Surely, anyone nosing through these pages has a highly developed understanding of what constitutes a brand. But here's an application of branding you may not have considered before—Brand, Personified. I mean this: Individuals are, themselves, brands.
While you consider pondering how you or others might characterize your personal brand, these lines will accentuate the brand identity of one of the world's most glittery celebs; one who has recently been declared one of "15 people who make America great." I present the brand of Brad Pitt.
What are the first three adjectives that come to mind when you spot the individual's name above? It's often been said that the true measure of a person's personality is what's said about him or her when he or she isn't around to hear it. Same thing, in a way, with brands. What, then, would you say about this top-tier celebrity? Do you tend toward "charitable," "compassionate" and "authentic?" Or are you more inclined to use words like "disingenuous," "pathetic" and "phony?" Can you distinguish between how Pitt is portrayed in the media and how you yourself feel about him based on what you understand him to be as an actor, husband or father? Perhaps you are altogether indifferent—but probably not. The point is that, positively or negatively, you're responding to Mr. Pitt the same way you would to a traditional brand.
In a Washington Post op-ed piece published in November 2005, Pitt himself declared: "I'm a brand." I don't wish to take the quote too far out of context—the assertion was only half of his response to the suggestion that Africa's exports suffer because of the dominance of Western brands—but the anecdote is nonetheless telling. Might Pitt's own words be the first documented case of celebrity brand self-awareness?
One could argue that Pitt's is a brand in transition. Which is a nice way of expressing that there seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it quality to his personality. A fair analogy might be to liken his current image to toothpaste that cleans and whitens but leaves a funny taste in your mouth after rinsing. Why is this?
Well, a part of it is likely the fact that, to many, Brad Pitt is not a standalone brand, but rather half of a now infamous co-branded entity the media cleverly refers to as Brangelina. And Angelina Jolie surely brings some personal brand baggage to the mix. She is herself already a brand extension. Considering, however, that she has been married (and divorced) twice prior to her present Pitt union, one could easily surmise that she's not improving Brad's brand equity. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Backing up slightly, pre-Aniston & pre-Jolie, the Pitt brand persona was largely defined as that of sexy heartthrob with serviceable acting chops. This is due in part to his overnight emergence following a buzzworthy turn in 1991's Thelma & Louise
. Consistently listed among People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People, the Pitt brand could most closely be associated with attractiveness, if not the personification of attraction itself.
Pitt then endeavored to distance himself from the looks-driven image through roles in darker movies like Twelve Monkeys
and Fight Club
. One might even suggest Pitt's Seven Years in Tibet
role, which got him barred from entering China, was a precursor to his most recent incarnation.
The new millennium brought with it the tabloid-enriched engagement and marriage to Aniston of TV's Friends
fame. It also seemed to put a more mature spin on the Pitt brand. The Pitt evolution from "hunk" to romantic lead is reflected if not enhanced by his film choices during their union.
In the midst of it all, Pitt has worked hard to distance his brand from the tawdry fray. He has diverted attention from his would-be role as meaty prize to that of champion of Africa's downtrodden. From actor to activist. From philanderer to philanthropist. What the media would term spin we marketers would surely classify as an astute attempt at brand repositioning.
As with any brand, time will tell if the "new, improved Brad" will be well received by his previously adoring, now fence-riding public. As with any brand, the strength of and commitment to this newest "campaign" could make all the difference in the long-term viability of Brand Pitt.