Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Adapting Your "Brand". Seamlessly.

Do I have an original thought in my head? Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm a walking cliché. If I stop putting things off, I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass. If my ass wasn't fat, I would be happier. I should start jogging again. Five miles a day. I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need to have a girlfriend. I need to read more and prove myself"

What if you approached brand building the same way a Hollywood screenwriter approaches a movie project?

Would it surprise you to know the process is remarkably similar?

RHETT BUTLER: No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.

Instinctively it makes sense that your brand should be dynamic and evolve over time to continually surprise the people you want to engage, much like a film. But, how do you apply this principle to crafting your brand?

TSB was introduced to this concept several years ago by Hollywood script guru David Freeman. He is also the creator of Beyond Structure, a seminar that helps writers create emotionally riveting characters and dialog through a concept called the "Character Diamond". The way David teaches it, each point on the diamond (at least three, maybe four) represents a distinct trait that together defines the essence of the character. Those unique traits determine a character's words and actions. Is he a roguish sort of Southern gentleman? Then his words should reflect it. Is she a spoiled, manipulative drama queen? Then, perhaps, she finally gets what's coming to her.

SCARLETT: Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?

While David intended his Character Diamond as a tool for screenwriters, some branding experts recognize the connection it has with branding. In particular, this technique helps define the sharper edges that separate your brand from bland.

To help you understand the impact a sharp edge can have on your brand, let's seize this moment and imagine you are the leading man in a Hollywood production.

For the next 1:26, you are a slightly neurotic, socially phobic screenwriter named Charlie, struggling with writers block. But, instead of being a screenwriter, picture Charlie as someone who owns his own business. Instead of sitting in on a screenwriting workshop, imagine Charlie attending a branding seminar.

Instead of the speaker (based on screenwriting legend Robert McKee) talking about a movie or screenplay, pretend he is referring to your business or career.

How much would your brand benefit from what Hollywood can teach us about drama, conflict, plot, story arc, narrative and character development?

Are there scripts you can study and adapt for your own business?

After all, for your brand ... tomorrow is another day.

In 1996, a small Calgary airline with three planes and 200 people studied and learned from a Texas-based upstart, who dared to challenge the status quo. Following a "David and Goliath" story arc, Southwest Airlines posted more than 30 consecutive years of profitability, thanks to a branding strategy that had the courage to embrace "irreverence" as part of its character. From the CEO, to senior management, external marketing, all the way down to the front line.

Calgary-based WestJet paid close attention to the script being written at Southwest. It helps explain why their consumer experience is seamlessly connected from the moment you check in, to what you feel from WestJetters in the cabin, to what you watch on TV with the language CEO Sean Durfy uses in a recent Microsoft commercial.

A brand is a "story" embedded in the mind of the market.

But, what makes your "story" better than the next guy?

What are the sharp edges that define the character of your brand?

Does your brand possess a character - revealed through actions - which clearly defines what it stands for and stands against?

And, frankly, why should your customer give a damn?

“The things a man has to have are hope and confidence in himself against odds, and sometimes he needs somebody, his pal or his mother or his wife or God, to give him that confidence. He's got to have some inner standards worth fighting for or there won't be any way to bring him into conflict. And he must be ready to choose death before dishonor without making too much song and dance about it. That's all there is to it"

p.s... "Gone With The Wind" is often considered the most beloved, enduring and popular film of all time. Released in 1939, it received ten Academy Awards and is considered a prototype of a Hollywood blockbuster. When adjusted for inflation, "Gone With The Wind" is the highest-ticket selling film of all time in North America.

Sidney Howard's script was derived from Margaret Mitchell's first and only published novel, which took her more than a decade to write.


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