What writing for comedians taught me about brand strategy.
When I tell people that often in my career I’ve written for comedians, there are two reactions that come up most often.
“Wait, so they’re not actually funny?”
“But if you can write for famous people, why don’t you just do that stuff yourself and then you’ll be famous?”
Both perspectives are flawed.
However, if I hadn’t had years working as a stand-up and a comedy writer myself then I’d probably have had the same reactions.
What does all this have to do with brands though?
Well, let me explain.
Firstly, on the point about them ‘not actually being funny’.
Think about your favoured choice of car manufacturer.
At some point that brand was probably set up by an individual with drive (no pun intended — well, maybe just a little bit).
Someone who really knew their stuff technically and from a design point of view.
Someone with a vision.
A vision that led to them developing prototypes.
Once the success of their work was proved though?
Then they had to scale it.
They had to be able to mass-produce.
The reason they started up factories with teams of workers wasn’t because they lacked a knowledge of automobile engineering.
It was because they would be physically unable to be hands-on across every individual unit needed to service the demand that their work had created.
What could they do though?
They could establish principles that emanated throughout the work produced by their company.
The quality of that work would establish the reputation of their company.
That company name would become a seal of approval and an indicator to potential buyers of what they could expect.
When comedians start out, they’re doing 5 minutes in comedy clubs.
Maybe it takes you 6 months of gigging to expand from that to having 10 minutes you’d be happy to do.
Maybe another 6 months to a year to have 20 minutes you’d be happy to do.
And so on.
Now imagine your success at that level leads to sealing a regular slot on a TV programme.
You have a vastly increased audience, so you’re under even more pressure to produce to the standard that has earned you the slot.
You have to be producing 5 minutes of broadcast-worthy content in your own style every week.
Can you do that?
With the benefit of experience and adrenaline you might be able to wing it.
More likely though (and more safely for the future of your brand and, hence, your career), you’ll seek some back-up.
You need that back-up because now you have to mass-produce.
You have to mass-produce to a deadline.
And you have to ensure that your output still maintains the standards people have come to expect from you.
That doesn’t mean that your writers do whatever they want.
They work to the style that you’ve established.
To the quality you’ve come to be associated with.
And, by you saying it, you put your name and approval to it.
Because you’re not a one-man-band any more.
You’re a brand.
What of the other reaction though?
That if anyone can write it, anyone can do it?
In those instances, all I’m doing is working to a brief.
success of what I produce hinges significantly on being associated with
their ‘brand’, at least as much as their continuing success is
supported by the content produced for it.
Try writing some hard-hitting political satire, decide that the product can prosper independently of the brand and then get Joe Pasquale to deliver it.
As skilled as I might be as a comedy writer (there, I’ve said it), I’m not a brand.
I’ve followed a path trod by somebody else.
But the reason why that person has got to the level where I’m writing for them… is because they didn’t do that.
That’s not to say that it’s impossible to go from working for a brand to establishing a brand.
But you have to do it by making your own path.
Being able to follow one isn’t the same thing.
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