If you haven’t watched Bill Murray Stories on Netflix yet, I highly recommend it. If nothing else, it will make your heart feel a little bit lighter. It explores the phenomenon of people from all walks of life who have had personal encounters with Bill Murray. But rather than the typical tales of celebrity encounters you might hear, like seeing your celeb crush in a fancy restaurant, the ones with Bill feature him appearing in the most unlikely times and places; a random college student’s house party; a family dinner; or an engagement shoot on the streets of Charleston, South Carolina.
With the line between celebrities and brands becoming increasingly blurred, Bill Murray’s particular form of performance art can teach us a few things about marketing.
Flip convention on its head.
Bill’s game that he’s playing with all of us – this seems as accurate a description as any – flips the idea of celebrity completely on its head. Fans go to film festivals and strategically choose restaurants and nightclubs with the hopes of catching a glimpse of their favourite celebrities. We’re essentially intruding on their lives and trying to become one of them, however fleetingly. The paparazzi and celebrity media are there to facilitate this activity by intruding on our behalf. It’s hard not to see this culture as grotesque, even if you partake in it. Bill flips this narrative by intruding on our lives and mingling with the normals.
Direct-to-consumer brands are a great example of how you can introduce transparency and eliminate ‘gross’ practices like optical stores that charge mysteriously exorbitant prices for a pair glasses, essentially acting as the paparazzi – that essential link between us and what we want that doesn’t have to be there at all.
Bring people something good.
But don’t force them to gush with admiration – they’ll do that on their own. With each surprising and surreal appearance Bill makes in people’s lives, they’re left with something similar; a sense of wonder and joy that endures.
Even though brands primarily expect consumers to buy their products, there are still ways to give people a great experience with no strings attached, like branded pop-ups, free concerts, and valuable content.
Influence can endure.
As an agency in the late 2010’s, working with influencers to promote our clients’ brands is par for the course. But while we’re thinking about how to maximizing exposure and build brands, it’s easy to get lost in the present – the most popular trends of the moment and what trendy brands are doing to grab their share of the attention economy.
But in the background, there are people and brands who continue to capture people’s imaginations decade after decade. Bill Murray has more than enduring star power; he has become part of the cultural lexicon. Brands like Nike and Coca-Cola have obviously achieved this, but some newer brands are doing this as well, most notably those that have been able to disrupt entire industries.
It’s unclear exactly what about Bill Murray’s antics captures people’s imaginations. Even the creator of the documentary didn’t have a clear answer. These experiences are so odd that they defy categorization. Ultimately it seems to be about making people feel good in the moment and giving them a truly unforgettable experience – not unlike our raison d’être.