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Is Elvis still the King of profit?

A tribe of Elvis impersonators poses for a photo opp in Las Vegas, Nev.

TEXT OF STORY

Stacey Vanek-Smith: Of course, one commodity that's been selling well for decades: Elvis. The annual nine-day celebration of The King in Memphis, Tennessee -- better known as Elvis Week -- is just wrapping up. It brought the city around $30 million last year. And 31 years after his death, Elvis is still Fortune magazine's richest deceased celebrity. But reporter Rico Gagliano wondered, "how long can it last?"


Rico Gagliano" Most kids have heard of the Beatles, but ask 'em who "Eleanor Rigby" is, and some of them might guess . . . a first lady? So as Baby Boomers shuffle off this mortal coil, Elvis must also be enduring some erosion of brand recognition, right?

Kevin Kern is spokesman for Elvis Enterprises:

Kevin Kern: Totally not the case -- 600,000 people each year visit Graceland; 40 percent are 35 and under.

What keeps young people interested? Well, Disney helped. Their 2002 kids film "Lilo and Stitch" is about a little girl who discovers an Elvis-loving alien.

Lilo: You wanna listen to the King? You look like an Elvis fan.

And this year's Elvis Week featured the release of a toy that seems targeted at both Boomers and kids: an Elvis and Priscilla Barbie doll set. At 65 bucks a pop, they sold out in an hour and a half.

So can anything stop The King? Well, Kern says even natural disasters are only a temporary setback on Graceland attendance.

Kern: There are things like the Katrina effect, that sort of thing. But you know, Elvis always weathers the storm.

In Los Angeles, I'm Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.

About the author

Rico Gagliano co-hosts and co-produces Marketplace’s “Small Talk” segment.
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In the intro to this story, Elvis is a "commodity," but later is a "brand." As penance for this contradiction, the Marketplace staff should be required to repeat the word "fungible" 100 times without giggling--or, more constructively, maybe help us listeners with a segment on the definitions of these jargon terms and how marketing can change commodities from bland to brand (e.g. bottled water, recycled gold, electricity from renewable resources).

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