In Defense of a Hollywood Ending For Your Brand
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
We all know a Hollywood ending neatly ties up a rich story full of trials – even near-death experiences – and, most importantly, brings much-anticipated happiness to the saga that’s just unfolded. It is widely loved by moviegoers and consumers of media in the US, and around the world, even if most won’t admit it.
Now, some film snobs—and I have certainly belonged to this group and maybe still do—profess to dislike this tidiness since it isn’t always present in life or other art forms. Old-school high-art directors like Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni, and John Cassavetes may not actively deploy this type of ending but even they seek to, in the least, restore balance to their stories. Well, I’ve come to embrace the happy Hollywood ending – and not just to my professional video work for great brands – and with no apologies. This post will discuss movies, but it will also delve into how you can put it to use in your brand storytelling in video, and beyond.
Most contemporary marketers preach the power of being authentic and truthful with your prospects and customers in all your storytelling. I agree. But what does this mean and how is it done? Well, to start with, it must be a rigorous, deep, and consistent process, not just something you pay lip service to. And, in order to become committed to this process for the long term, you need to answer an array of simple questions that will provide the feedback you need to ensure engagement with your audience and, yes, success. Why does your brand’s promise matter to your customers? How does it fit into their lives, and their idea of their best self? What will they achieve, and when? This is the beginning, but you will get on track by asking these core questions, among a few others.
The promise of your brand is, on some level, about efficiently getting your customers from point A to point B, fitting into their life/lifestyle, and making them even better than before. If you deliver on that promise, and initially connect via genuine emotion, they may come to truly love you! We all know that's vital and leads to recurring customers – a big deal in itself – but it is a lot more than that. Your customers may actually become fans and even evangelists for your brand. Organic marketing by your fans! That is certainly priceless and amplifies your efforts. Sounds simple but it's not easy. If it is carried out with mutual respect, the returns are high. Promise big and deliver! That's what our parents preached to us when we were kids.
Now let’s rightfully assume your brand effectively solves a problem. At this point, it is your job to tell authentic, fascinating, deep, ever-evolving stories that persuade people to trust you and, yes, give you a try! (Or you can find a serious creative team – with TV and film experience and a deep understanding of story – who can do it with you.) You must first use the language of your customers. For example, talk about lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics when seeking to connect to serious distance runners or dive into mil-spec aluminum and intuitive switching when talking to flashlight enthusiasts. You get the picture. Good writers, who conduct serious research and ask great questions to subject matter experts, can do that for you. You must show a deep understanding of your customers' culture, and their concerns, or you don’t have a shot. All that said, you must also be straight about the obstacles your customers face and, yes, they can be life-and-death in nature, if that’s what your customers face. You can even go right up to the point where, as screenwriters like to say, “all is lost,” before you arrive at the Hollywood ending. This makes your ending well earned and satisfying, Of course, your products work well too, so hopeful endings abound. Give your fans what they want.
I want to briefly return to why artists are drawn to hopeful Hollywood endings. Years ago, I wrote a supernatural thriller screenplay about a struggling scientist whose fascination with light led him to believe that heaven was contained in the sunlight all around us. Well, during one of his experiments an explosion kills his young son. Harry loses everything but continues his work in hopes of finding his son. Well, in the original ending (spoiler alert) he does reach his son in a very expressionistic heaven. This finding begins the process of healing and bringing his family back together, even with their great loss. This script garnered interest and even won an award but I was never truly satisfied. About five years after it was out in the world, it hit me that a literal Deus ex Machina moment could give Harry a second chance. This was definitely the right story to use this mechanism reserved for mythology where gods once roamed. (Also, see my first novel about Zeus, who's alive in present-day L.A.) So, Harry was given a shot to go back in time, grab his son, and race to safety before the explosion. He was able to preserve his family and walk away from his dangerous work. My script might not become a movie, but it is in a much better place. (Pun intended.) I believe artist’s intentions are also pulled toward the hopeful ending too.
You must be authentic and always show the real-world obstacles your heroines/heroes – aka your customers – overcome to ensure that it rings true. You will also certainly be pulled toward hopeful endings because you're going to share your victories. That's what we do. This passing on of hope and wisdom is why we started telling stories in the first place.
Homer, the original master storyteller, did have Odysseus make it back home to Ithica after a 10-year journey (The Odyssey) that came after a 10-year war in Troy (The Iliad). Now that is stringing together some serious obstacles in front of your hero! If Odysseus had not made it home alive, Homer would have had to answer to an angry mob. And he probably had his own personal reasons too. Be like Homer.