I am an ardent fan of Wes Anderson movies—from “Rushmore,” to “The Royal Tenenbaums,” to “The Life Aquatic,” to “Darjeeling Limited” to “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” He’s a director for the Millennial generation: blending all sorts of eclectic styles and tastes and subtle, ironic references.
He has a new film coming out called “Moonrise Kingdom,” and it got me thinking.
All of Anderson’s films are utterly unique. They’re quirky, rich and deep character-based stories. What’s interesting is that despite being so different, there is a familiar flavor to each movie. You know when a film is by him.
He even manages to keep things fresh while using the same stable of actors, including Owen Wilson, the mighty Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Anjelica Huston. And it is to his credit that they repeatedly sign up for the next imagination-busting caper with him.
Being a brand nerd, I see some strong parallels between Wes Anderson’s movies and how brands can advertise today.
Today, really great brands don’t have to deploy rigid formality. Bluntly, all the ads don’t need to be the same. You can share different aspects of the brand (or product) by telling quite different stories, in different ways.
Think how Honda’s idea of the “Power of Dreams” has been dramatized over the last few years, or Orange’s multi-award-winning work has had so many different expressions, and how U.S. insurance giant Geico runs several different ad campaigns simultaneously.
I guess the secret is fourfold:
(1) Strong, central brand idea: Come up with the right idea (which is what I spend my time doing professionally), and you can hang different creative approaches and expressions off it. People understand at some level that all these pieces link together from that.
(2) A consistent flavor: Like Wes Anderson’s films, there does need to be some recognizable flavor in tone of voice, or visually (Telefonica’s O2 brand in Europe) or in brand characters (like the gecko in Geico).
(3) Experiment and surprise: Wes Anderson is always mixing things up and experimenting. He continually surprises us by adding in small, unexpected details, or bizarre musical flourishes and subtle, touching moments. All collectively differentiate his work.
BMW Mini is a brand that does experimentation and surprise quite well. It has so many varied and surprising executions of the BMW idea, all over the world.
BMW perfectly leverages the idea of “Mini adventures” and produces some very disruptive, eye-catching, imagination-stimulating marketing.
(4) Give people a way to take part: Each of Anderson’s movies seems to generate its own PR. Word spreads through social media and consequently these films don’t have to advertise that much (see my recent post on “The Avengers” for the perils of that)
He creates a fan base and following and cleverly creates brand “artifacts”: things, stuff we can buy, share with friends or take part in or join, like the Team Zissou fan club.
These artifacts not only extend the brand experience beyond a movie but also create a relationship between director and fan, the perfect marketing platform for the next very different and intriguing story that he comes up with.
You may not be a passionate fan of Anderson’s somewhat eclectic films, or conversely you’re actually a card-carrying member of Team Zissou; either way, brands can learn a few things from his approach, especially how Millennials interact with these films, and continue to stay involved long after the movie theaters have stopped screening them.
If you’re interested, here’s a recent article that gives you insight into how Anderson operates and thinks.
And you can learn more at the excellent http://rushmoreacademy.com.
Moonrise Kingdom premieres May 25 at select theaters.