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The One Thing Ryan Reynolds Says Hollywood Has Taught Him About Business Marketing: Storytelling

Inc. 8/5/2022 Kayla Solino
Ryan Reynolds. © Photo: Getty Images Ryan Reynolds.

Turns out making a movie and marketing your brand aren't that different.

Along with the royalty checks, the gift that will keep on giving from actor Ryan Reynolds's time in Hollywood is the industry's fierce focus on storytelling.

In a recent interview with The Washington Post's deputy business editor, Damian Paletta, Reynolds called Hollywood's ability to transcend reality with story the "greatest legal drug on earth," and says it's transferable to marketing.

"Whether you're talking about the unexpected nature of sports, low-cost wireless, gin, connected TV marketing," he said, "the connective tissue between each one of those things is actually, ironically, storytelling, the same way it is with movies."

And he should know. Reynolds retains a stake in Aviation Gin, after selling the brand to Diageo in a deal reported to be worth upwards of $610 million in 2020. And he's co-owner of Wrexham Football Club, which he bought in 2021 along with actor Rob McElhenney. He also serves as co-owner of Mint Mobile, a budget wireless company, and co-founder of Maximum Effort, a marketing agency that recently merged with MNTN.

Across his businesses, Reynolds uses storytelling as a lens to bring relatability to brand marketing. "I don't invent gin, I didn't invent low-cost wireless. You know, these are companies that had tremendous potential. And, you know, really just needed awareness," Reynolds said.

While Hollywood tends to throw big budgets at directors, it doesn't always--and in those moments your true creativity can shine, he added. "I love constraint, you know, I love doing more with less. It forces your imagination to expand, it forces you to tell stories in different ways. It's one of the reasons I love working with small and medium-size businesses ... There's so much more story to tell there when you're sort of forced to do more with so much less," he said.

Perhaps as a nod to constraints, Reynolds often appears in the ads he produces for his companies, as well as helps write and creatively direct them. He has cast Steve-O from Jackass in a new ad for MNTN's television marketing program, David Beckham in a Deadpool ad, and even his own mom in an ad for Aviation Gin, for instance.

And he even did Hollywood a solid, after successfully marketing the Deadpool films, with the series' 2016 debut film breaking the record for the biggest R-rated opening weekend.

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"Most of what we do really is [out of] necessity... A lot of times we're working really quickly, working with limited budgets, but we're also acknowledging and playing with the cultural landscape. So, that's a huge part of what we do, we try to create marketing that's moving at the exact same speed as culture."

Not every business owner is also a Hollywood star, but Reynolds said brands--particularly smaller ones--can achieve great marketing by aligning their messaging and advertisements around culture.

Enterprise brands, he said, tend to plot messaging nine to 10 months out, but smaller companies which aren't as bureaucratic can act swiftly, responding to culture changes with greater agility. "I don't know that you are going to be as effective as when you're moving at the exact same speed as culture," Reynolds said.

So how do you pinpoint shifts? "There's always that one person or several people who put out a tweet that is like, you know, liked by 10 million people that sort of encapsulates what everyone's feeling about this moment that's happening. Now if you can add production to that and do that at relatively the same speed as someone say tweeting it, your brand becomes the conversation," Reynolds said. Exhibit A, below.

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