What happened? Here’s an actor who has spent the better part of 20 years building a strong, cool and recognizable brand we all know as “Tom Cruise”. An A-list movie star who has enjoyed a fairly equal following amongst male and female movie-goers. Men could like him because he seemed cool, women loved him for everything else. His aloofness and camera-shy approach to interviews made his brand even more appealing, if not mysterious. It let his fans mistaken him for the heroic characters he played on screen. This appeal over the years has translated in to billions of dollars in box office receipts for Paramount Pictures from hits including “Top Gun,” “Mission Impossible” and “Days of Thunder.” It has also made Tom a very rich man.
This week, in the latest bizarre chapter of Tom Cruise, Sumner Redstone, head of Viacom, the parent company of Paramount, ended its 14-year relationship with Tom’s production company, Cruise/Wagner Productions. According to The Wall Street Journal, Redstone cited Tom’s controversial conduct and behavior over the last year as the reason for the split.
Redstone reportedly believed Tom’s antics — including his now infamous appearances on “Oprah” and “Today” — had a negative impact on the bottom line for “Mission Impossible III.” Redstone said, “As much as we like him personally, we thought it was wrong to renew his deal.” Redstone told The Wall Street Journal: “His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.”
It’s safe to say that Paramount feels the Tom Cruise brand has been irreparably damaged and will never have the box office appeal it once did. A cool brand that is fading in to “Wacko Jacko” territory. His bizarre behavior on Oprah was the tipping point as it exposed him as someone his fans did not wan to see – a nerd. Even a little creepy. And so the Tom Cruise brand has spiraled downward ever since. A lot can be learned from Tom in how to manage or mismanage your brand. It is so vital to stay true and consistent with what your customers believe your brand stands for. Reinforcing these beliefs rather than compromising them is key to a healthy brand and longevity.
Now I have to admit, I really enjoyed “Mission Impossible III.” I thought it was the best one of the franchise by far. And I remember coming out of it thinking, “Tom is still a good actor.” But seeing Tom lose his cool over the past year, made him no longer cool on screen and that has forever changed the way I view Tom Cruise.