When he’s not streaking through the Danger Zone on a Mission Impossible, the world’s biggest movie star veers Far and Away from his core competency, occasionally taking a mega-risk with his Eyes Wide Shut.
Although it might seem odd, Tom Cruise makes for a compelling model of how to run a brand. While his trademark relates to an über-successful motion picture career, businesses can learn great lessons about reputation management and content strategy from Tom’s extensive film history.
And just what is the “content strategy” of Tom Cruise’s career? It’s fairly simple. Mr. Cruise delivers to his core audience while attracting new fans with moderately risky creative choices, still keeping himself fresh for critics and colleagues with strategic, iconoclastic roles that challenge the core Cruise brand.
Like Tom Cruise, a brand must manage its identity through choices in content. The days of the “EAT HERE” ad campaign are no more. With the prevalence of social media, TV advertising and paid content, there are too many alternatives. Like it or not, everyone is now in the content business. Brands must involve and evolve—or face the alternative: dissolve.
The 70-20-10 Rule Defined
When preparing material and web content, companies need guidelines for developing their brand. One useful guiding principle for content is a simple 70-20-10 rule. A refinement of Coca Cola’s famous value and significance strategy, the 70-20-10 rule is a deliberate and thoughtful approach to content management and risk mitigation.
The rule is as follows:
70 percent of content should be solid, standard and safe. Staples of the 70 percent include basic advice and how-to’s that are easily justified as supporting SEO and other efforts. This content most appeals to a broad audience.
20 percent of content should riff on the 70 percent but take some chances. This is the content that expands on the 70 percent content, but it may flirt with controversy, appeal to a new audience or otherwise push the limits. It may take a bit more effort, but it offers a higher potential payoff.
10 percent of content should be completely innovative. This content category includes things that have never been done that, if they work, could become part of the 70 or 20 percent. The 10 percent is characterized by heavy audience interaction and plenty of risk. Most of the 10 percent will fail, but that doesn’t mean content strategists should be discouraged. Any innovative and successful content strategy needs this element of risk to thrive.
Applying the Rule to Tom Cruise
70 percent of his roles represent The Movie Star. The Tom Cruise™ brand: That cocky, loveable scoundrel who is exciting and risky, but inevitably on the side of right. These Cruise personas – Maverick in “Top Gun,” Ethan Hunt in “Mission: Impossible” – often have tragic backstories that enable us to look past their initial conceit, waiting for a denouement that always proves the Cruise character to be heroic, self-sacrificing and truly good.
20 percent of his roles represent The Actor. Tom is still Tom – generally looks like him, sounds like him, acts like him – but he’s taking a chance. Maybe it’s a period film like “The Last Samurai,” or working in an unfamiliar genre like “Minority Report” or spending half the movie in a mask (“Vanilla Sky”). Tom does these films both to challenge himself and to increase his “brand reach” to various demographics who may find his 70 percent films cloying or predictable.
10 percent of his roles represent The Iconoclast. Tom isn’t Tom. In fact, Tom is trying to tear down Tom Cruise™. Here’s where the “art” happens. He takes big risks like ranting about his manhood in “Born on the Fourth of July,” or playing a misogynistic, manipulative motivational speaker in “Magnolia.” Both of those films landed him Oscar nominations, so while there is a huge upside to 10 percent content, but the downside is just as large. This also is where he could fall on his face (see “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Rock of Ages”… on second thought, don’t).
The Benefits Outweigh the Risks
Risk mitigation doesn’t mean to avoid any risky behavior. Rather, it means to effectively manage risk by deciding when to back off and when to come at content development with a strong and risky approach.
For example, the role of Les Grossman in “Tropic Thunder” saved Tom Cruise after the notorious couch-jumping incident. The performance made him accessible; it showed people he could laugh at himself. Now they’re talking about developing a Les Grossman movie. After trying and succeeding in that role, Les Grossman no longer represents 10 percent content for Mr. Cruise.
The most successful 10 percent content can (and should) be replicated, joining the 20 percent, and sometimes even the 70 percent.
The lessons brands can learn from Tom Cruise’s career and the 70-20-10 rule is to take risks occasionally — not foolishly, but strategically, deliberately, measurably. The audience gets bored of the same old content. Let Tom Cruise be an example for content strategy, or understand that the brand will never attain A-list status. Instead, the brand and company will be relegated to the direct-to-video shelf. credit-n.ru
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