Kevin Smith Shows The Importance Of Building A Brand As A Part Of CwF+RtB

from the smoderrific dept

For quite some time, we've used Kevin Smith as an interesting example of someone who seems to really grasp the whole CwF+RtB (Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy) concept that we focus on in explaining how to create success models (not just "business" models) these days. And while some may tire of hearing about the same person over and over again, as with Trent Reznor, Smith seems to keep doing more and more interesting experiments that really fit in with the general concept, and from which there's plenty to learn.

From early on Smith has embraced his fans, like very few others out there. He had set up a very active message board well over a decade ago, and has always been incredibly open with his fans. Of course, it's not just about talking to your fans, but doing interesting things with them (and, at the same time, opening up opportunities for those fans to support you in a variety of ways -- not just monetarily). We've talked about how he's branched out way beyond being a "filmmaker" to being an overall entertainer with a bunch of podcasts that presented lots of opportunities to practice CwF+RtB, called the Smodcast Network. A few months ago, he took it even further by starting his own internet radio, called Smodcast Internet Radio -- or SIR.

And, the latest is that he's teamed up with Topspin -- a company we've obviously talked about a lot, though mostly in the music space -- and totally relaunched his site that shows off a variety of CwF+RtB elements. You can see the whole thing at Smodcast.com. There's a premium "subscription" offering that provides additional benefits for true fans, though all the basic content is still available for free. There are ways to get tickets to live shows and other events. There's greater interaction on the website, allowing greater connections both between Smith and the various other folks involved with Smodcast/SIR, as well as between community members themselves. Separately, it also does a nice job showing off the fact that Topspin's platform works for way more than just music.

But I think one of the really key points is brought out in a blog post about this by Bob Moczydlowsky (bobmoz, to most folks) at Topspin about this offering:
But look past the offers and focus on the strategy: This site is more than podcasts and a fan club. Notice the brand name atop it all: SModCo. This is step one of a filmmaker-comedian-podcaster-talk-radio-host getting his house in order for the new day rising. Notice Kevinís Twitter following. Look at the footer on the site.
I think this is an important point that often gets lost in all of these discussions. We've talked about the importance of actually understanding the deeper strategies rather than just focusing on the superficial cargo cult side of things. People who brush aside Smith's efforts as "it's just a podcast" or "he's just sitting around and talking" are missing the larger picture. They're seeing the surface, but missing the depth. This isn't just a guy talking. There's a larger strategy (one that is improvisational, but coming together nicely) here, and it's built around a brand -- a brand that is 100% focused on connecting with fans while still giving them plenty of reasons to support him. As Smith is fond of saying, this is about being where the puck is going to be, not where it's been. If you're not paying attention (or if you don't think this is a big deal), you're missing something big.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jul 20th, 2011 @ 10:03pm

    Longevity is a challenge

    I think it is smart for a celebrity to think of himself or herself as a brand. But sustaining that brand over the long haul is a challenge.

    Three celebrities who have branded themselves and have lasted are Oprah, Martha Stewart, and the Olsen Twins. Oprah is unquestionably the most successful of the bunch. Stewart exemplifies the problems of personality branding (i.e., the image of the entire brand can be damaged by the missteps of the celebrity). The Olsen Twins are interesting in that they have successfully managed to go from tween idols, followed by an awkward transition period, to reinventing themselves as heads of a luxury fashion company (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, America's Next Billionaires).

    If you stop to think about the number of musicians or actors or TV personalities you continue to be interested in for more than a few years, it's likely to be very small.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 1:13am

      Re: Longevity is a challenge

      If you stop to think about the number of musicians or actors or TV personalities you continue to be interested in for more than a few years, it's likely to be very small.

      But it will not be the same set for everyone, and as you lose interest in a particular artist someone else may replace you.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:06am

    Kevin Smith has been doing this for all of his career, basically he isn't a good enough (or rich enough) guy to have gotten into the directors seat otherwise. If he had finished film school (he didn't), he likely would be knocking out Bounty quicker picker upper commercials and enjoying the married father life.

    Since he didn't want that, he has always stood on the outside. But standing on the outside means having to self promote endlessly, which he has done since day 1. That would include everything including doing cover shots for High Times magazine.

    The biggest issue for Smith at this point is that, even with big production money, even doing big movie company movies, even with his huge fanbase, he still hasn't had a major commercial breakthrough. Cop Out, which should have been a big hit, instead had a good opening weekend and then fizzled, leaving the studio holding the bag. 30 million production cost with 55 million of worldwide box office doesn't make it a hit. A review of all of his released movies shows a trend of basically barely making back production costs.

    So for all the CwF or whatever he would have called it nearly 10 years before Techdirt was even a thought, he still can't sell the big ones. He may have a great brand, but nobody is paying for it, at least not as a movie maker.

     

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      aikoaiko2, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:59am

      Re:

      "30 million production cost with 55 million of worldwide box office doesn't make it a hit."

      I am no big Kevin Smith fan, but you sir are a tool. When was the last time you generated 25 million dollars of income?

      The only thing being pointed out here is that Mr. Smith has found a way to generate profit through connecting with his fans. The fact that he hasn't generated enough income to satisfy you is immaterial.

      Commercially, it is obvious that he has benefitted from using the CwF + RtB formula.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:55am

        Re: Re:

        You said: "I am no big Kevin Smith fan, but you sir are a tool. When was the last time you generated 25 million dollars of income?"

        Me: What do you mean? 30 Million was only the production cost, that doesn't include distribution, marketing, promotion, etc. Net, the movie made nothing.

        Kevin Smith is a nice guy. He's a funny guy. He's his own guy. Some people buy into it, others do not. When it comes to making movies, he really hasn't had any smashing successes.

         

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          Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 7:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "When it comes to making movies, he really hasn't had any smashing successes."

          Define smashing success....

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 8:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            He's thinking "Avatar" big or "Harry Potter Franchise" big. But Kevin Smith would never make anything resembling that kind of crap.

            Smith's got his niche and he's working hard to keep it and grow it.

            AC defines success as making lots of money.

             

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              Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:15am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              He's thinking "Avatar" big or "Harry Potter Franchise" big. But Kevin Smith would never make anything resembling that kind of crap.

              I wouldn't call Potter crap. Rowling has created something that few authors have ever done -- a complex seven book series which stands by itself, which, as an additional aside, has been translated into multiple media forms. Several generations of my family has or is reading the series and seen the films and we are all impressed with it. I think she's a genius. Historically I think she'll stand up against Dickens, Twain, and others of comparable stature. She didn't brand herself, but she has branded Harry Potter, so if you want the ultimate example of creative branding, she's done it.

               

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                Jay (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:37pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Another note:

                How the HP series has been marketed, it's opened doors for lesser movies that fit to niche markets. The proliferation of vampires, werewolves, witches, and the supernatural can really be traced back to the success of marketing Harry Potter. What's amazing is how people have been interested in this series for so many years, owing to a very devout fanbase.

                 

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    Robert Doyle (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:39am

    Let's not forget Kevin's little spin-off success stories... Matt Damon & Ben Affleck. I believe they had a little movie Kevin co-produced that made about 200 million and got an Oscar or two...

    He's made a fortune in writing as well. He has a successful comic writing career that is often overlooked as well.

    And he gets to call his own shots. Most mid-level directors don't get that - they get told what to direct.

    Kevin Smith is a creator.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 7:01am

      Re:

      WOuld you care to point out which movie made 200 million? Affleck hasn't been invovled in many movies (outside of Armaggedon) that made that sort of money.

      Kevin Smith is very creative. But claiming his as part of the "CwF" movement is a nice piece of re-writing history, because honestly, he was there 10 years before Techdirt was even an idea.

       

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    Robert Doyle (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 8:40am

    Good Will Hunting.

     

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    Erik, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:15am

    Kevin Smith is still riding the brand he built on Clerks and Dogma and GWH, prior to CwF+RtB.

    His work since he started CwF+RtB has been unremarkable.

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:55am

    Please let's not argue that Kevin Smith movies don't make money. He's had one or two bombs, but his movies generally make a tidy return. He's a successful filmmaker. You do not have to make blockbusters to be successful.

     

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    darryl, Jul 22nd, 2011 @ 5:45am

    with so few comenting !!

    It is clear that Techdirt readers are very UNINTERESTED about your business 'trick'.

    As if that is not allready done by every business that exists, and Mike things somehow it is new and innovative !!!!

    Its a shame with only less than 20 comments it is clear NO ONE CARES !!!! for good reason I guess....

     

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