Who are the Most durable stars? No, not Joan Crawford, Bette Davis,Katherine Hepburn. And forget about Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Tyrone Power.
Well, then, just who are the most popular stars? Madison Avenue knows. It’s about which deceased celebrities sell the most merchandise — the toughest standard by which movie star longevity can be measured.
Sure, stars from the classic Hollywood live on in our affections. But who can still sell tickets — that is, move the merchandise?
The commercial longevity of deceased celebrities — think Elvis and Elizabeth Taylor, for example — is carefully tracked by an outfit called Marketing Evaluations, whose founder developed what is known as the “Q Score” back in the early Sixties. Advertisers and marketers weighing product tie-ins with the famous dead check in for their respective “Q Scores” to find out who is best known and still popular.
The New York Times reported, for example, that Marilyn Monroe – who would be nudging 90 today had she not died in 1962 — is near the top of the some 145 departed celebrities with Q ratings, but she is by no means the favorite. Still in all, Marilyn’s name remains golden — or at least green.
The Times includes this interesting business factoid: Monroe, whose estate was acquired by Authentic Brands Group in 2010, has a significant presence on social media, with more than 7.3 million followers on her official Facebook page and more than 153,000 followers on Twitter.
Those who sell the products find it reassuring that their deceased celebrity tie-ins can’t boomerang in scandal. Referring to Marilyn, marketing executive put it this way: “You know she’s not going to be stumbling down on the set or getting arrested.”
Also the price for a tie-in with dead star — such as Charlie Chaplin, James Dean and Steve McQueen, who still have currency in the endorsement markets — is a lot cheaper than the fees demanded by A-list stars still with us.
But which deceased stars have the highest Q ratings?
Topping the list is none other than Lucille Ball, who died 27 years ago. Then comes John Wayne, who departed 37 years ago. Then in terms of familiarity and popularity ratings comes Bob Hope, who’s been dead for well over a decade. Of course, Hope and Ball were huge TV stars as well as film stars.
Marilyn, the Duke, Lucy and old ski nose — an amazingly durable bunch.