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Brands in the Fire

by Sydney Levine
October 13, 2010 3:30 AM
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A Blog on Brands

Brands as we knew them as children were burnt on cattle.

The word brand began simply as a way to tell one person's cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp. A legally protected brand name is called a trademark. The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity - it affects the personality of a product, company or service.

We knew who the cattle rustlers were and whose beef was the best, the most reliable, the healthiest. And that was the brand we wanted to have, Circle K being the most kosher, at least in the westerns we were watching.

Nowadays we find brands being born before we even know the product. Will Olympus Pictures become a brand for having made Rabbit Hole (Tipped for an Oscar, LionsGate has U.S.), Beginners (Focus has U.S.), Adam (Fox Searchlight has U.S.) and The Narrows? Participant is a brand for those who know the company's founding principles. Of course the major studios are brands, but people don't go to the movies because they say MGM, Universal or Paramount. They go because they're interested in the story. However they might go if the film says Fox Searchlight. Miramax had a certain brand recognition even for moviegoers. Its mythology, the stories of Harvey and Bob, the spawn of Mira and Max, could keep a party going for a long time.

Anne Thompson writes of Media Brand Names. Celebrities are the Brand Names for filmmakers. Transmedia's stock in trade are brands. Film buyers know certain international sales agents as "brands", most notably Summit or Wild Bunch. Consumers know Netflix Criterion, and maybe soon they will also recognize Mubi.

Craig Emanuel, head of Loeb & Loeb's Entertainment division points out that that Wherever the eyes are, there must be Brands.

What is the purpose of this blog? Just to point out that brands have certain responsibilities to their audiences and if new distribution companies are popping up like mushrooms, it will be their task to become brands to distinguish themselves and their movies from the masses of others out there. Right now, they all have brand parity and its a bit confusing.

Brands. Thanks to the Devil's Rope Museum

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  • Danica Young | July 15, 2013 2:27 AMReply

    In need of a branding agency. Has anyone knows IYBI brand development. Please give me some insight, Thank you

  • Jeena | July 15, 2013 2:29 AM

    You mean ?

  • SydneyLevine | November 4, 2010 6:40 AMReply

    Thank you Michael! This is a valuable coda to the article. I appreciate your sharing your acumen!

  • Michael R. Barnard | October 26, 2010 11:39 AMReply

    Good points, Sydney. Of course, the biggest brand in media is DISNEY. Ask any family what movie is likely to serve their needs. They'll say "Disney."

    Brands must be carefully cultivated and nurtured. They require consistency (e.g., never allow the use a period in Dr Pepper; that would not be consistent.) They grow out of good, sound marketing, and they take hold by being consistent and true.

    Brands trigger an emotional response as well as presumptions of quality.

    They can be mixed: when you think AT&T, you probably presume quality *and* you probably have a horrible emotional reaction to dealing with the company. In AT&T's case, the presumption of quality trumps the abysmal emotional response. In fact, their terrible emotional response is probably beyond reality; their bad brand cannot seem to rise above the fact that their customer service is improving (I think).

    Yes, branding can be bad, too.

    As filmmakers, the emotional response will trump the presumption of quality. People can have "feel good" vibes about a movie that has piss-poor production values.

    For the indie filmmaker, the biggest issue about BRAND is "bankable talent." The notion of bankable talent is so much larger than life that filmmakers and distributors alike frequently cannot grasp that what they are talking about is BRAND.

    The reason an actor is worth having in a movie is because of the actor's BRAND. An actor works hard to cultivate a consistent image that evokes emotional bonding and presumptions of quality. (Even when an actor "stretches" into unexpected parts, we want to follow them IF we have favorable feelings toward their brand--and for an opposite reaction, follow Joaquin Phoenix for the past two years. He *might* be able to redeem his brand.)

    What is significant about realizing that we "need" actors because of their brand? Even though few distributors would grasp this--the rote requirement of bankable talent seems to rest on its own level, devoid of analysis about WHY any actor is bankable--the act of branding can be transferred to other resources besides actors.

    The big actors have done all the heavy lifting, spending years cultivating a brand that can attract an audience. But there is always proof that there are other elements that can also attract audiences. For instance, EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP relied on the Banksy brand, even though he is not an actor. MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING may have been banking on the brand of the producers.

    What brand drove PARANORMAL ACTIVITY to spectacular heights? It was pure marketing, the best marketing: a brand was created out of NOTHING. Kudos to Paramount! They built a brand from scratch, and now we watch as that brand is selling PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 to equally astonishing heights. People had a strong emotional reaction and a presumption of quality toward PA2. Success!!

    Never underestimate the power and requirement for marketing. BRANDS ARE BUILT WITH MARKETING. Marketing can even build a brand from scratch. A brand can come from a bankable actor...or, from nothing.

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