What is Branding
The American Marketing Association defines a BRAND as a "name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers." As much as we don't want to think of ourselves this way you, the actor, are a product. Not a product in the way Coke or Pepsi are products, but you are selling something, that something is YOU.
WHAT DOES BRANDING DO?
- It informs people what they can expect when they interact with the product.
- It creates an emotional reaction/connection in the audience specific to that product.
- It identifies what the product is, what it stands for, and develops trust in the product, giving the audience an assurance of quality.
In summary it is how a specific audience emotionally and psychologically relates to the product and how they see themselves in or using that product.
WHAT ABOUT ACTOR BRANDING?
When it comes to "actor branding", things change slightly. After all you are a human being and it is important to connect with your audience on that level.
- It puts your type in context with the industry rather than just casting.
- It delivers your "essence" clearly.
- It reinforces your professionalism and credibility.
- It Emotionally connects you to casting directors and producers.
THREE COMPONENTS OF BRANDING
- Brands are consistent across all forms: images, websites, social media, business/postcards, color, etc.
- They are authentic. Your brand represents you, tells your story and is just an extension of yourself.
- They differentiate you. It helps you define the unique elements and deliver them to your audience.
Define Your Essence
There are several avenues you can take in order to discover and cultivate your specific brand identity. This is one of the most comprehensives ways to dig in and cultivate the true and authentic you.
Now make 2 lists.. The 1st will be how you see yourself and the 2nd will be how others see you.
- Write a list of 10 character traits that describe who you are. Be specific (fiery, outgoing, etc.), not general (happy, etc.).
- Ask a broad selection of people who you trust and value to describe you in 5 words. Ask those in your life, both personally and professionally. Be sure to limit them to 5-8 people. Once you go beyond that it can become difficult to analyze the data you have gathered. Use email/text to contact those individuals whose opinions you trust. It has been my experience that people tend to talk more freely when you are not face to face.
Set them side by side and find the repeating themes. Some may not make the cut but the ones that do….they are gold.
This is the hardest part for any person who is looking into defining who they are and what they put forth into the world. Many times, the way we see ourselves is not exactly they way others see us. You have to look past any emotional reasons that could affect the way you analyze the information you have collected. You are trying to define who you are, so if words like “over-confident” or “abrasive” surface you have two options. You can make the changes in your life in order to adjust that opinion or you can embrace it. Although there are many actors where these are part of their brand, Andrew Dice Clay is one that definitely comes to mind. However, this is only a small part of who he is, there are many other traits that are included in his brand. Your brand is who you are honed and polished.
As an actor, we all hate typecasting. We believe that we can play any role put before us. We’ve spent years training our voice, body, and spirit in order to accomplish this feat. However, when presenting yourself in front of casting directors, directors, and producers, they will connect with you emotionally and psychologically from the moment you walk into the room, by what you are presenting. Yes you are a very talented performer, but they want to know what they are getting if they would hire you and where they can casting with out having to search for it. Knowing what you do well ties your brand together and defines who you are as a living, breathing, human being, it will also help clear up a casting directors decision of where you fit in the project they are casting, as well as, the future. You may feel you are narrowing your ability by focusing on these character types, but the goal is to book the gig. Think of actors who started out doing certain “types”, but have transitioned their brand in a different direction: Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp. How to Identify Your Type
Ask yourself these questions.
What movies and/or directors do you love and (most importantly) why?
What have I already been cast in and what do the roles have in common?
Who are playing your roles now in TV, Film, and Theater?
Be very specific and honest. We would all like to be Jennifer Lawrence.
If you still need further information, ask the trusted people in your life, or even a few strangers (for this part), a couple more questions.
How old do you think I am?
What actors am I most like?
If you didn’t know me, just by looking at me and hearing me speak, what would be my occupation or interests?
Putting it together
Your Brand = Your Authentic Self
What You Do Well Naturally.
This is your tag line….your brand.
Take the list of the no more than 5 most powerful words/terms and combine it with the roles/types to craft your specific brand. You don’t have to use every word in the list of traits that you received. Use what defines you most. That’s it!
Examples: “The fiery hipster, with bad boy charms, looks, and a touch of Wall Street.” “Wild, bohemian, free-spirit who will light up a room with her vibrant glow and an infectious laugh.” “Intense, dark, and contemplative….his rebel heart and air of mystery make him the sexiest guy in the room.” You may notice that some of the descriptive words people gave you also apply to type.
Congratulations, you now have your brand flushed out and you are ready to start implementing it into you career plan.
Implementing Your Brand
You now have your brand; how do you transfer that into your headshots? A helpful way to clarify what you will need to bring with you on the day of your shoot and to keep you on brand is to simply write it out. You already know what types you are best at after doing the analysis, now write it down each of them on a piece of paper. The number of types you will need will depend on the number of looks you are getting with your headshot session. Under each one, create a section for Hair/Makeup, Clothes, Character, Energy/Mood, Roles, and Subtext. Fill it in and watch how much easier it is to narrow down your wardrobe AND you are much more prepared going into your shoot. It not only helps you, it shows the photographer a clear vision of what you want.
Hair: Front spiked up & to the right.
Clothes: Orange V Neck or a patterned button down w/ red in it.
Character: Joey from friends, the best friend, comedy relief, the wild card.
Energy/Mood: Silly, aloof, harmless, fun, cute, lovable, goof, NOT sexy, clean cut.
Roles: Disney TV shows, Lafoo in Beauty & the Beast, Shrek.
Subtext: "I may not be smart, but I'll be your best friend." or "I'm a 10 year old trapped in a man's body."
Remember you want to try and have at least 2 options of clothing for each look. Just because something may work for the character, doesn’t mean it will work for the camera. Check out my post about what to wear for your shoot.(insert link to post)
Images are what really sell your brand. It puts a face to the name. You want to pick 2-4 images that you use consistently, a primary headshot and a 2-3 other shots. These can be anything from different looks to candid snapshots that are on brand. Your primary headshot should a shot that looks good as a thumbnail. So much casting is done digitally now, you must be able to stand out from the other shots around yours, while staying true to the tone and style of the brand. You may have completely different looks from your headshots session and that is okay. I urge you to use those for specific submissions as opposed to blanketing your brand with all of the different types you can play. We want to help the casting director, not confuse them.
Remember the words on those lists you made? Now it's time to put them to work. As much as some people may hate it, part of building your brand is making sure your online presence is alive and kicking. This includes Websites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and many more options. These are a perfect place to start getting your keywords out there. Use the biography sections of each to jump start your audience into recognizing your brand. Have at least three bios available. A short 1 liner, a basic "playbill" type bio, and a full length bio. Continue once this is done.
Social Media Posting
We have all of these great platforms; now what to do? You want your posts to build on what you have already started. Start adding your brand into each. A word or two here and there. Use images and other media to promote your brand. Having just your headshots is no longer an option. When casting directors are researching you, they want to see you behind the scenes as well. Don't count out fun on set, backstage, and/or party images. I want to caution you to make sure they are on brand.
You don't need a full out logo, but you do need some sort of identifiable symbol. For most actors it is their name. Whatever font, size, or type, it must be easy to read; clean and simple tends to work best. Again, I caution you to stay on brand. You don't want a beautiful font when your brand is "an extreme bad ass bike guy with a killer arms and gift for finding trouble."
Color is a very powerful thing. Instantly when we see it, we have some sort of emotional reaction to it. Pick 3-4 colors that you feel represent who you are and give the emotional feeling you want to present. Remember stay on brand. Do some color research before deciding. Here is a emotional color wheel. Look it over and see where your brand falls.