Strictly speaking, there is nothing odd about the fact that Douglas Coupland is now a celebrity spokesman for Blackberry Pearl. Wait a second. Douglas Coupland is now a spokesman for Blackberry Pearl?
Coupland’s Generation X was to fiction what Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit was to music what Richard Linklater’s Slacker was to film. All appeared in 1991 and all helped shape the cultural moment. As it turned out, this moment was deeply ambivalent about materialism and downright hostile to marketing.
I’m not complaining. If Coupland can persuade Blackberry to hire him, well and good. I have no doubt that he will use the proceeds to fund the continued productivity of one Douglas Coupland.
But it is necessary to see that Blackberry hires Coupland precisely to lend his cultural significance to the brand, that it might become more glorious, better defined, and more profitable. Coupland brings several things. He is a Renaissance man of a kind, comfortable in several media. He has a certain international reach. He is restless and experimental in his creative undertakings. But, most of all, and the very point of the hire, surely, is that Coupland lends to Blackberry some of his standing as a man who reads culture with perspicuity and power, and the fact that he read the early 1990s so well he helped to give it shape and form.
When Coupland spends his cultural capital on behalf of Blackberry, he extinguishes some of it. This is true for every celebrity endorser. For Coupland, this may well be a fair trade. He will use his endorsement fee to sustain his creative career, and who knows what new accomplishments await him? A single "hit" would restore the capital this campaign will cost him.
But back to the anti-materialism, anti-marketing of the early 1990s. When Coupland endorses a consumer good, he contradicts his cultural significance. In the process, he extinguishes the part of the credibility that made him a suitable celebrity endorser. This damage to Coupland’s celebrity inflicts harm on the Blackberry brand. The "meaning mechanics" of this marketing campaign are ill advised.
For more on the Coupland connection to Blackberry, visit the Blackberry website here, click on "life."