I’m speaking at Amplify in Las Vegas this week. Will Smith is headlining so it feels like quite a treat. Especially for someone like me who grew up with the Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff and who’s favourite film is “Pursuit of Happyness”. I couldn’t wait to hear Will’s interview because I’ve never heard him speak to a corporate audience before, especially one filled with 4,000 marketers.
Being the consummate professional, he nailed it. Of course he did, he’s Will Smith. But there were two things that he said which made me think. This wasn’t going to be just a talk with an A-lister, disguised as an incentive to put some bum on seats for the IBM conference, Will made sure he came prepared and willing to share some marketing advice he’d not shared before.
If ever there was a marketing mantra, Will set it up well. He always wanted to be one of the biggest movie stars in the world. He didn’t pretend that wasn’t his plan ~ but he went on to explain exactly how he set about becoming the world’s biggest movie star. “Storytelling is everything”, he told the Amplify audience, “but you need to understand *exactly* what makes a commercial success”. With that in mind, early on in his career Will studied the most successful box office hits of all time and made a few simple observations.
When you look at the movies (good and bad) that Will Smith has done on his way to becoming one of the world’s biggest stars, the successful films (not including Wild Wild West!) that propelled him to stardom all have heavy special effects, creatures and a love story. Independence Day, Men in Black, I am Legend, iRobot…
There is a line from the Pursuit of Happyness which Will is really proud of. It’s a line that has been quoted thousands of times since and was taken from a spontaneous scene with Will and his real life son Jaden, about how you should never let people tell you that you can’t do something. During the interview, Will reminded everyone in the audience that
“People will always tell you that YOU can’t do something if THEY can’t do it”
I love that line. It was a great interview from a great man. I remain a big fan and will now relish even more every opportunity I have to show my favourite clip from the Pursuit of Happyness in my keynotes, explaining to marketers and executives how you need to be good with people AND good with numbers.