Legendary brands: Why are consumers still fascinated by the Titanic?

Jul 26, 2013

Brands do not necessarily need to present a clear, well-defined image in order to appeal to consumers, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Consider the case of the Titanic.

"Titanic. More than a century later, the name of the ill-fated steamship still strikes a chord with millions of consumers worldwide. Consumer fixation with the Titanic is not simply due to the scale of the calamity, since the death toll has been far exceeded on many occasions. Nor is it entirely attributable to humankind's appetite for the macabre or merely a case of being famous for being famous," write authors Stephen Brown (University of Ulster), Pierre McDonagh (Dublin City University), and Clifford J. Shultz, II (Loyola University Chicago).

The Titanic's consumer appeal is partly explained by the myths it embodies – the myth of nature trumping technology, the almost Biblical lesson that great riches are worthless in life-or-death situations, and the accumulating layers of myth that have been added to the awful event by its representations in popular culture.

"Equally important is the unfathomability, the , the imponderables at the heart of the Titanic's terrible tale," write the authors. "Was the Titanic considered unsinkable? Why were several ice warnings ignored? Why weren't there enough lifeboats? Were the steerage passengers locked below decks?"

The story of the Titanic leaves consumers pondering various questions that do not have clear-cut answers. It is this lack of clarity – the inherent uncertainties – that ensure the Titanic's imperishable consumer appeal.

"The Titanic represents a marketing bonanza for movie makers, memorabilia sellers, tourist attraction managers, and many more. This casts doubt on the long-standing assumption that brand identities should be clear, concise, coherent, and consistent. Clarity is overrated. Imprecision is underappreciated. Legendary brands need both," the authors conclude.

Explore further: New 'Surveyman' software promises to revolutionize survey design and accuracy

More information: Stephen Brown, Pierre McDonagh, and Clifford J. Shultz, II. "Titanic: Consuming the Myths and Meanings of an Ambiguous Brand." Journal of Consumer Research: December 2013.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sinking the Titanic myth

Apr 16, 2012

On the centenary anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, a King’s expert says people’s knowledge of the notorious liner is based on cultural anecdotes rather than historical and scientific fact.  ...

The role of physics in the sinking of the Titanic

Apr 02, 2012

A century on from the sinking of the Titanic, Physics World science writer Richard Corfield takes a look at the cascade of events that led to the demise of the 'unsinkable' ship, taking into account the ma ...

Green light for Titanic tycoon's Aussie dinosaur park

Jul 25, 2013

Eccentric Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer was Thursday given the green light to build "the world's biggest" park of giant robotic dinosaurs, despite hundreds of objections filed by local residents.

Recommended for you

World population likely to peak by 2070

Oct 23, 2014

World population will likely peak at around 9.4 billion around 2070 and then decline to around 9 billion by 2100, according to new population projections from IIASA researchers, published in a new book, World Population and ...

Bullying in schools is still prevalent, national report says

Oct 23, 2014

Despite a dramatic increase in public awareness and anti-bullying legislation nationwide, the prevalence of bullying is still one of the most pressing issues facing our nation's youth, according to a report by researchers ...

Study examines effects of credentialing, personalization

Oct 23, 2014

Chris Gamrat, a doctoral student in learning, design and technology, recently had his study—completed alongside Heather Zimmerman, associate professor of education; Jaclyn Dudek, a doctoral student studying learning, design ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

julianpenrod
1 / 5 (8) Jul 26, 2013
The fact is, it looks very much as if the Titanic never sank at all. It was all a scam so rich people in trouble with the law could claim to have died and others wanting to hide their riches could claim to have lost them.
No captain would defy God by sailing with too few lifeboats! No ship, like the "California" would sit idly by while a ship like "Titanic" was shooting off flares, thinking it was just "fireworks". A lifeboat from "Titanic" could have rowed to "California" leaving more than enough time for them to respond. They knew in those days that 90% of icebergs were under water so they would be careful. There is a film of "Titanic" leaving Southampton with tug boats helping, but the names of the tugs have been scratched out on the film. The musicians would not have played outside because the weather was so cold, their instruments would not work and they likely would not necessarily be able to play them very well.
Humpty
1 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2013
I dunno - I think the article is rehashed garbage.

I for one would like to see the Titanic, all the memorabillia, fan cliubs, science projects, museums, documentaries, blah, blah, blah, blah......

I wish this myth of perpetual interest in the subject, along with the writers about it, etc., etc., etc., would all get tied to a huge old anchor and dropped into the abyss along with it.

I think for almost all people, that damned subject has been done to death and it ranks in interest to the same degree that recycling our own used toilet paper does, by growing growing science projects in the fridge with it.

Uhhhhhhhhhhh Titanic - Die myth, die.
Bigbobswinden
1 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2013
I agree 100% with julianpenrod. The whole thing was an insurance scam. Money will make men do terrible things.
Cool Buff Man
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2013
You're a dumbfuck penrod.