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  • Posted by: Sarah McLaughlin and Tori Miner on Friday, January 10 2014 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

    GravityMost people send out cards between Thanksgiving and New Year's because they think that is the holiday season. But every movie fanatic knows that the holidays really start at the beginning of awards show season. And it all kicks off this weekend with the Golden Globes.

    The Golden Globes are the biggest, glitziest booze fest that brings together stars of film and television. So dust off those tuxedos, get out your Jenny Packham dresses and drape yourself in Harry Winston diamonds because it’s award season and black tie is not optional.

    Like a red carpet in a sea of black ties, brands look to stand out this time of year. And we don’t just mean designers and luxury goodie bag fillers. Every actor also has a personal brand. And actors are given the chance to showcase it every time they sashay on stage for an acceptance speech.

    They may convey their unique brand personalities and individual voices in the tone of their speeches and the way they communicate. Often, they use this platform for personal messaging as well. Sometimes, winners will deliver politically charged acceptance speeches or highlight a social cause related to their films' themes. Think Sean Penn for Milk.

    So, while everyone else out there is making predictions about who will be going home a winner, we decided to take it a step further. We wanted to predict not only the winner, but to try to imagine the voice and messaging of those who might take home a trophy on Sunday. What will they say? How might they say it? Sure, the people we would love to see win might not go home with gold, but even if they lose, they’ll still look really fabulous.

    Let’s start with Tom Hanks, nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe for his incredible performance in Captain Phillips. On Twitter this award show veteran’s voice is playful, engaging and unpredictable. It’s not a surprising brand voice from Mr. Hanks, and it is one that makes whomever he’s speaking to really feel like they are a part of his life.

    So when we went back to look at past acceptance speeches, we were surprised to see that the voice of the Tom Hanks we know and love on Twitter didn’t come across at all. His Oscar speech for Philadelphia was lackluster, the first three minutes were very functional, running through a laundry list of industry folk he wanted to thank. Overall, his brand voice was fairly bland. But then his message rose to the surface, concluding with a moving speech about the devastation of AIDS, elevating the message of the film. When he accepted for Forest Gump, his speech felt very generic, lacking any sort of individuality.

    However, we predict this year, should he win, Tom will speak and act in line with his recent rebrand via Twitter because everyone knows a good brand is a brand with a consistent voice. Moreover, in the decades since those wins, Tom has come into his own and created a more authentic, confident voice that shall rise to the top. Fingers crossed we find out on Sunday!

    Moving on to another red carpet regular, Sandra Bullock. After years of playing less than meaty roles and establishing a relatable girl-next-door personal brand, Sandra burst onto the awards circuit in 2010 with Golden Globe and Oscar wins for her powerful performance in The Blind Side.

    In both of her acceptance speeches, self-deprecation (Did I really earn this or did I just wear y’all down?) and a sprinkling of playful wit (Meryl – you know what I think of you… and you’re such a good kisser) helped her stay true to her brand and only increased her likeability. She also linked her film’s themes of family and motherhood with her own personal messages of gratitude for her loved ones, all while consistently conveying a down-to-earth sense of humor. Should Sandra win for Gravity this weekend, we’re confident she will show us that engaging balance of accessibility and sincerity that will keep us rooting for her as awards season rolls on.

    Now, continuing on the topic of likeable ladies, let’s look to the younger generation. Jennifer Lawrence tripped her way up the stairs and into America’s (and apparently, film critics’) hearts at last year’s Oscars. Since then, the J.Law brand has only grown stronger. Known for her easy attitude and rather blunt brand voice, Lawrence refreshingly tells it like it is with an approachability that wins over audiences.

    But, Jennifer also demonstrated a bold confidence that set her apart when she opened her Golden Globes speech with “What does it say? I beat Meryl?” Like Sandra, Jennifer also balanced self-deprecation (Harvey – thank you for killing whoever you had to kill to get me up here today) with authentic and personal expressions of gratitude to the people that helped her get on that stage.

    Her acceptance speech at last year’s Oscars was heartfelt, but not quite as humorous as at the Golden Globes, which makes sense given the more formal atmosphere and the fact that she had just taken a rather embarrassing tumble. If she wins a Golden Globe for her supporting role in American Hustle this weekend, we predict she’ll maintain her sincerity but sprinkle in a little more sass.

    One actor who’s a bit of a wild card in the acceptance speech category is Bradley Cooper, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for American Hustle. Snubbed last year for both the Oscar and Golden Globe for Silver Linings Playbook, we haven’t seen him on stage accepting an award at a major show yet. And as a celebrity, he doesn’t have a clearly defined personal brand (No, 2011 Sexiest Man Alive doesn’t count) – which may partially be a result of the diversity of roles he takes on.

    We took a look at his acceptance speech for his 2013 MTV Movie Award for Best Male Performance to get a sense of what we might have in store. Interestingly, at one of the most casual award shows out there, Bradley didn’t capitalize on the opportunity to showcase a unique sense of humor or witty charm. Instead he used his speech solely as a platform to message a profoundly serious call to action regarding posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Looking ahead to this weekend’s Golden Globes, given that Bradley’s role in American Hustle may not have an obvious link to a social issue or personal cause, this acceptance speech may be an opportunity for him to bring his personal brand to life a bit more, and we hope we get the chance to hear it.

    Another regular on the award show circuit is Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy. When we looked back on her win in 1994 for Seinfeld, we weren’t impressed. Much like Tom Hanks, her acceptance speech lacked pizazz. While she had no clear voice, she did have a distinct message of gratitude, thanking everyone she’s ever met.

    Compare that to her Emmy acceptance speech last September. Before the ceremony she and Tony Hale, who plays her body man on the HBO show, came up with a bit. In Veep, his character carries around her purse and tells her things about the people she’s meeting. So fans were delighted to see him follow Julia up on stage to accept her award, dutifully walking behind her, holding her bag and feeding her lines for her speech. It was hilarious and a speech people were talking about for weeks after. Major coup! It demonstrated her ability to stay true to the brand of her character in the show and allowed her to showcase her voice. We hope she wins so we can see what she will come up with next.

    These five favorites might not even make it up on stage on Sunday, but we’re looking forward to seeing what the big winners have to say. Will they stay true to their personal brands? Will there be surprises that will keep tongues wagging for weeks to come? We’ll report back post-show to see how we fared with our predictions and to give our perspective on the ultimate Globe-holders’ words of winning.

    Sarah McLaughlin is a Senior Consultant and Tori Miner is an Associate Director, Verbal Identity, at Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Jennifer Vano on Monday, July 15 2013 05:33 PM | Comments (0)
    Bobby Deen

    We’ve all read the headlines lambasting Paula Deen for her recent, shall we say, media missteps. Missteps that cost her not only her contract with The Food Network but also partnerships with Target, Walmart, and Smithfield Foods.

    It’s a controversy that’s no doubt damaging to her brand — and potentially debilitating. Her quick-shift messaging strategy seems to have called her credibility into question more than it’s helped to clear her name.

    During her deposition, she seemingly casually admits to using racial slurs more than once, though acknowledges that it’s not a word that people “use as time goes on.” In her first apology, she begs for the audience’s forgiveness for the mistakes she made, but the video is edited three times — what was cut? In her second apology, she takes a more defensive stance, saying that the press has her all wrong, and that everybody, in her opinion, is equal. Then, later, in an interview with Matt Lauer, she admits to using the “n word,” but only once in her lifetime.

    She shows what appears to be genuine emotion at every step, but lacks the consistency to back it. And it’s consistency — for both individuals and brands — even if the truth isn’t pretty, that often can mean the difference between a mistake people can forgive and one they’ll never let you forget.

    Even so, thousands of fans have come to her defense on social media and at her restaurants, but a full comeback would require not only a new approach to messaging, but also a complete rebrand. She might have a chance if she abandons the narrative that has become interwoven with moments like her uncomfortable livestream interview with The New York Times in 2012 in which she discussed her plantation owner grandfather and had a controversial interaction with an African American friend. If she repositions herself as a regular gal who makes comfort food, she could potentially follow Tiger Woods’ footsteps, reentering her industry with some success, but likely never reclaiming her position as America’s favorite butter-slinger (read: cultural demigod).

    Bobby and PaulaBut what nobody seems to be talking about is how Paula’s fall from grace will affect her son, Bobby, who is also in the limelight. He’s the host of Not My Mama’s Meals on The Cooking Channel, (a Scripps Network Interactive channel, which also owns The Food Network). The show features the health-conscious Bobby giving his mom’s buttery, flaky, saucy dishes a fit-over.

    He’s a Southern gentlemen living a New Yorker’s life: he’ll remake his mom’s bread pudding with whole wheat donuts from The Donut Pub or pick up handmade sausage from a butcher in Williamsburg to recreate her chili dogs. But at the show’s core is his famous mom’s brand of cooking and narrative. Not only does his food depend on hers, he certainly shares her charm, regularly shares childhood memories, features clips from her show and measures his success on her reaction when she tastes his dishes at the end of every episode.

    It’s precisely that this marriage of his and her identity that makes his brand unique. He isn’t just cooking light; he’s attempting to retain the flavors and heritage of Paula Deen’s cooking while lightening up the ingredients to appeal to a more health-conscious, urban audience who craves the same comfort that her audience gets to enjoy: Three sticks of butter? Try some coconut oil plus applesauce instead.

    And let’s not forget the show’s name. Not My Mama’s Meals creates intrigue while providing enough information for potential viewers to understand that they’re getting a little bit of Paula every time they tune in. From start to finish, Paula’s an indispensible component of every episode, of the brand idea itself. If her empire of heart-attack-on-a-plate dishes falls, what will he have?

    So while his show will run as scheduled, for now, Bobby may have to reformat and sever ties within the show to ensure his brand has a long run regardless of his mama’s brand’s demise.

    Perhaps he can shift his own messaging, playing up exploring New York City rather than perpetuating memories tied to a complicated and controversial family story. But to seem authentic and ensure the evolution is seamless, he’ll have to make the changes incrementally. It will be a test of how strong a brand he’s created on his own, because there’s no doubt that being Paula Deen’s son has been key to his success.

    And the name of the show? It could still work, because even if he isn’t remaking Paula’s dishes, the show’s name signals a departure from the fare he grew up with. But we wouldn’t be surprised if The Cooking Channel eventually gives him a new show and a new start altogether.

    Do you think Bobby’s brand is strong enough to stand the test of time without his mama’s name to back it? Let us know in the comments below.

    Jennifer Vano is a Consultant in Verbal Identity for Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Tom Shanahan on Friday, April 26 2013 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

    George W Bush Library

    Artist rendering of the George W. Bush Presidential Library from the George W. Bush Foundation.

    With yesterday’s dedication of the George W. Bush Library, there’s been a lot of conversation around ’43 and his approval rating over time. One should look at this as an interesting examination of brand, and how behaviors—or lack thereof—are fundamental to shaping the reputation you want your brand to have.

    When W. left office five years ago in 2008, his approval rating had sunk to an abysmal 23 percent. That’s the lowest approval rating since Truman inched out 22 percent back in 1945 after the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It may not be hard to remember why Bush’s numbers were that low, but what’s interesting is how they’ve risen since then. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll reveals that his 23 percent approval rating has now risen to 47 percent.

    Of course, history tends to go easy on presidents the further they get from Pennsylvania Avenue, but Bush’s brand has also improved because of how he’s conducted himself in the public eye since sitting in the Oval Office. His “brand behaviors” have changed a great deal since 2008, and the public is responding.

    He’s acted with a cool sense of disconnect (something that many probably appreciate), but adds that, “I’m retired from politics (happily so, I might add), but not from public service.” He has demonstrated an unexpected amount of respect for our current president, thanked him publicly on many occasions and refrained from engaging in publicly criticizing him.

    These behaviors have helped to heal the wounds that some say he left on his own brand. While there will always be constituents who neither forget, nor forgive, his brand-approval is nonetheless on the rise. His strategy is working.

    He ended his remarks yesterday saying, “the success of a nation depends on the character of its people.” The same goes for brands. While Bush’s behaviors in office may have left him with some scars on his character, his behaviors since are slowly patching those up. 

    Tom Shanahan is an Associate Consultant at Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Darcy Newell and Jennifer Vano on Tuesday, January 15 2013 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

    It's two days after the Golden Globe Awards. While the world debates the fashion, Argo's surprise wins and Jodie Foster's speech, we're thinking about what's happening with the brand.

    In our first post, we analyzed the impact of the Golden Globe Awards' and the Academy Awards' hosts on the brands. It's important to note that both are pursuing new directions this year. The Hollywood Press Association (HFPA) swapped Ricky Gervais for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) chose Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane for this February's Academy Awards in lieu of a more traditional host, such as last year's Billy Crystal.

    Kudos HFPA. You chose well. According to Nielson Media Research, 19.6 million viewers tuned into Sunday's show, giving 2013 the highest ratings since 2007, a 17% increase from last year and a 28% improvement in the coveted 18 - 49 demographic.

    As we predicted, Poehler and Fey nailed it, staying true to their personal brands while upholding that of the Golden Globes. The duo was at ease, playing off each other in a way that only SNL vets and real friends could. Keeping up with the Golden Globes' tradition of shocking audiences, they took digs at celebrities, but balanced insults with self-deprecation, goofy disguises and good natured jokes, such as the Meryl Streep flu bit ("Meryl Streep is not here tonight, she has the flu. And I hear she's amazing in it.") and calling the former president "Bill Rodham Clinton." They kept us laughing rather than cringing, living up to Fey's opening promise of wanting "to have a good time," but not "send anyone home in tears," leaving us feeling like we spent the night with old -- albeit hilarious -- friends, rather than a searing stand-up comic. (Ahem, Gervais.)

    Viewers stormed social media to praise Fey and Poehler. At the time of this writing, they were mentioned more than 125,000 times on Twitter alone. Overwhelmingly positive, tweets have centered on three themes: viewers sharing their favorite moments, viewers requesting the duo host future Golden Globes and other award shows (including the Oscars) and, most importantly, that viewers tuned in solely because of Fey and Poehler.

    Golden Globes 2013

    So it seems that audiences are clear about what they want and expect from the brand: both a light-hearted celebration of accomplishments in television and film and a glimpse at celebrities as real people who appreciate a good joke.

    But we sense the HFPA is struggling to own this identity, as it sometimes went too far trying to be funny -- such as during the speech from its president Dr. Aida Takla O'Reilly, which was punctuated with mediocre jokes and dated pop culture references. If there was a moment for the show to be serious, this was it, as too much silliness, especially when it falls flat, can undermine the HFPA's credibility.

    Other times the show went too far in the other direction, aspiring to be like its more sophisticated counterpart. Take the show's opening line, which welcomed us to "the most glamourous night in television." Most exciting? Sure. Most unpredictable? Definitely. But most glamourous? That's an accolade better reserved for the Academy Awards.

    So whether Fey and Poehler return to the stage next year or not, it's critical that the HFPA finds the right balance between snarkiness and positivity, surprise and polish, from host to content writing to production. If they do this, they'll be closer to securing a niche for their brand that meets audiences' expectations and delivers an experience we can't find anywhere else.

    Agree with our assessment of Sunday night's show? Leave comments below or come talk to us in Intebrand's Facebook community. Make sure to check back in February for a look at Seth McFarlane's Academy Awards debut.

    Darcy Newell and Jennifer Vano are Consultants in Verbal Identity for Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Darcy Newell and Jennifer Vano on Friday, January 11 2013 05:39 PM | Comments (0)

    Oscars and Golden Globes

    Make your predictions and grab some popcorn: it’s award show season. Our favorite rivals —the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA)’s Golden Globe Awards and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)’s Academy Awards — will go head to head.

    It’s their one big chance to make us love them all over again. We can hardly wait.

    The most powerful weapon for each is the host, who must balance his or her personal brand with that of the event. It’s always a risk. Cameras start rolling and the host has almost full control of not only the experience of the audience, but also the perception of the brand. Now that’s pressure.

    Choosing wrong equals disaster. Take the 2011 Academy Awards. In a too-obvious attempt to appeal to a younger demographic, the AMPAS chose James Franco and Anne Hathaway to co-host. Franco’s couldn’t-care-less attitude made for a live-TV catastrophe. It was a failure that threatened to tarnish the image the brand had built over its 84 years: classic Hollywood glamour and dramatic flair.

    The brand tried to move forward, but did it go too far? We got our answer in 2012, when the AMPAS passed the mic to seasoned host Billy Crystal once again.

    Then there’s the younger Golden Globe Awards, which is in its 70th year. The HFPA chose Ricky Gervais as the show’s first regular host in years in 2010, though the show has been surprising audiences with wacky antics forever.

    Gervais continued the tradition of keeping audiences guessing, but also left them gasping in response to his signature, take-no-prisoners comedy routine. At the podium for three years, Gervais helped to position the event as hipper and sharper-tongued than its sophisticated counterpart.

    But this year, both events are taking a different route. Are they rebranding, vying for higher viewership, or simply trying something new?

    The way we see it, they’re attempting to achieve a balance between legacy and modernity — meeting expectations while increasing appeal. Will it work?

    For the Academy Awards, stepping away from their classic hosting style just two years after the 2011 debacle is a gamble. For the Golden Globe Awards, disrupting the experience — albeit an uncomfortable one at times — for which the brand is known might cause us to question what it really stands for.

    That said, we’re willing to bet money on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who will host the Golden Globe Awards on January 13th. With years of live comedy experience and a real-life friendship, the ladies seem like a natural choice, particularly for NBC, the network that broadcasts not only the Golden Globe Awards, but both actresses’ sitcoms. With serious comedic chops, but a less biting delivery than Gervais’s, the duo is set up to create an entertaining and inclusive experience, a departure from what we’ve come to expect of the show over last three years.

    On February 24th, Seth McFarlane will host the Academy Awards — a second play for that younger audience, and a seemingly off-brand choice at that. After all, you probably don’t associate “Family Guy” with old Hollywood. Yet, we think it might actually be a brilliant evolution of brand.

    Seth McFarlaneAs a Grammy-nominated musician, he’s proven his live TV abilities—like his hilarious bit on SNL featuring the voices of three “Family Guy” characters, as well as his charm-under-pressure during the 2012 Emmys, when he spoke into a dead mic, but kept it together. His song, “Everyone Needs A Best Friend” from the “Ted” soundtrack was even nominated for Best Song, so get ready for a joke about that in his opening monologue. If McFarlane can keep it classy — while cracking us up —he’ll uphold the show’s legacy while helping a broader audience relate to the brand.

    All in all, we think both brands have made savvy choices. Only time will tell what will happen when the lights go down. We’re talking live TV after all, and it’s up to the host to deliver. Stay tuned for our follow up articles on both shows: how the hosts did, how viewers responded, and where the brands could go next.

    Darcy Newell and Jennifer Vano are Consultants in Verbal Identity for Interbrand New York.

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