A recent viewing of Clint Eastwood’s latest film, “Gran Torino,” got me thinking about a lot more than just the final scenes of the movie and its excellent screenplay. I actually began to think long and hard about Clint Eastwood, his performance, his career path, and even, his image.
In this particular film, part “Unforgiven”-style modern day case study of the impact of violence and vengeance, and part “Million Dollar Baby” examination of the potential for connectivity between very dissimilar people, Eastwood’s machismo drives every line and every scene. But upon reflection, I started thinking more about 78-year-old Clint Eastwood “the man,” or more specifically, Clint Eastwood “the brand.”
Eastwood has utilized the medium of film over the past 50 years to create a brand for himself that is so unequivocally his own; tough-minded, shrewd, battle-tested, just, arrogant, and private. Eastwood’s brand does not necessarily personify the man or even every single role he plays as an actor or director (see “Bridges of Madison County”), but it’s strong enough to typify a likeness that has persisted over time. In essence, film allowed Eastwood to both launch his brand and maintain it over the years. But it wasn’t easy. Despite beginning his movie career in 1955, it wasn’t until 1964’s “A Fistful of Dollars” when Eastwood truly broke into the mainstream, and it was 1971’s “Dirty Harry” that officially signaled his ability to transcend genres with his brand; from spaghetti western’s to modern day examinations of violence and its consequences.
But more importantly, Eastwood’s brand consistency on the big screen ignited my thinking about how new media allows us all to create, maintain, and adjust our own brand image. Today, any average Joe can now use tools like Facebook or Myspace to develop (read: launch) their own brand profile by uploading all the relevant photos, videos, music, personality descriptions, etc. Without the power of film or television, internet users can create an image for themselves that personifies who they are (or who they want people to think they are), and they can even identify and attract their own audience. Sometimes finding this audience is as easy as a simple “friend request,” or as is the case with digital channels like Twitter and LinkedIn, the more attractive the profile (or online brand), the more likely the audience will grow. It’s simple brand marketing.
And unlike an actor, launching and maintaining your brand online can be free and easy. Without the startup costs, unexpectedly controversial or unconventional roles (or “off-brand” roles like “Bridges”), studio pressures or very public negative reviews, individuals can build and manage their brand on their own terms. And with the proliferation of new media into various channels, individuals can modify their image to please and engage different audiences (think of a LinkedIn profile as an individual’s attempt at creating their “Oscar Winning Brand”).
And the beauty of it, these same channels are just as useful for corporations, organizations, philanthropies, and all sorts of other groups looking to build or even recreate their brand.
New media, giving voices to the masses. Building your online brand would make Clint proud.
Go ahead, make his day.