Simply said: Yes. As are many celebrities whose work has not only drawn us to them, but has also stood the test of time. Fact is, becoming famous and staying successful is building a brand. And it starts with building a loyal following—a community.
Now 87, Dick built his community of loyal fans via TV, Broadway and movies, including The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), Diagnosis: Murder, The Music Man, Bye Bye Birdy, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, Divorce American Style, and Night at the Museum. He started out as a DJ and standup comedian in the 40s. He even worked as a national television morning show host, with Walter Cronkite serving as his news anchor.
Storytelling Leads to Community
In 2001, I met and worked with Dick when he was hired as a spokesperson for a Bankers Life video series. Working in a producer’s role, I spent the better part of a day near Malibu on location with him which, fortunately, included a lot of downtime between takes. Dick was as much of a storyteller as you might imagine, and very approachable. He entertained us with music from his movies, and he fielded any question thrown at him. His energy was remarkable. At one point, he shared his feelings about how important it was that during his career, he picked projects that not only made sense for him, but for his fans. Dick truly felt he owed his fans a great product and a great experience. He surely has delivered.
Having been in marketing, entertainment and event production for a minute or two, I’ve worked with several celebrities, from actors to musicians to superstar athletes. The ones who stand out, like Mr. Van Dyke, have all been around for many years. No flashes in the pan; instead, I realized that along with their agents, rep firms and managers, these people created, grew and continue to nurture their brands. However, it took time, talent, dedication, perseverance, timing, re-inventing, research, repositioning and plain old hard work.
Sound familiar to you brand builders out there?
The fact is these folks are enjoying long-term success because they created, built and nurtured successful, dynamic communities. And they did so and continue to do so with great strategic follow-through. Yes, they plan, research, test, step into other markets, succeed, fail, start over and more. And if they fell off the horse one or more times along the journey, they got back on.
So yes, Dick is a pioneer of brand and community building. Today, he continues to move forward: He received a Life Achievement Award at the 19th Annual SAG Awards on 1/27/2013. And over the past several years, he has been a singer in a group called The Vantastix, became a computer animator and even rapped on a children’s album, Rhythm Train.
Are you paying close attention to your brand? And its community? If not, you might end up singing one of Dick’s old standards: Bye Bye Birdie.
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