Brett Forbes of Fortress Features is an Executive Producer for the marketing satire Syrup, a film based on the novel of the same name by Max Barry.
What’s the overall marketing message of Syrup?
Forbes: Image and perception are important in every aspect of marketing, but certainly not everything in life.
Is there anyone that Scat (Shiloh Fernandez) reminds you of in the business world?
The movie characterizes young American consumers as image-conscious and cynical. Do you think this is true in real life? If so, do you think Hollywood is partly to blame?
As the movie suggests, I think young American consumers have been image-conscious and cynical for quite some time. While it’s a business first and foremost, I do believe, like other forms of art, that Hollywood is often times a reflection of society. Hollywood doesn’t cause young adults to be image-conscious or cynical, just like it doesn’t cause psychopaths to hurt people.
In one line in the movie, Scat states that as long as the product tastes better than urine, consumers are going to convince themselves that they like it. Was this a dig at energy drink companies in the real world?
It’s not about what’s in the perfume bottle, but the price sticker and the label on the outside of it. Have you tasted Red Bull? Not sure it’s a dig on any specific product. On a side note, there’s no reason I can see that all that stuff has to taste so bad other than it helps sell more cans! And I don’t buy for a second that anybody actually enjoys the taste. But, I do know consumers enjoy the actual and perceived effects. The history and growth of Red Bull should be added to marketing curriculum.
What do you think is more important, image or quality?
In what aspect? Personally, I like quality. A pretty girl gets boring. A pretty girl I can take home to mom is a keeper. But maybe a better question is what’s more important: perception of quality or actual quality? To a marketer, perception of quality is more important than quality because the majority of consumers will believe what they’re told before they make a decision for themselves. Let’s put air in the sneakers so you have more bounce in your step, and since Michael Jordan is really good at basketball, you will be too if you wear shoes with his name on it. Boom. Cut to — let’s take all the cushion out of the shoe because it’s the “natural” way to run. I have no idea if it’s better for me to be wearing my $35 Converse every day or my $200 New Balance. A good marketing campaign will give consumers the perception of quality even when there isn’t quality — and people will buy it. So I guess that may make perception and image a more powerful tool.
What does this film say about our society?
We are consumers. It is what we do best. We like to buy shit on sale. We like to buy shit we can’t afford. We like to be told what to buy and when to buy it. Image is certainly important to our society.
There is a lot of deception in the movie. Do you believe there is as much deception in the real business world as there is depicted in Syrup?
There are good people and bad people in business. It’s as cutthroat and competitive out there as it has ever been, and if you aren’t watching your own back, nobody is.
As a businessman, what is the most important piece of advice you would give to someone graduating college and entering the business world?
No matter what field you want to go into, always consider yourself a marketer, and never forget that you are your best product. Whether you like or not, how you market yourself will affect how you are portrayed in business and social environments.
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