Because this is Tagline’s personal branding issue, this month’s “Brands from the Past” story is, of course, about a person: Luke Perry. You remember, Dylan McKay, the sensitive, dangerous heartthrob on “Beverly Hills 90210.” Those eyes, that voice, he stole every scene, and every girl’s heart on a weekly basis. Perry left the show in its sixth season to take on more dramatic roles. A smart move that likely saved him from the almost inevitable demise of a teen heartthrob brand. Since then,Luke
2.0 has appeared in the HBO series “Oz,” on the Showtime series “Jeremiah” and in the movie “Johnson County War” among others. Luke appeared to have found his new brand and a more mature audience. But then in 2006, it was as if he stepped into his past to star in NBC’s “Windfall,” a show about a group of friends whose lives change post college after they win the lottery.
Rumors abound that he’ll make a guest appearance on “90210.” He says he won’t reprise his role as Dylan, and that’s a good thing. That’s not where the Perry brand needs to go. Fifteen years ago he didn’t fall victim to fickle fans who one day ogled his poster and the next day tucked it in the back of the closet with the rest of the 90’s stuff. Perry was smart, he left them in search of his next brand reinvention. How many times in business have brands held on to the cushy, comfortable gravy train long after they should have jumped off? How many times have brands been blinded by the money and forgot about their heart? Blockbuster Video, Borders and Newsweek are all teetering because they kept doing what made them money and missed the inevitable market shift. They forgot about finding and serving the new customer until it was too late.
Perry, his agent or both were smart. They knew teen-idol status is short lived, so they shifted ahead of the curve. That meant brand reinvention time, and unfortunately, it’s not as easy as Madonna has made it look over the years. Finding that next point of relevance is risky. And it often takes a complete brand transformation—around a strong foundation—to find a new audience.
Luke Perry continues to work at his brand. My guess is that Luke 3.0 is in incubator right now. It’s like the quiet period before a company goes public. But here’s a note of caution. The world is moving quickly and you can get left behind even if you are on the treadmill; it’s worse if you appear to be off it entirely. Luke needs to burst back on the scene to gain relevance fast. All the best Luke, but know I’m not just talking to you. I’m talking to myself and all of us as brands, too. Big breakthroughs always require big leaps.
What is branding? Heart & Mind® Branding.