By Kristen Sanne, New York City-based Entrepreneur
Fans of Steve Martin like him for a myriad of different reasons. Some remember him from the silly slapstick of The Jerk. Others love Roxanne or even his cameos in various iterations of The Muppets. Then there’s Steve Martin, the banjo-playing bluegrass man.
But now Martin is once again re-inventing his public brand. The actor and comedian has been booked to preview an exhibition of artist Lawren Harris’ work, which will soon go on display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Few outside the world of fine art and, presumably, family and friends, realized the versatile Martin was such a fan. But Martin is, indeed, a very dedicated patron and follower of the fine art culture and marketplace. This appearance should make that abundantly clear.
Entrepreneur David Milberg noted, “From a personal perspective, it’s just one guy indulging in a healthy hobby, but, from a public relations perspective, there are ramifications. Sure, Martin will likely receive nothing but a few raised eyebrows and a smattering of “who woulda thought” comments from fans, but anytime an established brand moves outside that established defining zone, there can be consequences. Sometimes those results are spectacular. Other times, not so much.”
Examples of successful personal rebranding include Bill Murray, who was once a go-to funny man, a comedic hero of millions and frequent collaborator with Harold Ramis, his Ghostbusters co-star, in the 80s and 90s. Most fans fell in love with Murray in Ghostbusters, What About Bob, and Groundhog Day. Then there were a few weird “art house” movies that surprised and perplexed fans. Murray didn’t seem to mind his fan base’s universal confusion, but producers were less confident.
Then the other shoe dropped. Murray began to make fun of himself. First appearing in the cult hit Zombieland, a cameo in which he is killed in his own home after a practical joke goes bad. Then Murray began randomly showing up places in NYC simply to interact with fans. Social media transformed Murray’s brand from eccentric actor to cultural treasure. Another similar transformation? George Takei. The former Star Trek ensign transformed a career that has been relegated to the convention circuit into a social media cult following with an entirely new generation of fans mimicking his trademark: “Ohhh myyyy.”
Of course, there have been some rebranding disasters. Anyone remember rocker, Chris Gaines? Rest assured Garth Brooks hopes you don’t.
So, will life as a public art appreciator suit the man most people still fondly call “The Jerk”? The jury’s still out … but don’t be surprised if at least one oblivious fan chooses to greet Martin with a Three Amigos pelvic thrust.