Try not caring.

By Danny Altman
March 31, 2009
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Filed under Branding

I was just listening to Jason Segel being interviewed on Fresh Air by Terry
Gross. He’s talking about working on the casting for Forgetting Sarah
Marshall
, ­ a movie he wrote and starred in. Jason was planning on casting a
young British author, maybe a Hugh Grant type, for the role of the guy who
steals his girlfriend. Well the casting is going really badly. Nobody feels
right for the role. Then in walks Russell Brand. He’s wearing leather pants,
a shirt unbuttoned down to his navel and about three pounds of gold chains
around his neck. He’s wearing eye liner. Totally wrong for the part.

And Brand has the nerve to look at Jason, the writer, and say, “You’ll have
to forgive me mate, I’ve only had a chance to take a cursory glance at your
little script. Perhaps you should tell me what you’re looking for.”

So Jason goes home that night and literally rewrites the movie for Russell
Brand to be a British rock star because he couldn’t imagine anyone he would
be more jealous of or intimidated by if they were dating his new girlfriend.

For Jason, Russell has that quality of just not caring what other people
think, or at least seeming like he doesn’t. And Jason thought, what an
amazing quality to have in your girlfriend’s new boyfriend. It’s not that
he’s a jerk. He just doesn’t even feel weird or bad that he’s dating your
girlfriend.

This whole idea of not caring what other people think is so totally foreign
to the world of naming and branding that maybe we should try it on for size.
If this is the guy who gets the girl and even befriends her boyfriend, maybe
this is also the brand that wins the day.

Think about all the self-conscious triangulation that goes into constructing
a brand so it perfectly fits into someone’s lap. Maybe that’s all wrong.
Maybe it’s driving on the wrong side of the problem.

We all go through life with checklists that describe the perfect girlfriend,
the perfect music, the perfect vacation. But you never wind up with the girl
who’s on your checklist. When it comes down to it, the checklists are
nonsense because we build them looking in the rear view mirror. So they
don’t really reflect how life happens or what we’re looking for right now.

So there’s a certain amount of foolishness to the way we go about
constructing brands. Steve Jobs didn’t do a focus group to see what people
thought about the name Apple or the logo with the bite taken out of it.
Caterpillar as a name for heavy duty construction equipment would be laughed
out of 99 out of 100 boardrooms. Great brands are built on an audience with
a need, but at some point you have to go with your gut.

Connecting with people on a real emotional level will always be a lot cooler
than relying on some construct that is self-consciously put together to make
people like you. Listening to that inner voice always wins the day. Just ask
Jason Segel.

Segel and Brand on the set of Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Segel and Brand on the set of Forgetting Sarah Marshall