Celebrity names/brand names : Nicole Kidman, Chanel no. 5 and commodification
Many cultures believe that personal names are imbued with strong magic (Dossey, 1999, p. 12). Furthermore, according to anthropologists Mary Douglas and Caron Isherwood, “the structure of culture” itself is based on the shared knowledge of the names of goods. These names, they say, underlie “a means of thinking” – that is, a culture’s understanding and hierarchising of the world. Sharing this knowledge is a social pleasure that further strengthens cultural ties (1979, p.75). This cultural studies chapter will explore the functions, within consumer culture, of the names of performers – particularly film stars – and the names of branded products. The literature review covers names and naming; star theory; and commercial discourse on brand creation. It is followed by textual analyses that demonstrate the parallels between stars’ names and brand names.To illustrate the importance of names as fundamental organising principles both of stardom and brands, this chapter uses the example of Nicole Kidman’s appearance in a $60 million, two minute commercial for Chanel No. 5, made in 2004, and its various associations with famous, glamorous “names” (Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe and Catherine Deneuve, for example). Directed by Baz Luhrmann – himself a “famous name” – the commercial was supported by a number of promotional campaigns, including its own “making of” documentary.While this chapter analyses a series of name-texts in order to show how they contribute meanings to the commercial, it also considers the ways in which these promotional intertexts work to ensure that target audiences have a strong awareness of these “names” and their associations – associations that guide audience interpretation of the commercial, position the engaged audience as “knowing”, and provide pleasure in the process. This chapter therefore links together three typically unconnected fields of research – academic star theory, scholarly and popular writing about names, and commercial writing about branding – in order to highlight the important, complex,but virtually unrecognised functions played by names as they shuttle cultural meanings among celebrities, commodities and consumers.