Recently Kylie and Kendall Jenner were in the news for superimposing their Instagram pictures over iconic photos of Tupac and Biggie on t-shirts. Although the idea was very stupid it definitely got me thinking about why they felt they could get away with that. And the answer is because consumers made them think they could.
I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of buying a celebrity endorsed or created product at least once. I purchased the all-the-rage (and slightly cringe worthy) Kylie Jenner Lip Kit. I didn’t go out of my way to order it online or because I particularly like her, but because I had read reviews and found it at a random mall stand for a good deal, ok? The fact that I bought her matte lip paint and it works well, excites and disturbs me at the same time. The cringiness she makes me feel is also the reason I feel I need to justify my purchase to you. But unfortunately not all people end up with a quality celebrity endorsed product. Often enough, when celebrities endorse or create a product, it sucks and is probably just a money grab.
Sure the “Fit Teas” and waist trainers endorsed by Kim K or Hilary Duff are bullshit, but I could see why people would buy them. If it works for a Kardashian, why shouldn’t it work for you? They both seem like easy and quick weight loss fixes, so you only feel a little bit stupid when you realize that the tea is a laxative and the waist thing only makes it difficult to breath. Yet the joke’s on you! The celebrity selling that shit to you doesn’t even use it because it only works for one thing, and it’s not to make their waist smaller – it’s to make their wallet fatter.
Celebrities continue to give us what we think is a real glimpse into their daily lives, which makes us susceptible to believing what they show us is an attainable reality. It seems that people wish a celebrity’s “reality” was theirs and this is where us “plebs” can get taken advantage of. Our need to be superior to what we already are pushes us to buy the products we think celebrities use, that way we feel one step closer to our idols and to attaining a life like theirs.
I think the worst celebrity endorsed products go beyond teas, cosmetics, clothing or waist trainers. One case in particular is vouched for and supposedly designed by the likes of the dainty, blonde actress (and apparently entrepreneur) Gwyneth Paltrow.
Gwyneth Paltrow falls into the category of celebrities promoting their own healthy lifestyle, and quite an unrealistic one at that. Her brand is called “Goop” and I think this is for good reason because it rhymes with the word poop.
So what is Goop? I think her website explains it’s vision best. Goop “is a place for GP to introduce some of the incredible experts who have mentored her throughout her life to a wider audience, and a place where readers can find suggestions about where to shop, eat, and stay from a trusted friend—not from an anonymous, crowd-sourced recommendation engine.”
First of all. GP, really? We can’t even say Gwyneth anymore. Secondly, who says GP’s experts are any less anonymous than a “crowd-sourced recommendation”?
I don’t know about you but I didn’t feel like GP’s friend after visiting goop.com. You can buy brand name Goop skincare, homeware, clothing, supplements as well as other products from other designers Gwyneth recommends to her loyal customers. It doesn’t stop there though. She gives us travel and entertainment guides, detox and health advice, recipes, spiritual advice, relationship help and even stuff for kids.
Goop is essentially a how to guide to being Gwyneth, and that means you and I could be just like GP if we follow her advice and buy her products! All you need is money and an impressionable mind. Seriously though, imagine you are a ginormous GP fan who has a little spending money.
You might start by visiting Goop daily and just browsing for now, because her articles and recipes are enough to keep you feeling entertained and slightly upscale. But it escalates, you fall into her trap of pseudo-science health advice and eventually you start buying her supplements and skincare products. But then it extends to clothing and homeware. Pretty soon you are visiting places in the Hamptons GP supposedly loves. Then you’ve dyed your hair blonde and surely enough you feel like a close and personal companion of GP’s (and this is no mistake). This is why you fall into the final trap, the one where vaginal eggs and energy stickers come in.
Yes, you read that right. On Goop.com you can find some bizarre shit, but it may not seem bizarre if you have already fallen victim to GP’s marketing ploy. My personal favourite is the jade and rose quartz eggs designed for your “yoni”, which I guess is GP’s fancy word for your vagina. Apparently sticking the egg up there helps strengthen your vaginal muscles, balance energy and give women better orgasms. At a cost of up to $66 I really want to tell GP to stick the egg up her own yoni.
Equally, and if not more, ridiculous you can purchase “wearable stickers that promote healing” from Goop. At a cost of $120 for a pack of 24, these stickers are meant to rebalance the “energy frequency” in one’s body. Initially, GP had advertised the stickers as being made with NASA technology. However after intense backlash, her site no longer mentions this “fact”.
As you are reading this you are probably thinking, “this writer is dumb, I would never buy this crap.” That may be true, but some of you out there might have already bought into it and no one should judge you for that.
Current advertising trends condition us to be susceptible to celebrity marketing tactics. Instagram is one of the main platforms for this marketing, however some regulation has made it easier for us to understand that we are looking at an ad, not getting a real glimpse into someone’s lifestyle. Just so you know this regulation consists of simply the addition of a hashtag, #ad. Not surprisingly, when #ad is used the post will usually get less likes than most personal posts.
Gwyneth Paltrow is a more dangerous case. She has created an entire empire based off of her “lifestyle” so much so that the fact that she’s selling a brand has become hidden. It seems like she’s selling herself, which leaves consumers with a false sense of companionship and superiority when they purchase products from her. She may not even believe her own pseudo-science, but if it seems like she does, her consumers will too. She may seem like she uses all the products she sells, making them all the more glamorous, but who says she does? Is this what makes you want to buy them in the first place?
Here’s the crux when it comes to celebrity branding and endorsements. We don’t know anything about these celebrities and their real lives, however they leave a huge impression on us. Advertising can leave us with the impression or feeling that we can create connections and/or have interactions with celebrities when we buy the things they endorse. But consumers tend to forget to question the motivation behind the endorsement… and it’s not to better your life, but for their own personal gain. Just a reminder, ethics and advertisements don’t often go together.
So where does this leave us? When you buy things from celebrities it can be an exciting experience. With that comes the hope of being more beautiful or feeling more confident (or whatever it is you are looking for). But when you get the product and start using it, the story can change. The disappointment sets in and the egg falls out, metaphorically speaking.
I think Timothy Caulfield, author of “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything?” has some very relevant commentary on this. In his book he argues that ” celebrity culture has emerged as one of our society’s most pernicious forces, contributing to, among other things, poor health decisions, wasted investments in useless beauty and fitness products, a decreased understanding of how science works, and increased dissatisfaction with our appearance and, perhaps, our lives.” It’s like we think the products that contribute to our dissatisfaction with our own lives are supposed to be the ones that alleviate it- and this is where the conundrum lies.
One of my favourite quotes is this: “comparison is the thief of joy”. It is inarguably one of the wiser things Teddy Roosevelt said. But he’s right. If we continue to compare our work, our lives and ourselves to others we will be unhappy forever. This unhappiness only increases when we start comparing ourselves to the rich and famous, whose lives are purposely poised and cultivated to look perfect in order to sell us stuff. Easier said than done, but worth a try. So next time you’re scrolling through your feed or stumble upon energy stickers, try to remember that advertisements are often curated to look spontaneous and real. So buy things that you actually like from where you like and from who you like, and recognize that happiness isn’t found in material items in the first place.