Robin Williams has become an icon for his roles in films that have become American classics. Personally, VHS versions of Jumanji, Hook, and Mrs. Doubtfire were destroyed within a few weeks from repetitive movie marathons at my house. And as I grew older and could understand his dramatic draw, movies like Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society moved me in ways I did not expect.
As the world mourns the loss of Williams, 63, actor, comedian, father, and philanthropist, we, at Tower Marketing, want to laud him for his more elusive title: understated marketing genius. Williams has portrayed characters that range from quirky alien and jungle man to a loving elderly woman and even an advertising executive in his latest TV spot in The Crazy Ones. For the pilot of The Crazy Ones, Williams has to appeal to McDonald’s, his biggest client, before they fire his agency. Williams is in a meeting with McDonald’s executives and recalls an advertisement from the 1970s, reminiscing about moments he shared with his family over Happy Meals. He communicates that McDonald’s is not just selling burgers and fries but those special family moments.
The importance of branding is portrayed here, and aptly in the marketing world as not just a product, but the entire experience and feeling it gives. Williams has also become prominent in many marketing campaigns over the years. Most recently he was featured in Apple Air’s ad featuring iPad users using the tablet in different ways, all set to Williams’ dialogue from Dead Poets Society. This homage to a poetic but dark soul is eerily apt as his last living feature in the advertisement: “Apple iPad Air”.
One of Williams’ most recognized campaigns, for the video game “The Legend of Zelda,” delves into the more relatable, personal side of his life, featuring daughter Zelda. Williams named his daughter after the princess in the video game. The “advertisements” from 2011 are a poignant reminder of a “real” relationship.
His comedic side was featured in one of his first marketing campaigns for “Illinois Bell Telephone Company” in 1977 as the clumsy and sneaky husband as well as his role as the optimistic and cheerful “Snicker’s Coach” in 2013.
Splicing his film roles and even his personal life in marketing campaigns for products and services has enabled his own specific brand and mentality to flourish. Companies used his voice and famous character roles to portray their message, not vice versa. And companies that did implement him were successful in their campaigns. Williams did not pledge loyalty to one sole company or product; the fact that he was able to represent many shows how his own personal brand was malleable and everlasting, a unique facet in the trend-focused industry of entertainment. In marketing, adaptation and resilience are paramount in driving success.
Williams will always be remembered for his comedic and dramatic roles, but may he be lauded for his innate marketing genius as well.