The key to building your brand is, as the ancient Greeks taught us, to “know thyself”. If you have read my previous article and have done the five pointers plus taken the personality test to discover your strengths, you will have an established structure to define what you are most suited to in terms of your path as an actor. The better you know yourself the more effectively you can market yourself, and the more likely you are to attract the right audience. That’s why it is so important to identify your talents and strengths.
Q: How can you build a strong brand identity around who you are?
A: By building a relationship with your audience.
As a brand, you should generate an image and idea that guarantees your audience a particular experience. This may sound prescriptive and corporate, but you have to remember that the best asset you have to offer the audience is yourself. You have every right to be here because you are special and have a unique personality to share.
Learn to develop your personal brand, and over the course of time it will strengthen your reputation and enable you to reach out to customers. This is where being different allows you to stand out. By being the most authentic version of yourself you will project an image of who you are rather than imitating another actor you admire and ending up with all the appeal and energy of a cardboard cutout.
Nike, Apple, Google and Disney are powerful brands. Simply saying the brand name conjures up mental images of their products and company values. Nike stands for athleticism, Apple for slick technological designs, Google for infinite access to knowledge and Disney for imagination and fun.
If you carry this idea into the acting world, you will see that majority of celebrities had some sort of personal brand during their early careers, which they stuck with for some time. As a case in point, Clint Eastwood was the all-American lone hero. He was a cool, enigmatic, laconic individual. Robert De Niro was the master of brooding silence and quiet menace. He had the street smarts but was also a highly sensitive man.
Sandra Bullock was the cute and quirky girl in romantic comedies who always enjoyed cracking a joke or two at the expense of someone else. More recently, Emma Stone has been the girl-next-door type who is charming in her approach to life, adopting a laissez-faire attitude infused with nonchalance and wit.
Whether a brand is good or bad it stands for something. In most cases it will represent one key product, service or mindset. What is your one thing? In other words, what will your brand be when the time comes? You may be scratching your head, thinking, “Hey, I’m nowhere near that point yet. I haven’t started my acting career and you’re already talking to me about branding myself!”
But you should start thinking about yourself as an actor even in the early days. How do you think you would be, or should be, branded? Do you think you would fit certain roles more effectively than others? Do you happen to be particularly tall, short, slim, overweight, comedic, dramatic, energetic or morose? Think about yourself as a person and the characters you can easily portray. Then begin to imagine the brand you could create around yourself.
Most actors don’t want to be pigeonholed as a certain type of character throughout their careers. This is fully understandable, but it shouldn’t be a major concern. As an actor you’re a chameleon, so you should be able to fit your round peg into any shape of hole (or casting role, for that matter). But just for now, concentrate on your key strengths. Capitalise on those and focus on making them stronger and sharper. Then, once you are more established, go for the roles that are more daring and challenging for you to conquer.
If you look closely at the examples I gave of the famous actors above you’ll notice that I mentioned that they were those character types. This doesn’t mean that they still are now, but they had to start somewhere. Each first established a brand and then moved on from there to develop further skills.
As Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson, writers of The Hero and the Outlaw, point out: “Superstars in the ﬁlm and entertainment industry, and the agents who manage them, understand that their continued popularity does not hinge simply on the quality or success of the films they make or the visibility they attain. Rather, it depends on creating, nourishing, and continuously reinterpreting a unique and compelling identity or ‘meaning.’”
In other words, define your identity as an actor, discover your strengths and create a character that projects you in a way that reflects your greatest abilities.