The Film and Corporate World Flex or Die

PosterIt was an amazing weekend for the box office. Independent film Beautifully Broken exceeded the film distributor’s (ArtAffects) lifetime box office gross (including adjustments for inflation for its previous titles) in its first weekend with just under $500K as a limited release. However, the small ad budget restricting the film’s promotions and the lack of available screens for expansion in this saturated market might kill the picture’s chance to surge this weekend. In other words, this weekend might be its last in theaters.

Crazy_Rich_AsiansCrazy Rich Asians was the biggest winner with a $25MM take at the box office. While most films’ ticket sales drop 35-60% during its sophomore weekend, Crazy Rich Asians fell less than 6%. This is in keeping with the new movement of audiences looking for lighter films with redemptive endings. You can read more about it in my post titled Gen Z Drives New Stories.

Filmmakers always need to be ahead of the curve to lead shifts in the marketplace, rather than try to catch up to the trends. Corporations have also been forced by the demands for innovation to be flexible and agile with every market shift. The good news is that trends are not only trackable, but they give off hints 3-5 years in advance—for the alert CEO.

IMG_0142In my latest talk, No Box Creativity: Building Innovative Teams, I speak to the patterns of change that every company faces. From entrepreneurial and boutique businesses to Fortune 500 companies, I share case studies of why some companies fail and others expand.

Companies like Radio Shack and RCA disappeared due to inflexibility, while Britain’s GKN, originally a coal mine, became a cutting-edge aerospace company since it launched 144 years before airplanes were invented. GKN’s flexibility allowed it to transition to iron ore and become Britain’s largest producer by 1815. Shifting again in 1864, the company produced fasteners and became the world’s largest producer by 1902. By 1990 the company sold off its fastener business and provided services to Boeing. GKN clearly knew how to think out of the box.

Earlier this year, Adobe and the Forrester Consulting group released their findings from a survey dedicated to learn more about creativity in business. Numerous Fortune 500 companies participated in the survey of which 82% of the companies saw a correlation between creativity and business success.

With innovation being a big influencer in the marketplace among startups at the turn of the century, most people weren’t overly surprised by the findings. The real surprise came further into the survey with the revelation that while companies saw the correlation, only 26% did anything about it.

The first two decades of the 21st century have started to see numerous out-of-the-box oriented companies meet their demise due to disruptive innovation brought on by competitors. Large agile companies like Lucent Technologies with 165,000 employees quickly dropped to 25,000 employees due to its improper handling of its own disruptive innovation—IP phone technology switches. Lucent was soon taken over by Alcatel, which was then absorbed by Nokia.

The business community in a short period of time shifted from a box mentality, to an out-of-the-box mentality, to a no-box mentality. Unfortunately, only an estimated 10% of the market shifted with each change and another 45% attempted to catch up. This left 45% of the businesses to waver and shrink, if not totally collapse like Radio Shack and Polaroid. The survivors that held on either purposely or accidentally stumbled upon a sustainable customer need that had not yet been disrupted.

The survey made it clear that innovation is the only thing that will save businesses in our future ever-changing, no-box marketplace. That innovation can only flourish when led by creative thinkers that understand our new intangible marketplace. Companies desiring to be leaders in this new frontier are forced to learn more about No Box Creativity to drive their innovations and catapult their disruptive market share-grabbing initiatives.

If you know of any companies looking for a guest speaker on surviving the trends using creativity to innovate, please let them know about my latest talk No Box Creativity: Building Innovative Teams.

© 2018 by CJ Powers

 

Gen Z Drives New Stories

GEN_Z

Screenwriters will shift the perspective of their screenplays next year to reflect the lives of Gen Z (born after 2001, although some groups have labeled them from 2000) as they move into decision-making roles in America. In 2019, this upcoming generation is also expected to outnumber the Millennials. According to Bloomberg analysis, our population next year is estimated to be made up of 32% Gen Z and 31.5% Millennials.

The tonality of many films will also shift from dark stories to happier and more optimistic ones, in keeping with Gen Z’s outlook on life. This generation is the first to have only known a digital world. They were raised during the war on terror and the global recession, driving them to seek out things associated with joy, peace, and happiness. To capture this market, studios will have to shift to stories that bring hope and joy to audiences.

Faith-based production companies will have to be careful with how they proceed. Films with a utopian worldview go too far to the opposite extreme and will be seen as silly. This is due to Gen Z being surrounded by a tremendous amount of darkness in their upbringing, and yet they were able to learn how or found ways to overcome it. Films with redemptive endings will quickly capture the market. Stories depicting true life with happy endings, which Gen Z can directly relate to, is expected to dominate the box office.

Having planned ahead for this shift in the market, several companies will join the streaming and video-on-demand competition. Due to the disposition of Gen Z for happier programming, you’ll see Disney and WalMart enter the market in 2019 and 2020. In the meantime, Netflix will hit its saturation point and may have to rebalance and reduce its original programming to meet the slowing subscription growth and the influx of Gen Z decision makers.

Niche companies like Pure Flix will also have to adjust to the shifts in market demand. Their primary (Baby Boomers) and secondary (Gen Xers) market is rapidly shrinking, so Pure Flix will have to develop new lines of programming to satisfy the Millennials and Gen Z. However, they might have a wider window to adjust than most companies, as their evangelical audience lags in the area of change by 10-20 years depending on demographics.

This lag effect began in the 1980s with religious programming on TV stations, and then moved into Christian Contemporary music. Prior to the 1980s Evangelicals created cutting-edge entertainment that competed head-to-head in the general marketplace. Most Christian entertainers today are no longer able to manage a livelihood in the field of entertainment, let alone create cutting-edge films, TV shows, and music.

While there are less than 15,000 TV stations (includes low-powered stations) still working that once carried a few hours or more of religious programming each week, today only 100 TV stations broadcast evangelical shows. The story online is a bit different with Roku offering about 200 religious channels. However, most of these channels are large churches uploading their sermons for their congregation with little narrative stories to choose from.

The top three companies perfectly positioned for this new generation are Disney, Marvel, and Pixar. Their upcoming shows have just enough darkness in them to keep the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers coming to the theatres, while stepping up the Gen Z joy indicators. As for the Millennials, the only satisfaction aimed at this people group comes from the Millennial stars playing the characters within the Gen Z stories.

For those tracking the entertainment news carefully, most have already noticed the companies that led the release of darker films a couple decades ago have hit financial and political struggles. If they haven’t already, most will see bankruptcy looming or larger companies buying out their libraries.

The best news about these major changes in the industry will be at the independent level. Film budgets will slowly drop, making name artists more available for new cutting-edge and uplifting stories aimed at Gen Z. Redemptive stories will be salted with romance, chivalry, and patriotism. Heartwarming films like The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins have even begun to see a resurgence.

This is not to say that people will long for the sappy; those days are over when it comes to Gen Z. This generation wants reality with silver linings. They know that happiness can be found in the darkest of situations, especially since darkness can only prevail for a shortened duration.

I’m looking forward to these changes and can’t wait to see all the films written with Gen Z in mind. The doors will be open for more mainline films with universal stories that are filled with redemptive qualities, wholesomeness, and morals.

© 2018 by CJ Powers

Responsible For Your Personal Brand

PERSONALI was walking down a corridor when a woman stepped in front of me and shared her amazement for the depth of my soul. I took her comment as a compliment until she added, “So why don’t you live more like the stories in your book?”

The book she referenced was a series of true life events that I had experienced, which meant I did live like the stories in realtime when I actually lived out those moments. But for some reason our casual meetings had never allowed her to see any of those attributes of mine.

She was convinced that I was a shallow man. At first, I thought it was her fault for never taking time to get to know me. But after pondering the idea, I realized that I was in control of what I presented and withheld.

In that moment, I realized I was the only one in control of my personal brand. It was my responsibility, and the neglecting of it was a choice that could promote the opposite of who I am.

Frank_Cutitta“A personal brand is really a story that highlights your attributes,” says Frank Cutitta, founder of the Center for Global Branding. “This story will help others understand who you are and where you fit into your industry’s or company’s marketplace.”

While many people have created personal brands for themselves via their choices of what is published on Facebook, they really aren’t aware of how the style or imagery represents them. Few people know how to assess their posts, which becomes the foundation of their personal brand or story.

What You Play Up Stays Up

Raynard_JacksonRaynard Jackson, President & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C. public relations/government affairs firm, who is regularly on CNN, MSNBC, BET, FOX News, and C-SPAN, giving his analysis on subjects from politics, culture, foreign policy, and economics, recently addressed the black community about their personal brand.

“What have Black folks done that causes police to totally undervalue our lives and causes others to feel threatened by our mere presence and immediately feel the need to call the police?”

In a controversial statement, Jackson put the onus of brand on the individuals. He also suggested things that fuel misperceptions can create an artificial reality, including the television shows like Empire, Insecure, and The Quad that showcase and popularize Blacks in very negative roles.

“We glorify the thug life in our music; scantily-clad Black women have become the standard in music videos,” he says. “Put yourself in the shoes of a White person riding public transportation that sees a train full of Black teenagers with their pants hanging halfway down their butts, calling each other n–gers, and constantly grabbing their crotches.”

“Or the police pulling up to a crowded park and hearing loud rap music being played talking about ‘f-ck the police’ or ‘b–ch this’ or ‘b–ch that.’”

“We have almost thirty years of negative images about Blacks throughout every media platform available and now you want to act surprised that people have these negative perceptions about us? Come on, man. Let’s be real.”

“Don’t tell me you are a hoe and then act surprised when I treat you like one. Don’t introduce me to your best friend by saying, ‘this is my b—ch, Jennifer’ and then get mad when I call her a ‘b–ch.’”

“Maybe Whites believe in the old adage that says, ‘when a person shows you who they are, you better believe them.’”

“So, what I am saying to Black folk is pull up your damn pants, stop calling each other n–gers in public and private, stop calling each other b–hes and hoes and thinking these are terms of endearment because they are not.”

The film, television, and music industry is known for focusing in on stereotypical angles of life for any given community to save development time. Breaking away from these misperceptions can be done with a personal brand.

Develop Your Personal Brand Before Society Does

A personal brand matters and happens every time we communicate in business and socially.

Your personal brand will develop your online (and offline) reputation, increase trust in your authority and ability, make you more memorable, and open networking opportunities for your future. Therefore it is worth our time to take responsibility for our personal brand and not leave it to stereotypes or the media.

The following steps will help you take control of your personal brand.

  1. Define who you are professionally.
  2. Define who you are socially.
  3. Craft responses on key topics that reveal who you are.
  4. Adjust your online presence to match up with 1-3.

The goal is integrity, to make sure you seem like the same person across all of your social media sites. If you want certain things to remain personal, then adjust your online settings to keep it private. The key is taking responsibility for your image or personal brand, and not leave it as prey to be gobbled up by stereotypes or the sum of misperceptions.

(Raynard Jackson quotes are attributed to the Freedom’s Journal Institute’s article titled “Black Hollywood is Complicit in Negative Perception of Black Community” by Raynard Jackson.)
Copyright © 2018 by CJ Powers