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Branding For Actors (Part 2)

August 31, 2010

How to define your Brand as an ActorDIY Branding:

Here’s the good news: you already have a budding brand, you just need to define it and shape it to the benefit of your business. Your friends, associates, family and professional acquaintances, even the mailman, have an opinion of who you are. They, through their experiences and interactions with you, have come to a conclusion about what you’re about and what your personality ‘type’ is.  The first step of branding yourself, is to acknowledge, embrace and define the many characteristics that make you, you!

Acknowledge:

Write a list of 10 character traits that describe who you are. The traits you list should be specific (i.e.: shrewdly informed and opinionated about world politics) not general terms (i.e.: angry).

Now, ask a broad selection of the people you know and who’s opinion you value to describe you in 5 words. Include people who know you personally (friends, family, etc) and those that know you professionally (teachers, coaches, managers, agents, colleagues). Don’t influence their answers in any way by giving them examples or suggestions from your list. It is often best to ask them via email, as most people feel a sense of freedom to be more honest and analytical in writing than discussing it face-to-face. Limit the number of people you ask to help you with this exercise to 5-7, any more than this and analyzing your results can become tricky.

You should now have two lists, the first that expresses how you see yourself (and want to see yourself), and how others in your life see you. These lists might be remarkably similar and this is great news as there is little difference in how you see yourself and how others see you. (You may skip this next bit and we’ll meet you at the next section: Define. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.)

These lists could also be very different – don’t panic!  In most cases there will be a couple of repeating themes and these are the gold you must pan out. You must embrace these consistent characteristics and qualities! Read on…

Embrace:

The next step can be difficult for some. I struggled with this part myself. You need to mentally switch your brain from first person perspective (I am …), to third person perspective (He/She is …). Your aim is to gain an unbiased analysis of your results. Don’t become defensive and immediately disregard what someone has written, your audience also influence and shape your brand. Instead, try and understand how and why they came to their conclusions. There may be an emotional reason why you can’t see yourself as ‘direct’ or ‘high strung’. Perhaps you disliked these qualities in people you’ve known in the past or in (gulp) your parents.  Perhaps it is the terminology that’s the real issue, and you would instead interpret these characteristics as ‘strong’ and ‘decisive’. The ‘why’ isn’t important. Instead really take the time to digest the terms submitted to you. Not all of them will be right, and certainly not all of them will become part of your brand.  It’s important to not entirely dismiss your own sense of self, if in doubt conduct a ‘retrial’ and ask a new group of people to help.  Your job is to filter the traits that really, honestly authentically define you as you – that combined, make up your ‘emotional aftertaste’.

Your business is you – there’s no separating the two. Even Superman shared the same brand as Clarke Kent: honest, well-mannered, high values and standards, fighting for the side of good. Your brand is you, honed and polished – so your business (you as an actor) must reflect the very same values and traits. If you’re a lovable, happy-go-lucky guy then you’ll find it very difficult to convince your audience that you’re the ultimate, meanest mother f-er out there. And why would you want to make false promises about what you can deliver innately and to the highest standards? This is a train-wreck of disappointment waiting to happen, and is both draining and disheartening. Acknowledge and embrace the character traits that make you, you. Develop a good understanding of these parts of you and as a happy side effect, you’ll learn to love them!

Define:

For actors it’s the fear of typecasting, for musicians it’s the dread of being boxed into a genre. If you take away only two things from the Branding section of this blog, please let it be the following:

1. Be consistent with your brand

2. The more specific and defined your brand is – the easier and quicker you’ll find success.

Be specific about what you do well.  I absolutely believe that great actors (and musicians) can span genres and adapt to any scenario. Think of defining yourself not as confining or limiting yourself to one role or genre for the rest of your career, but instead as helping your audience and fans to find you initially.

Johnny Depp milked his ‘teen heartthrob’ days at the beginning of his career, but is now recognized as one of the greatest character actors of all time!  Dave Grohl cut his teeth as a grunge drummer come pop-rock singer, and now supplements this with a metal side project, among others. Be the biggest fish in a small pond, don’t be a jack-of-all-trades, and a master of none. Why compete in the same playing field as thousands of others? Better your odds by specializing and narrow your competition!  You already do something well, very well in fact. It might be the character of the lovable looser, whose clumsiness and potbelly is endearing. It might be the sex-crazed vixen who steals husbands as a sport. Embrace this!

Your brand = your authentic, unique traits + what you naturally do well (often referred to as your ‘type’ or your ‘niche’).

Make note of the five most powerful words or terms that describe you, now simply add the areas you naturally excel in – voila!  Your Brand is born! You might be:

  • The passionate, manic, slightly eccentric, professional man.
  • The soulful, introverted, alternative, generation Z, rock chick.

Congratulations, you should now have the essence of your brand.

Stay tuned for more exciting Branding tips tomorrow when we’ll develop a ‘tool-box’ of elements to help you extend your Brand online.

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Image by CaptCreate via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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