celebrity romance, anything that puts a more human face on the companies that run our world can only be a good thing. Plus it’s sure as hell going to make reading the business news a lot more interesting.