The Marilyn Effect: Death Hasn't Stopped the Big Business of Marilyn Monroe

Photo: Everett Collection&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;Photo: Everett Collection<br><br>Celebrity clothing lines are hardly new. But when a movie star who died in 1962 starts hawking clothing for a major department store, she has our attention. Marilyn Monroe's glamorous, flirty, iconic style is now immortalized in a new women's line to be launched by Macy's in March that “reimagines the style of the greatest icon of the 20th century for the 21st-century fashionista.” The collection is classic Marilyn—halter dresses that cinch at the waist, gingham tie-front button-down tops, and white bustiers.

We're all familiar with the revitalizing effect that say, Kate Middleton has on a brand—Reiss and Zara are just a few examples. But rarely do we encounter a woman with such influential and lasting power on fashion and branding, even 51 years after her death at 36-years-old. Call it The Marilyn Effect.

In 2010, the hot pink evening gown she wore in the 1953 film "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" sold at auction for $310,000, butt bow and all. The following year, that infamous white halter dress  whose skirt blew up while Monroe stood over a subway grate in the 1959 film "The Seven Year Itch" sold for $5.5 million. That September with the help of computer-generated imagery, Monroe appeared in a Dior ad for J'adore fragrance with Charlize Theron, exclaiming "Dior!" MAC Cosmetics launched their limited edition Marilyn Monroe inspired makeup line in October 2012, featuring red lipstick and dramatic eyeline. Monroe's image was resurrected again in November 2012, this time by Chanel when they released a video of Monroe quoting the famous phrase, "What do I wear in bed? Chanel No. 5!" And that December on the 50th anniversary of her death, Playboy magazine paid tribute to the blonde bombshell by placing her on its cover.

There's been plenty of research on celebrity endorsements—Vanderbilt University found they're effective when people aspire to be the celeb; they're even more effective when consumers don't feel threatened by her. Maybe that's the business secret to Monroe. She's sexy but not stick thin, she dressed for her curves, unlike, say, Kim Kardashian, and her ditzy blond persona was far more endearing than that Paris Hilton baby whine.

But dead celebs as brand ambassadors? Monroe doesn't do too shabby. According to a yearly report called "Top-Earning Dead Celebrities" complied by Forbes, in 2011 Monroe ranked third place (just behind Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley) earning a whopping 27 million dollars.

It helps that Hollywood keeps her image fresh. Since her death, 12 different actresses have portrayed Monroe on the big screen and celebrities such as Madonna, Britney Spears, Anna Nicole Smith have coveted her style in music videos and on the red carpet. Brunettes like Megan Fox and Miley Cyrus have also channeled Monroe and even men like James Franco and androgynous model Andrej Pejić have taken a crack at impersonating the blond beauty.

And of course, Monroe's thriving social media campaign doesn't hurt. Her Facebook page has almost 6 million followers and her Twitter account @MarilynMonroe (which tweets on the behalf of her estate) at more than 115,000 followers tweets on almost a daily basis.

She may be long gone but her brand image is clearly forever.