ABG’s Jamie Salter On Marketing Marilyn

Jamie Salter, CEO of Authentic Brands Group (ABG), has talked about how Marilyn helped to build his business empire, in an interview with Forbes magazine.

“For Marilyn Monroe, Salter purchased 80% of the Monroe estate in 2012 for a reported $20 million to $30 million before slashing its 300 licensing deals—from T-shirts to refrigerator magnets—down to 80. Then he built the business back up, purchasing the other 20% of the estate and increasing the number of licenses to the sweet spot of 100, focusing on venerable brands that Monroe actually used in life—like Chanel No. 5.

‘You can sell X amount of Marilyn Monroe fragrance at a mass-market retailer, or you can do a deal with Chanel No. 5,’ Salter says. ‘A No. 5 deal doesn’t pay as well, but I think that’s important for the brand because it gives a halo effect. And the truth of the matter is, she wore Chanel No. 5.’

He [initially] went after the Marilyn Monroe business and received a no. But eventually Anna Strasberg, the widow of Monroe’s acting coach Lee Strasberg (to whom she’d left her estate), came back and agreed to a deal to sell 80%. (And three years after Salter bought into Monroe, Strasberg sold him the rest of the business.)

Monroe’s business became so successful in the years following Salter’s arrival that he ended up paying the same amount for the last 20% than he had for the first 80%. He wouldn’t reveal precise numbers, but industry insiders were nevertheless impressed.”

Marilyn: ‘A Desired Brand’

Barcode Marilyn by Scott Blake

Writing for Forbes magazine, Patrick Hanlon looks at Marilyn’s continuing popularity. It’s an interesting piece, despite a few misattributed quotes.

“Powerful brands have a creation story, and Marilyn’s tale of a beautiful abandoned child and rags to riches contains elements of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, a Horatio Alger tale, and Joseph Campbell’s mythic orphan rolled into one.

Like the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile, Marilyn Monroe is a mystery of parts. She meant sex in an era when sex was a four-letter word. She was also uniquely feminine, a Woman in an age of Men. She struggled, fought, and succeeded against the desires of men who tried to bully her.

Legendary brands give us mental images, words, voicing, sounds, and feelings to remember them by. Marilyn left behind a massive image bank. Photographers like Bert Stern, Cecil Beaton, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Weegee, Ernst Haas, Milton Greene, Eve Arnold, Garry Winogrand, Bruce Davidson, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Richard Avedon immortalized MM in thousands of photos that captured all her many moods. Directors like Billy Wilder, Howard Hawkes, and Joseph L. Mankiewicz put her film catalog on celluloid. And in 1962 at Madison Square Garden, some unknown cameraman taped an iconic black and white moment of Marilyn singing a breathy ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’ to President John F. Kennedy.

Stories are rivers of meaning. Tugging at the string of narrative that runs from creation story to creed, icons, rites, lexicon, nonbelievers, and leader, is what keeps brands meaningful, alive, relevant and a resonant legacy for future generations. It’s what moves people along the path from, ‘Who cares?’ to ‘care!’

Ever since her mysterious, legendary, hallowed death in 1962, Marilyn Monroe the controversial mortal has been embraced, promoted, propped up and immortalized by uniquely lesser talents who have basked in her halo, and as no small consequence have rolled up millions of dollars. Of the ten richest dead celebrities (which includes Einstein, Charles Schulz, and others), Marilyn Monroe is the only woman on the list. (Ironically, Marilyn herself once quipped, ‘I don’t look at myself as a commodity, but I’m sure a lot of people have.’)”

Marilyn 3rd on Forbes List

Marilyn comes 3rd on Forbes’ list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities for 2011, just behind Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. She had dropped off the list during 2009 and 2010, but in the last year her estate has earned $27 million.

Writing for Forbes, Dorothy Pomerantz attributes Marilyn’s ‘comeback’ to ABG, the marketing company that acquired licensing rights this year. I would add that the upcoming 5oth anniversary, and My Week With Marilyn have also played their part.