I’m Ready For My Close Up, Mr. Pytka
Casting Call For Brands
By Jeff Hirsch
Three brands from the same category walk into a bar. Can you tell them apart? Are they different from each other in any way or is one just like the other? Are they dressed alike? Do they sound alike? Do they order the same drink?
Here’s another way to think about it. We’re holding a casting session to fill the role of “healthy snack that kids love” in the upcoming blockbuster film, “The Hungry Games.” It’s a real Hollywood cattle call. A hundred or more brands – bags, boxes, jars and cartons of everything from whole grain chips to non-fat yogurt – are milling about with scripts, practicing their lines and preening in the mirror. They’re thinking, “I want this part so badly. I can nail this role!”
Think the powers that be are going to make a rational choice? Think again. A 10-year-old boy is in charge of casting and his mom is the film’s director. You can cut the tension with a knife. Who’s going to get the part?
This is what we go through as marketers every day. To extend the metaphor, we are the agents and managers jockeying to get our clients’ brands good roles and keep them working. And to do the best job we possibly can, it doesn’t hurt at all to think about our brands in this “casting call” context.
The Right Brain Studio’s own Michael Laskin, accomplished actor, respected acting coach and Director of our Right Brain Studio Creative Panel, tells his acting students about the need to create an “indelible point of view.” This is critical in connecting with the movie going public and equally important at the audition. Casting directors and consumers alike have many choices and little time to make decisions.
Who are you? What do you know? What are you good at? How do you see the world? What do you stand for? Why should I be interested? Actor or brand, all of these questions and more must be answered in the blink of an eye.
When we recently talked about “indelible” performers, Michael brought up a wide range of examples that didn’t necessarily conform with my notion of “great acting.” He explains, “There are few people like Meryl Streep or Kevin Spacey who are allowed to completely disappear into their roles. Most actors who enter into this transaction are asked to play some version of themselves. Sounds easy, but it’s not. Actors are generally trained to become someone else, not themselves. And if you’re an unknown walking into an audition, there may be little that’s distinctive about you to draw the attention of the casting director. Hence, the need for a clear and immediate point of view. Someone like Seth Rogen or Adam Sandler may not be the most versatile actors in the world, but you certainly know who they are and what they stand for when they enter walk in the room because of their personal indelibility.
So who is the star of your branding “movie?” What is his or her “indelible point of view?” “A healthy, filling snack that moms love and kids crave” doesn’t cut it. Consumers need to know more, to transcend the obvious and to feel more about your brand.
But it’s difficult for consumers to feel anything for your brand or form a lasting relationship with it if all they have are facts and features. To borrow a line from Humphrey Bogart, one of the most indelible actors of all time, “It’s got to be the “beginning of a beautiful friendship,” and that comes from the heart more than the mind.
If we want to be the best possible “talent agents” for our brands, we should never send them out to “audition” without endowing them with the ability to create their own “indelible point of view” based on a richly textured personality. Consumers want to know, “Who are you and how can you help me?” More than functional benefits alone, the answer to those questions is a story in which your brand seeks to play the leading role. The better we tell the story and flesh out the characters, the better chance our brand has to land the part.