Prada and Kenzo: Brands as Entertainers


Brands often think of content marketing as the art of being useful. Betty Crocker teaches us how to cook through the iconic Betty Crocker Cookbook. Verizon publishes useful ideas about apps through its Recapp blog. But content marketing can also be about entertainment, as demonstrated by two recently released short films from luxury fashion brands Prada and Kenzo. Brands can be film entertainers.

Castello Cavalcanti

In November 2013, Prada teamed with vaunted director Wes Anderson to present the short film Castello Cavalcanti. The 7-minute movie stars Jason Schwartzman as the race-car driver who discovers the joys of slowing down after being stranded in a small Italian town. The Prada branding in Castello Cavalcanti occurs as a subtle product placement. When the storyline takes hold, you have to look closely to catch the Prada name appear on the back of the uniform worn by the driver.

Castello Cavalcanti has been a PR boon for Prada, generating strong buzz in publications ranging from Creativity to Rolling Stone along with the more predictable fashion publications. The movie has bolstered Prada’s crossover reach across multiple industries in fashion’s orbit, including media/entertainment. The Hollywood Reporter said that the move “rivals Ron Howard’s Rush for best Formula 1 racing movie of 2013.” And, this is not the first time Prada has joined forces with a legendary director to produce a short film. In 2012, Prada presented A Therapy, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley.

Automobile Waltz

French fashion house Kenzo, founded by Kenzo Takada, has teamed with Hala Matar to present Automobile Waltz. The romantic short, released on Valentine’s Day week, is a more conceptual affair. The plot, which unfolds as a series of vignettes, centers on a young estranged couple rediscovering each other on different southern California locations in a stylish cherry red Mustang convertible. Amid the vignettes, a child drives off in a Continue reading

Billy Corgan, Brian Solis, and the personal touch at SXSW

My experience at SXSW Interactive this week was marked by catching up with friends, a massive amount of networking, very little sleep, and some inspirational content, most notably the Billy Corgan/Brian Solis session about Corgan’s uneasy relationship with a music-buying public that (in Corgan’s view) uses social media to attack artists rather than support them. I provided real-time coverage of the session from my Twitter account, @davidjdeal; you can see how the discussion unfolded by following hashtag #EndofUsual on Twitter. Amid Corgan’s f-bombs and rants, a compelling theme emerged: artists need their audiences, but in order to prosper and grow, they cannot allow themselves to be led around the nose by the same people who call themselves their fans. As Corgan said to a recalcitrant SXSW audience member, “I can’t survive by accommodating your Twitter feed with my music.” The Corgan/Solis session brings to mind a post I wrote in 2010, “Would ‘Exile on Main St.’ have survived Twitter?” in which I questioned whether the seminal but initially misunderstood Rolling Stones album would have held up amid the withering glare of Twitter had social media been around in 1972.

I was also struck by the convergence of branding, entertainment, and technology that increasingly defines not only SXSW but also the future of marketing. The most obvious example of this convergence from SXSW Interactive was the March 11 Jay-Z concert held to promote the launch of a new American Express service offered through Twitter. I discuss this phenomenon more fully in an iCrossing Great Finds blog post, “SXSW and the Rise of the Co-Branding Economy.”

The personal connections were, as usual, incredibly fulfilling, whether comparing notes about music and writing with my iCrossing colleague Todd Pruzan, laughing at life’s absurdities with Kristen Deye (a rock star who managed iCrossing’s presence at the event), reuniting with some of my former Razorfish colleagues and friends like Margaret Francis and Heather Gately, meeting Brian Solis and Scott Monty, hanging out with Jeremiah Owyang, seeing David Armano, meeting with Allen Weiner, or finding some time to relax over drinks with Cortney Harding and her husband Jeff Stokvis.

People always trump interactive technology in my book.

Make unemployment work for you

Unemployment can be a time of self-renewal and discovery. During a recent break between jobs, I have bonded with my family, developed my blogging skills, stayed up to date on social media technologies, and helped others. In collaboration with Guy Kawasaki on the American Express Open Forum, I provide more insight into my unemployment journey. Here is the complete blog post. And a big shout-out to Guy for the opportunity.

Annie Leibovitz at Work

If you rely on the power of an image to tell a story — which is true for just about any marketer — then you owe it to yourself to read the recently published Annie Leibovitz at Work.  Leibovitz describes the stories behind noteworthy photographic shoots of her career, ranging from her astonishing American Express portraits to her coverage of the Rolling Stones’s 1975 tour.   Whether you’re a web designer, event producer, or art director, you can learn a lot from this book, such as:

* It’s better to be memorable than beautiful  “The camera is not enamored exclusively with people who are conventionally beautiful,” she writes.  “There are times when a person is powerful enough in some other way to make the photograph . . . William Burroughs was certainly not beautiful, but he was a photographer’s dream.  The camera loved that gaunt, sinister look.”

* Take what’s given to you.  Leibovitz recalls visiting Philip Johnson’s famous Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, relishing the opportunity to photograph this most iconic of homes.  At the time, Johnson lived in the home he’d designed, which presented some problems when she arrived for the shoot and discovered that he had no intention of leaving her alone.  “This was frustrating,” she writes.  “I knew that I should be sociable, but I wanted to study the house.”  Instead, Johnson followed her around the home attempting to make small chat and interrupting her work.  Finally she decided to include him in the photographic essay.  “In retrospect it was a rare opportunity to see someone living in a classic house,” she remembers.  “To see it being used.  It was fall and there were leaves all over.  Johnson’s dirty boots were thrown on the floor.  He was staring out at the rolling lawn and the maple trees, which were changing color.”  In other words, Johnson gave her photographs more character than would be found in photos of an empty house.  Rather than fight his presence, Leibovitz took what was given to her — and improved her work.

* Embrace limitations.  When Ogilvy and Mather hired Leibovitz to shoot celebrity portraits for American Express advertisements, Leibovitz was given two requirements: the photos had to be vertical in format and they needed to fill a page.  Basically she would need to learn how to shoot more formal looking portraits, which was not her style.  It was hard and unnatural to frame subjects in a vertical format.  Losing the horizontal image meant sacrificing background that could enrich the shot.  But she worked within the limitations — and then set out to challenge popular notions of how a portrait should look.  She created inventive, colorful portraits full of depth and intrigue, like the famous image of horse jockey Willie Shoemaker standing alongside basketball giant Wilt Chamberlain.  Placing them side by side on a Malibu beach was akin to a work of art.  (“I was thinking of circus pictures — Tom Thumb and the giant,” she writes.)

After you read Annie Leibovitz at Work, track down a copy of the Rolling Stone 1,000th issue special collectors’ edition (18 May-1 June 2006).  This issue tells the story behind the creation of Rolling Stone‘s most famous magazine covers – how the vision and style of the photographer meshed (and sometimes collided with) the expectations of the subject.  Patti Smith comments on the outcome of a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz:: “what I really feel about this photograph is that Annie captured something about me before I knew about myself.  Later, I finally grew into that person.”  Herb Ritts discusses how he improvised a photo of Cindy Crawford by impulsively using a translucent fabric  to capture her essence in a beach pose.

Want to be a better marketer, designer, or creative director?  Leave a little room for improvisation.  And don’t miss an opportunity that presents itself like a powerful moment longing to be photographed.