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Terapeak Trends: Do Hollywood and Music Industry Legends Drive Sales?

By Aron Hsiao  on March 28, 2014

Ol' Blue Eyes now finds his name on bottles of Jack Daniel's whiskey. (Image: Public Domain)

Last month the storied Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee launched a new brand of whiskey—one honoring peerless Rat Pack front man Frank Sinatra on the approaching event of his 100th birthday. Frank Sinatra the man has been gone for some time now, but as the Jack Daniel Distillery knows, his name will likely live on forever. This got us wondering: Do legendary names from Hollywood and the music industry drive eBay sales? If so, at what levels? And who's at the top of the charts?

In honor of Frank Sinatra and all such legends, we decided to run some numbers. We picked only the biggest of the big here, people that are no longer with us in body but whose work defined and will endure for generations and beyond.

Sinatra, Monroe, Hepburn, Jackson, Presley, and Taylor

Will Marilyn's smile ever fade? The numbers say it's not likely. (Image: Public Domain)

For our analysis we chose as subjects the three biggest names in popular music history and the three Hollywood starlets most associated with indelible grace and beauty. Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor—what a lineup!

Using Terapeak for eBay, we pulled 42 weeks of eBay sales data going back to the beginning of May, 2013—well over 560,000 sales across the entire group—and plotted the results. With the exception of Elizabeth Taylor—whom we also searched for as "Liz Taylor," we searched only for each star's name in full, across all categories and product types.

Here's what we found.

Volume, Items Offered, and Items Sold

The range in weekly dollar volumes turned out to be much wider than we'd expected, with two figures clearly dominating the rest of the group: Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

Marilyn and Elvis far outmatch the rest of the group in volume

In terms of the number of items on offer, on the other hand, there is one—and only one— clear leader. It's Marilyn, Marilyn, Marilyn, and by a large margin. In comparison, the others barely register at all:

Marilyn often adorns more products than all of the others combined

Presley does have one strong moment, and it's something of an undignified one; it appears as though one or two sellers continue to bet heavily on demand for Elvis Hallowe'en costumes—though not in the same way for Elvis holiday gifts. The items sold chart, however, suggests that they've got things a little backward:

Name any week or season and people want more of Marilyn

Even during the Hallowe'en season, and certainly also at Christmas time, Marilyn Monroe continues to be, and may always be, everyone's girl.

Billions of Fans, Millions of Dollars

Contemporary stars and major political figures are often discussed as though they've already become the stuff of legend, but we've previously looked at recent Oscar contenders and at some of our most recognizable contemporary political figures only to find sales numbers that are rather anemic by comparison. Sales for the entire recent group of leading Oscar nominees, for example, averaged only $54,000 per month during the peak of the nominating season hype.

Our legends? Over the period we surveyed, these six names averaged over $1.3 million per month in sales, nearly $14 million in sales over the period as a whole. That's one way to clearly explain why they continue to be called legends.

Even amongst legends, some simply stand out from the rest

Marilyn, Elvis, and Michael

For those that have been critical of Michael Jackson or his erstwhile status as the "King of Pop," these numbers tell us that his fans have a point. It's not everyone that can claim to hold their own in such rarefied company, much less to have bested the likes of Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor by large margins.

But even amongst legends, some personalities are simply off the charts, outshining everyone in their presence even decades after leaving us. In this group, the figures of legend in question are Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

Marilyn and Elvis continue to capture the public's imagination—and judging by these numbers, today's consumers are a long way from being willing to let their timeless smiles fade from memory.

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