Paris Hilton – Celebrity Gossip Fodder, Jailbird, or Marketing Guru?

Ah, Paris Hilton. Omnipresent, overexposed and under appreciated. Is there anything about her — any part of her — that all of America is not yet familiar with?

She’s the quintessential celebrity of the 21st century, famous just for being famous. She’s not known for being a singer, actress, model, designer, author, or entrepreneur, though she is all of those things. She’s known just for being … well, Paris Hilton. And today, that brand is among the most recognized in the world, and worth millions.

So how did she become famous enough to exploit her ever-burning media spotlight? After all, there are plenty of rich, vaguely attractive people in America, and most of them aren’t on the front page of the tabloids every week.

Was it (A) her modeling career, which she began professionally at age 19 (she signed with Donald Trump’s company, of course). Or (B), her frequent appearances at swanky events and hip clubs. Maybe (C), her cameo appearance in the film, Zoolander?

If you said, (D), none of the above, you would be correct. Paris got her 15 minutes of fame because she was filmed having sex, a lot of it – And here in the YouTube, viral marketing generation, 15 minutes can last a lifetime (of free publicity).

1 Night in Paris, the sexual exploits of Ms. Hilton, burst onto the Internet in 2003, suspiciously close to the debut of Paris’ reality TV series, The Simple Life. Between the sex tape and the TV show, Paris mania was in high gear, having secured her spot in the pantheon of celebrities who have done really dumb things, gotten caught and profited wildly from the exposure. Overnight, her haughtiness, dumb-blonde persona, and her wealth made her a paparazzi’s dream, every man’s fantasy and the object of scorn, ridicule and conversation at water coolers across the globe. No amount of money could have bought more far-reaching word of mouth publicity.

The E! Television program, The Simple Life, was proof positive that the country’s thirst for all things Paris was unquenchable. The series was at first, curiously amusing and later, excruciatingly unwatchable. It was mercifully canceled in 2007, after a four year run.

Paris has appeared in a few films such as House of Wax, where audiences cheered at her untimely demise. She has released an album, co-wrote a book in 2004, moonlighted as a jewelry designer, has her own line of perfume, has her own chain of nightclubs AND makes millions on her own each year.

In 2007, after scoffing at the California legal system for years (most of which was caught on tape), Paris was arrested for driving with a suspended license stemming from a previous DUI incident.

America was suddenly giddy, clamoring for Paris Hilton jail news, deriving guilty pleasure from the details of her ordeal and less than star treatment. Media coverage was comically overblown. Paris’ attempts to evoke pity and empathy through her leaked diary entries, were chronicled in detail by the thirsty gossip hounds. We all snickered and watched with rapt attention.

And, while all the world was giggling, this model-actress-porn star was cultivating the ridiculously successful and marketable brand that is Paris Hilton. She could have spent her life doing absolutely nothing, not just pretending to. Instead, she has captured the attention and imagination of the world. Would you buy Paris Hilton sparkling water? Neither would I, but millions undoubtedly would, adding to the $6 million a year she currently earns (according to Forbes Magazine).

While we attribute very little of the planning of these brilliant marketing mini-events to Paris, she has played her part perfectly. The carefully orchestrated chaos is far more difficult to pull off than people think. Just compare Paris Hilton, the brand, to the brands Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears. Wrong puppeteers pulling those strings.

How can you do your part? How can you contribute to the global marketing plan that keeps her lifestyle alive and fuels her next venture or stunt and fuels the brand? Just mention, joke about or deride her as millions of other Paris Hilton fans or haters do every day. We all need distractions and diversions in our dull, hum-drum lives. We all need something, someone to turn to when we’re feeling really bad about ourselves, so that we can feel, well…better. Thank goodness, we’ll always have Paris.

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