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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Actor Brand Loyalty and Marketing Efforts

Last night during a bout of insomnia, I was reading my Zite app on my iPad and learned two wonderful things: that Connie Britton, AKA Friday Night Lights’  Tami Taylor, will be starring in a show in the fall called Nashville, and that Jesse Plemons, AKA FNL’s Landry Clarke, will be joining Breaking Bad in season 5. (Zach Gilford, AKA Matt Saracen, AKA my FAVORITE character on FNL, was at the Fox upfronts but I haven’t been able to find out what show he’s on. If he’s on The Mindy Project, I will die happy.) All the alums are doing well: Taylor Kitsch and Jesse Plemons will both be in Battleship this summer and Kitsch will also be in Savages with Blake Lively; Adrianne Palicki will be in G.I. Joe; Kyle “Coach Taylor” Chandler has a number of movies in production, including the highly anticipated Martin Scorsese movie The Wolf of Wall Street.

Friday Night Lights is one of those shows that just gets to you and hangs on. Season 1 was a perfect arc of television. “The Son,” an episode in season 4 in which Matt Saracen’s soldier father dies, was the best episode of television – not of that season; of television – I watched that year. So I’m always happy when alums from the cast get work, and I usually support them. (Same goes for The Wire. When Michael B. Jordan, AKA Wallace, turned up ON FNL and proceeded to do great work, it was a great time in my life.) I watched American Horror Story entirely because of Britton (and then stayed for Jessica Lange). I fully intend to see Battleship (don’t judge me!), I will watch Nashville, I saw Super 8 because of Chandler (and then stayed for the cast of kids), I can see myself seeing G.I. Joe. I already watch Breaking Bad so Plemons’s casting is just icing.

But my loyalty is not blind. Kitsch starred in John Carter, which I knew right away I was not about to see (that was a terribly-marketed movie). I don’t think I’ll be in the theater for Savages either; I saw the trailer when I saw The Cabin in the Woods and was unmoved. I didn’t watch Gilford’s most recent (now-dead) show Off the Map, nor did I watch Charlie’s Angels with Minka Kelly.

There was an article in The Wall Street Journal years ago called “Brand Loyalty is Rarely Blind Loyalty” that highlighted this concept, that most consumers switch brands for some items without giving much thought to loyalty. And while actors, movies, and TV shows aren’t brands in the traditional sense like Starbucks coffee or Crest toothpaste, they ARE brands. Simply put? If an actor I like from a show I love takes a part in a movie or show that looks like crap, I will not watch it. The “looks like crap” part outweighs the “but she was on FNL!” part.

In this economy, where money is tight for many, I think people are even less inclined to blindly support brands, and that includes actors. In 2011, movie revenue was the lowest it’s been since 1995. People aren’t flocking to the movies in droves anymore (The Hunger Games, The Avengers, and The Dark Knight Rises are going to bump those numbers up considerably, though), so actors don’t have that loyalty to bank on. The media world (especially the film industry, because it’s more expensive and time-consuming to see a movie than it is to watch TV) really needs to bring it when it comes to its marketing efforts in order to put butts in the seats. Complacency and coasting simply won’t cut it.

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