What Keanu Reeves Can Teach us About Personal Branding

Categories Articles

Shenee is a writer, designer, photographer and pop culture curator. She recently founded You’ll Look Great. She tweets. Mostly about writing, music and 90’s kids movies @sheneeh. She also blogs.

Keanu Reeves. The man. The myth. The subject of many drinking games. He’s known for his stoic gaze and monotone voice. For a lot of people this is considered a negative but I think there is value in what the man does. He’s solid. Don’t like Keanu? You wouldn’t be a movie ticket to one of his movies. He’s built a image based on reliability and consistency with the occasional pleasant surprise. Sound familiar? Starbucks or Apple, anyone? He’s built the perfect personal brand and we can learn something from his career highs and lows.

6 Lessons on Branding from Keanu Reeves

Fill a role

He plays variations of himself in every movie he stars in. So, a casting agent needs an A-list actor to play an out of touch, emotionally dead but likeable character? Keanu gets a call.

Lesson to learn: Fill a void. Be that person who is the go-to person for a very specific service. Maybe you have a knack for hand-drawn type or resume design. If an Art Director needs someone to create some original artwork for an editorial spread ( or a new resume) you become the person to call.

Do one thing really well

He has (knowingly or not) embraced the typecast he has been given. His detached acting style makes for a perfect cop, alien and confused “Chosen One.”

Lesson to learn:If you are a killer illustrator, immerse yourself in illustrative work. Develop a body of work that has a distinct style and point of view. Provide tutorials, design freebies and inspirations for people to look at. It goes hand in hand with filling a void.

Make your mark everywhere

His resume is all over the place. He has been on every type of movie. We won’t comment on the validity of these films for the purpose of this article but you see what I am getting at. He has starred in everything from romantic comedies to big action blockbusters. All of his movies have his distinctive acting style attached.

Lesson to learn: When creating a brand, take your killer signature style on the road. Don’t just do websites. Design greetings cards or cover letters. Everything you produce should look like “you.” Once you establish that signature style, you can expand into other things. The stronger you build your brand, the easier you make it to expand later.

Do that one big thing

Sometimes it only takes one big decision to get things started. Matrix was a big movie. Speed was a big movie. He would still have a place in the pop-culture dialog if he only starred in any of these movies.

Lesson to learn: Do something big. Join up with a group or develop a big project with your name attached. Create a blog or infographic that will circulate throughout the design community. Spend time on designing ( or writing ) something high quality and useful that is so good that it will always be floating around somewhere. Think of some of the articles and imagery that constantly pops up on FFFFFOUND or twitter.

Be Persistent

Check IMDB, his filmography is spotty (at best) but he refuses to go away. The number of bad reviews and negative comments on his Rotten Tomatoes is rather extraordinary. He is still famous. He’s still a movie star.

Lesson to learn: Work. Work Work. When a project doesn’t end up the way you planned, cut your losses and keep going. There isn’t an actor out there with a resume full of hits. There are always misses. So if you try to create that big project and it doesn’t work out, try again. Blog about it.

Get a hobby, even if it’s ill advised

Dogstar + Shakespeare. The first being Keanu’s rock band and the second, his obsession with Shakespeare. I don’t judge but I would say both are ill-advised. That’s all I have to say about that.

Lesson to learn: Have something else going on. If you become overly obsessed with your work you might start to hate it. Make sure you have other things to do when you aren’t buried in work. If you don’t come up for air on occasion, you work will start to suffer. Do what you love only enough so that you still love it.

Who else seems to have a good thing going in Hollywood? Hugh Grant, Johnny Depp, Micheal Cera and Leonardo Dicaprio are some of my picks for other actors that understand branding. Who really has it wrong? My pick: Tom Cruise. What is your favorite Keanu Reeves movie? I know you have one!

Shenee is a writer, designer, photographer and pop culture curator. She recently founded You'll Look Great. She tweets. Mostly about writing, music and 90's kids movies @sheneeh. She also blogs.