Michael Bay’s lessons in brand management?

What can a revelation about Transformers 3 teach us all about brand management?

Film directors, as with writers and artists, are as much a brand as Volvo, Sony or the local greengrocer.

Some people follow particular directors because they love their style and story-telling ways. Quentin Tarantino. Stanley Kubrick. Steven Spielberg. The Wachowskis.

Most of these directors have signature styles or shots. Tarantino is a master of dialogue. Kubrick used the track and pan to enormous effect. Michael Bay – the ‘father’ of this post – is the master of the slow-mo track shot, camera pointing upwards to the hero of the piece, elevating them and their situation above the norm.

Brands too have signatures. BMW wants to sell you joy. Volvo sells reliability. Sony sells you gaming experiences. I build my brand on creating interaction, on looking at things differently to other people. And so on.

We learn to recognise a brand – whatever that brand is – by the way that it interacts and intersects with us. It’s like a fingerprint, a unique strand of DNA that lets us, as the consumer, navigate through a complex world.

So back to Michael Bay. I want to refer you to this Youtube video, posted by Little White Lies.

You can probably guess my point. Bay has plagiarised another film. OK, so it’s his own film. But these sequences are obviously the same pieces of footage, just with different CGI over the top.

I paid to go and see this film – and the ticket cost was my price of entry into not only the cinema brand, but the Bay brand as well.

I invested my time and my hard earned money, in going to see this work.

This plagiarised work.

This derivative work.

This lazy work.

The result? I no longer trust him as the creator of original works.

If your consumers stopped trusting you to produce original works, if they stopped trusting in the core abilities and competencies that you’ve sold yourself to them on, what would happen to your brand, and then your business?

I admit that we need some replication in our work – the continuity is how our consumers recognise us. Without it, we’d be noisy and unnavigable.

But we should never, ever, pass off unique content when it’s something that’s repackaged from another work.

Consumers are savvy. Consumers know. And consumers are fully entitled to simply go elsewhere to a brand that doesn’t try to pull the wool over their eyes.

So thank you, Michael Bay, for illustrating how to tarnish a brand in one simple, easy move. Now I want my ticket price back.


2 thoughts on “Michael Bay’s lessons in brand management?

  1. While I totally agree that (alot) of director’s styles are comparable to brands, I find your condemnation based solely on the re-use of two shots pretty crazy. I mean, did you honestly spot that in the cinema? If those shots weren’t place next to one another I don’t think anyone would. And besides, they’re so minor, why care?

    Michael Bay’s ‘brand’ is in essence, lazy and derivative. The whole movie is lazy and derivative, why get hung up on two cars taken from The Island when the entire movie is soulless, moronic film-making at its most blatant? The Transformers films are dumb, poorly written and poorly directed, were you really expecting Inception?

    You are 100% right to want your money back and condemn Michael Bay, but I think you’ve missed the point by a mile. In fact, re-using old CGI fits into his brand perfectly, there’s no originality, no effort, just hollow effects and the belief that the majority of the movie-going public will love every minute of it (which, unfortunately they do).

    It’s also worth mentioning that I read somewhere that a stuntman was injured while filming a ‘dangerous car scene’, so perhaps the reason behind it wasn’t quite so black and white.

    Interesting article nonetheless.

  2. Hi Chris

    Thanks for the comment!

    You’re right, I didn’t spot the shots in the cinema, but from talking to a few people, it appears that plenty of others did… As I said, I’m no particular fan of Michael Bay’s work. I tend to enjoy his films with a couple of beers and some popcorn as a way to pass the time! For me, that’s where his work lies – eye-popping effects and a chance to turn the brain off for a while.

    However, my point is that I expect (from any director, unless otherwise plainly and blatantly stated) original works. Reusing the footage breaks this completely. It’s not just the two cars, it is everything about those sequences.

    I was pretty shocked the first time that I realised a Mazda 3 (I think it was the 3 anyway) and a Ford Fiesta are pretty much the same car – didn’t do the Mazda brand any good in my head (not a fan of Ford).

    This is similar in the promise of originality, but the non-delivery of the same!

    Finally, minor infractions are as bad as major ones. The thought process behind including these scenes was obviously conscious, as opposed to accidental. Trying to slide this sort of thing past a bought-in audience is just not acceptable…

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