Curb Your Enthusiasm. Season 1, Episode 3. Larry David strides into a vast, empty, Starbucks somewhere in LA and orders a coffee.
“…I’ll have a… a vanilla… one of the vanilla-bullshit things, you know…”
Besides being just another hilarious expression of Larry-ness, the thing that strikes me is his unapologetic, inappropriate, and outlandish way of being. This behaviour would be deemed absolutely unacceptable except for one thing: its consistency.
If a brand were as consistent as Larry David’s character, as unapologetic and authentic, the marketplace would be a different place. Not to say brands should also inhibit Larry’s obnoxiousness and lack of self-awareness, but arguably they’d be taking a leaf out of Steve Jobs’ Apple book.
And it’s not just Larry’s personality that’s consistent; it’s also his appearance. He’s a purveyor of West-Coast chic; think baseball cap, button down, khakis and New Balance, in muted greys and blues. All strong ‘Larry David’ cues.
In the rare interviews he gives, as himself, he is all too similar to his sitcom persona. But that’s the point. He’s comfortable in his own skin, knowing that some will adore and agree, others will avoid and disapprove. Not trying to please all and as a result garnering respect from those that might not call themselves fans. Brands could learn a lot.
He has been described as rude and even ‘deaf to the feelings’ of those around him, but this is honesty, mistaken for naivety. Whether it’s the unwritten rules of societal living, the unacceptability of cheek-to-cheek contact between men, there is an almost exhaustive list of ‘Larry’s Laws’ that he lives true to every day. Larry David is nothing less than considered.
Many brands could benefit from such a clear identity.
None of this is a recent manoeuvre, either. This is Larry David. This isn’t manipulation of a trend for self gain, in his own words, it’s how he’s always been.
So, why not Miley?
Poised at the other end of the spectrum is Miley Cyrus. The most famous-of-the shameless. Indeed, she’s growing up in a different world to Larry, and she’s a third of his age and yes, her product category (pop music) isn’t known for its depth. But brands can still learn a lot of ‘how nots’ from the tween queen.
Once famed for wearing no less than six different outfits in a twenty-four hour period, Miley
Cyrus is the queen of trend-jacking.
From twerking to tattoos and stars to stripes, Miley exhibits relentless inconsistency with no purpose; adopting something because it’s cool, or perhaps even because someone else says it’s cool. Blending cultural reference points for little to no regard to their origins. Let’s see less of those ‘product under the Christmas tree’ photos on Facebook, eh?
Every inch of the outfit, the tweet, the lyrics hyper-analysed for optimal, short-term effect with blatant disregard for her long-term future—is planned. It’s faux-transparency. She’s everything to everyone, with no sense of direction.
Miley just wants to be famous.
It was Larry David who said, “Anyone can be confident with a full head of hair. But a confident bald man - there's your diamond in the rough”. To Miley, I say, “Maybe it’s time to lose the hair.”
Branding rules from Larry and Miley: A short summary of why brands should be more like Larry and less like Miley.
|Strong, consistent persona
||Frenetic, ever-changing look
|Honest point of view on the world
||Flippant, with blatant disregard
|Transparent, lets you in
|Aims to stay consistent, a long termer
||Hard to follow, ever-changing