This weekend my husband and I walked down to the local movie theatre and saw three movies:
- Mongol: About the rise of Genghis Khan. Part of anticipated trilogy. Worth seeing.
- Bottle Shock: About events surrounding the first wine tasting contest in the 1970s between French and Napa Valley wines. A California wine won.
- Mamma Mia: A light musical fair based on Abba music with an all star cast. High school musical for baby boomers.
Mongol sits alone (but I'm encouraging people to see it).
The other two movies made me think about personal branding.
- In BottleShock, Alan Rickman portrays his character as a snobby brit - a role he plays well. The first time my husband and I saw Rickman was in a 1985 Shakespeare production in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was a standout player in a roll that oozed sarcasm - a close relative of snobbery. Since that time, he has branded himself as quick wit that wields sarcasm and snobbery like a samurai wields a sword. For Rickman, it is a brand that works and we love him for it.
- In Mamma Mia, big name stars such as Meryl Streep, Stellan Skarsgård, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski and Pierce Brosnan dance, sing and just seem to have a heck of a lot of fun. Meryl has a wide range of performance abilities, so she fit well into her role. Stellan Skarsgard's role seemed perfectly suited to his nature. Colin Firth hasn't really developed a niche style of acting, so his role worked okay for him. Christine Baranski was just as wild and crazy as we've come to expect from her suite of characters.
And then there was Pierce Brosnan. I remember Pierce Brosnan when he was Remington Steele -- a James Bond wannabe who wasn't. In a way, this performance seemed to go back in a reverse sort of way to his Remington Steele roots. Now that Remington Steele has become James Bond, it seemed like James Bond was now trying to become Remington Steele (or, in this case, Sam Carmichael).
When Pierce Brosnan belted (and I mean belted) out "SOS", you could hear gentle laughter in the movie audience. James Bond singing Abba? And with a closeup!
In my mind's eye I saw producers Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson smile as the Mamma Mia casting director suggested Pierce Brosnan for the role. And I can also hear Tom Hanks saying to the audience, "Look, folks, it's only a movie. And a musical at that. It's supposed to be fun! Enjoy it!"
Okay, so it seems like Pierce Brosnan -- for most of the movie-going audience -- was perceived as playing against his personal brand. It just didn't work ... initially.
But once we got over the shock of Pierce singing Abba, comments like "he's a good sport" and "he could sing okay" and "he wasn't that bad" filled the air.
People really like Pierce Brosnan and were willing to support him.
So, I guess I've come to the conclusion that playing against personal brand is okay -- as long the brand is liked. If Pierce Brosnan's brand wasn't strong and positive to begin with, reactions probably would have been much different (and less positive).
Lesson learned: Build a strong and likeable personal brand for those times when you may have to perform against brand (and need support from others).