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Death of a Brand?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you’re well aware of the death of pop icon Michael Jackson. Regardless of your opinion of the embattled singer, one thing is for certain: his death has sparked renewed interest and demand in all things MJ.

Not long after news broke of Jackson’s death, both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble sold out of his CDs. Demand for any and all Jackson merchandise soared. At press time, his songs dominated seven of the top 10 single downloads on iTunes.

But now that Michael Jackson the man is gone, what happens to Michael Jackson the brand?

In recent days, many have compared Jackson’s fate to that of another cultural icon, Elvis. But like Jackson, Elvis’ music is only part of the story. The incredible marketing of the Elvis brand for more than three decades has decidedly fixed the King into American culture. Many would argue Elvis became bigger in death than in life. And many are banking on Michael Jackson to do the same.

Yesterday, tour operator AEG announced it would give refunds for Jackson’s “This is it” tour. But it’s also offering would-be concertgoers a chance to opt instead for the actual ticket, with Jackson-designed graphics, as a little piece of history. There are tribute concerts in the works, memorabilia for auction and, as with many legends, a layer of mystery surrounding Jackson’s life and death.

It’s too soon to speculate on the longevity of the Michael Jackson brand. But I think we can all agree on one thing: the King of Pop hasn’t quite left the building.

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