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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yeah, that Kevin Smith.

He’s probably flying under the radar of people who prefer their social media case studies neat and tidy, but take some time to see what Kevin Smith has been doing this past year. In sharing his life and work across almost every media channel there is, he’s as *integrated* a brand experience as I’ve seen. Honest and raw defines his approach, and it’s one which indirectly highlights the insincerity of many brands which try to be genuine, or worse, your friend.

Are his tactics something to be emulated by Procter & Gamble? Probably not. But if nothing else resonates here, see how with everything he does, he never seems to talk down to people, instead answering them by being brutally honest. Which also means it can be social media as Golden Rule when people push back. While a brand doesn’t need to flip off its customers, it can still be more open and honest with them.

Going slightly afield for a sec, but it’s similar in ways to what Babel and Write The Future director Alejandro González Iñárritu said about the pursuit of reality in his work. In discussing the idea of reality programming on TV being anything but, he instead aims for the truth in something.

That’s what brands trying to create a presence via stories should aim for, and Brand Smith serves it up.

Some know him from his films, while fans know he goes beyond that to include things like live podcasts (smodcasts), a Comic Con appearance or two, a Southwest Airlines snafu (or two), and of course his Twitter stream. Currently, he’s drawing fire for the way he decided to promote his latest film Red State, circumventing the typical studio approach. Where usually Hollywood would throw a ton of dollars behind a film’s marketing, Smith has done the numbers and says it would benefit the studio far more than the actors and crew who made the film.

Cue righteous rage on Twitter. Here’s his response to someone calling him out for this move (in bold). The complete string of tweets have also been combined into a more readable form:

“Via @DaveFogerson ‘Guessing Smith wouldn’t tell H’wood to fuck off if #CopOut was a hit’ 

I don’t understand where the fuck off part is? Said I’m gonna release my movie without spending $20mil. I wasn’t like ‘Burn in hell! You’re all wrong!’ I said it’s stupid for a $4mil movie to have to spend $20mil to open in theaters, and it is for this movie. So we’ll just do it ourselves. I know lots of blogs would like to make it seem like H’wood is somehow mad; H’wood could give two shits. All of my friends who works in this business are not suddenly no longer my friends. 

Even my friends in marketing aren’t mad at me for saying the obvious: marketing costs are fucking ridiculous. But rather than bitch about marketing costs, I’m trying to do something about it FOR MY FLICK. Also, here’s a RealityCheck: anyone ‘in H’wood’ who didn’t like me before that screening still doesn’t; anybody ‘in H’wood’ who liked me before Sundance still does. ‘H’wood’ is not some giant Hive-mind - especially in this economy. And lots of my industry, ‘H’wood’ friends knew about all this LONG before this weekend. 

And it was never ‘OH MY GOD THAT’S INSULTING TO MY BUSINESS & LINE OF WORK!’ It was - & still is - ‘I hope you guys make lots of money.’ But our whole thing isn’t about MAKING lots of money (although, we’re definitely into that too); it’s about NOT SPENDING lots of money. So everyone seems to be angry that I’m not wasting more millions to market/sell a flick they didn’t feel should have been made in the first place. I’m being anti-wasteful not anti-H’wood’ - and there’s not a business in the world that’d frown on savings. 

So calm down, Slappy: regardless of what you read, I’m right here in the heart of ’H’wood’ & all everyone’s talking about is how happy they are to be back in warm weather again. Now, watch: there will be a piece that reads ‘SMITH SLAMS UTAH! BEACHED BLUBBER-WHALE IS CHILLY-WILLY!’ On tonite’s PlusOne, we talk about the press reaction.”

Smith has written a more complete breakdown of the approach called The Red Statements, which provides a more in-depth look at the inner workings of Hollywood film distribution. In everything he does, from smodcast to Twitter to protests, the brutal honesty (read: truth) of it all is something that not many people would be able to put out, let alone a brand.

If that means some people are offended at what they perceive to be sophomoric antics, he clearly doesn't care. Self-promotion means being media savvy enough to include a url one of the protest signs taking on Sundance’s Westboro Baptist protestors, knowing those images will be spread by the mainstream media.

Stunts aside, what you also get is someone willing to respond directly to their fans.

It’s a connection I’ve not seen but one or two brands make. While Quora may be all the rage for the Silicon Valley slash VC crowd and their fanboys, Smith is its antithesis as he reaches out to the *little* people. Nobody I’ve seen shares the filmmaking process as openly as he has – both the good and bad parts.

It’s the *real* conversation brands and social strategists have advocated all along, in all its inglorious glory.

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