In the world of comedy, as in the world of branding, good material comes from simple observation. So let’s observe recently married (“brand loyalty”) Russell Brand, and see how his personal brand has withstood stand-up, sit-down, and all other forms of comedic media. Maybe we can all learn how a troubled brand gets a second chance at life. Or third, or fourth…
Like many comedians, Russell Brand has made a career out of pointing out faults. In his case, though, the faults he points out are often his own. Rather than hide his drug addiction, for instance, he created an entire one-man show out of it. In another show, Shame, he focused on divulging the embarrassing moments of his past. By admitting fault and embracing it, he has remained true to himself and has maintained a strong awareness of the things he should improve.
Brand example: The Gap. We all witnessed Gapgate, the recent debacle that resulted in Gap withdrawing their new rebrand and reverting to their former logo. While the incident was unfortunate, it did demonstrate that sometimes a brand should simply be true to itself, not try to force a change, and embrace its mistakes.
Dressing up as Osama bin Laden after September 11th probably isn’t the way to win friends, but Brand does have something of a point: It’s impossible to get noticed if you don’t do something radically different than the norm. With Brand, what he says is usually funny, sometimes controversial, occasionally over the line, but always with a message that inspires conversation. He keeps it interesting, and while for some that doesn’t mean a hire, it often keeps him in the spotlight.
Brand example: Apple. Chief Executive Officer, Steve Jobs has made a career of outstanding minimalism. Outstanding because, when every other brand and their advertising shouts and overclutters, Apple simplifies and gets noticed. Jobs has certainly had his ups and downs, even being fired from his own company at one point, but has always maintained his keen visionary sensibility, one that has catapulted Apple back to the top.
Some comedians are content just to do stand-up. But Brand has proved that when you have the knack, trying something else can completely redefine how others perceive you. While he began in stand-up, he has since moved to television, movies, radio, books, and music. Despite getting fired from numerous jobs and receiving criticism for comments made during many of them, Brand has excelled in quite a few of these endeavors. He has kept fresh by varying the media for his messages and by moving on when failure occurs.
Brand example: Virgin. A truly well-rounded business, Virgin began as a record shop and has since expanded to everything from beverages to space travel. It boasts over 300 branded companies around the world, but still manages new ventures with genuinely impressive results.
Stand-up and deliver.
Now a bit more tame, Russell Brand enjoys a certain rare type of success that has come from many mistakes. Corporate brands could take a cue from this comedian: When life gives you lemons, comb your hair with an electric socket and marry Katy Perry.
Miles Seiden is a designer for the Siegel+Gale Los Angeles office.