Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's not personal...

NYTimes covers an interesting story. I'm usually not in the gossip business but I thought this has some interesting marketing relevance. Sumner Redstone, the old dude running Viacom, has fired Tom Cruise from the Paramount roster. The article, in true Hollywood style, covers the back and forth between representatives of these two guys but not from the guys themselves. My favorite quote is from a friend of Redstone:

“Tom Cruise has gone nuts,” Mr. Greenberg said. If Hollywood people believe that Mr. Redstone handled Mr. Cruise badly, he added, “They are entitled to their opinion.’’... “He did the right thing. The guy diminished his drawing power.”
So we've all seen Tom go from superstar to spewing trainwrecks everytime he opens his mouth. What is surprising is that it took so long for someone to respond. But what does this have to do with marketing?

Well, stars are brands. What is most valuable for a brand is a certain level of consistency. You don't mess with the Coke formula nor do you start selling cheeseburgers at Starbucks. A brand loses value when it loses the thing that defines it. By jumping on couches and alienating women with babies, Tom fundamentally shifted his brand.

Let's compare Tom's craziness to other meltdowns of late... like Mel Gibson. I'm going to predict that Mel will bounce back. Mainly because his faux pas was at least on brand. Mel's always had a weird streak regarding religion, so if anything, he's strengthened his brand. In time, we'll just say, "Ok, he screwed up, but that's Mel."

With Tom, he's been so freak'n crazy that you almost wonder if it's the same person. The Tom Cruise we all know, the brand we loved, is gone. Will he still make movies? Sure. Will he still draw audiences? Probably. But he's no longer in the coveted "perfect superstar" position. When you buy a bottle of Heinz, you know what to expect; you don't want to play guessing games each time you open the bottle. Because of this same reason, another brand will take Tom's place, a brand that's more consistent and with less surprises.

Redstone is a smart guy and I'm glad someone had the guts to do what was necessary. Because you know, it's just business.

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