24th August 2023

Star burst: the rise of celebrity fragmentation

By Alexis Fragale, Director, Consumer Insights, Mindshare USA

As technology changes, so does fame. 

Many years ago, when the written word dominated, politicians and leaders were the main focus of our collective attention. Then, the invention of radio and TV and movie screens shifted the power of celebrity to actors and musicians.

Now, the growth of the digital age has democratized fame where anyone can become famous, bypassing old gatekeepers like elections and casting directors. 

Today fame has become so fragmented that we’re often exposed to only a small subset of the modern celebrity class. With so many different platforms and channels, our highly personalized media consumption has given way to just as many celebrities. Each platform owns their own niche: Khabane Lame leads TikTok, Mr. Beast was named top creator on YouTube, and five out of the top 20 Instagram accounts are Kardashians. 

As such, our collective experience has changed.

A totem pole that once united generations under a shared identity has fragmented into a million pieces. Even experiences of a singular event can vary depending on which platforms you use to access it. Tentpoles like the Olympics can be watched on TV, streamed online, read about, and even experienced from the athlete’s point of view on social platforms like TikTok. We no longer have to seek out creators and artists; instead, algorithms are now dictating who we see. Tailored to your taste, the stars you’ve encountered may vary vastly from your peers.

In parallel, the lifespans of stardom have also shrunken over time. Viral media has catapulted normal folks to short-lived notoriety, fulfilling Andy Warhol’s idea of 15 minutes of fame. Blink and you might miss it. Viral sensations like the corn kid, Negroni Sbagliato from House of Dragon actress Emma d’Arcy or Ratatouille: The Tik Tok musical, dominated the conversation for a time before becoming just another flash in the pan. Many creators are desperately trying to recreate the magic that led to their videos going viral, but many wind up as one-hit wonders. 

Today, there is a new playbook—or life cycle—for the famous.

From content creation to brand engagements and creator collabs, there’s certain steps people have to take to turn themselves into the next great influencers. And inevitably, with so many gaining fame and fortune at such a young age, mistakes will happen. Which is why that life cycle now includes the eventual social media apology, shared on Instagram or YouTube. 

The old Hollywood machine isn’t going away anytime soon; this year’s Oscars continued their slow ascent from its ratings rock bottom of 2021 and the most famous person according to Google in 2023 was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. 

Still, ubiquitous stars may soon become a relic of the past.

According to a survey done by YouGov on behalf of the Consumer Technology Association, 39% of our total weekly media usage is dedicated to user-generated content. As marketers that means it’s more important than ever to understand niche influencers to reach your specific audiences. Understand where in the influencer life cycle your chosen influencers lie, and how your brand can work to engage their audiences. And with channel fragmentation, take more time to explore and understand the differences in how your audiences interact with different platforms. 

Most importantly of all: what do we as human beings ultimately lose with this shift in fame, and might it be more difficult to connect with one another without having that same shared experience? It’s worth considering how marketers and brands can play a role in helping that as well. 

Mindshare Global
    Mindshare Global