Clint Eastwood is the world’s greatest brand manager. This is not one of those “Life lessons I learned from Caddyshack,” or “Everything I need to know about business I learned from coaching 1st grade soccer” blogs. Businesses and those concerned with managing their personal brand can learn alot from following his example.
He has deftly managed his personal and corporate brand for decades, yielding millions a year in personal revenue and billions for studios. He has more at stake than most businesses and certainly most individuals. What we can learn comes down to evolving, diversifying, stretching, and solidifying your brand attributes.
A, B, Cs: Always Be Changing
Any brand can become static. We all tend to become an expert in one area or fall into some niche definition. It is our area of expertise – what we are known for. It is tempting to stay there, to entrench ourselves. To think that this is what our audience expects. This thinking is a real danger for companies and people alike. Brands need to evolve, to change on a regular basis. Why? Because the needs or tastes of our audience changes and we will become irrelevant if we don’t.
Clint Eastwood is particularly deft here. He could be doing Dirty Harry 12 or the Gluten-free Spaghetti Western. However, every step had a purpose – a goal in mind. Even when you go do “Bronco Billy” or “Honkytonk Man,” instead of another cop movie, it is because you are defining your skills as a storyteller, which pays-off when he does “Million Dollar Baby” and “Mystic River.” The idea here is simple: don’t rest on your laurels, have a goal in mind and move toward it, even if not everyone always understands it.
Actor, Politician, Hotelier, Piano Player, Director. A lot of brands – both personal and corporate – tend to think they need to be one thing and one thing only for their audiences or customers. The belief is that they depend on that deep rooted expertise. While this can be true, great brands diversify their portfolio or footprint. Have you ever been stuck at a cocktail party with that person who only talks on one topic? “Hi, I’m Simon – I live, eat, and breathe social media. Nope – that’s all I do.” You will set a world record for claiming food poisoning to get out of that conversation.
Not only does diversifying make you more interesting and more valuable to your audience, but it certainly helps you weather market storms as things go out of vogue. Besides, what you learn from these other endeavors eventually “always” spills over into your area of expertise.
Do the Selfless Thing Once in Awhile
Doing the right thing – the selfless thing – sounds like a no-brainier. For your personal brand, it may be easier. However, for a corporate brand, it can be tricky when multiple forces come to bear. As mayor of Carmel, Clint Eastwood was telling his community that it was important to him. More important than writing a check – he took time out to run for and thoughtfully execute his duties as mayor of the town. That step alone brought needed tourism dollars and attention to the town. However, his personal brand was increased as people around the globe connected with him for his role in the local community.
Try this – think about the companies you most admire – ones you want to work with? Are they faceless, soulless corporate entities or are they very human organizations engaged in some level of corporate responsibility. Personally, I am seldom more proud of the company I work for than when we banded together to build for Habitat for Humanity.
Be True to Yourself
It is so easy to believe your own hype. If I am good at this, I can be good at anything. How about “good at everything?” “We are really good at petrol-chemicals so we should make hot dogs.” (OK, maybe that one kinda makes sense, but you get the idea). Change and evolve, for sure. But know your limits. Try some different things and if they take – go for it. When it doesn’t work, back away and try again.
Clint Eastwood is a storyteller, first and foremost. He tells interesting stories – the every-man, flawed, but trying to do right. There is always that connection to your audience. The authenticity of your brand. You can be a beer-swilling pugilist or an irascible boxing trainer, but audiences will connect with you because you are authentically you. Your brand can learn a lot from this lesson.
You don’t ever hear of Clint Eastwood’s “come back” because in over 50 years he stayed relevant – from the constant management of his brand. OK, maybe after Pink Cadillac, but everyone is allowed a mistake or two.
Interested in additional social media and marketing insights, with more esoteric references than you can swing Schrodinger’s cat at? Follow Todd at @toddmwilms or connect on LinkedIn. I am no Clint Eastwood, but you could do worse.