Editor’s note: We’re sharing insights from 2019 Content Marketer of the Year finalists on the blog before we announce the winner at Content Marketing World in September. This is the first year we will name a Content Marketer of the Year in two categories – B2B and B2C.
You probably recognize Ryan Reynolds as an in-demand actor even though his most profitable movie appearances involve a superhero mask and layers of makeup.
Now you can know him as a 2019 B2C Content Marketer of the Year finalist. That’s because Ryan has applied the same energy, determination, and commitment that propelled the foulmouthed Deadpool to success to his work with the challenger brand Aviation American Gin. He acquired a stake in the company and became its creative director in 2018.
Why he caught our eye: Sure, involving an A-list celebrity gets the company some eyeballs. But Ryan’s invested his own brand of offbeat humor, and mastery of television, video, and social channels (and a spray bottle of his tears) to upgrade Aviation Gin’s marketing into a new class.
Take a look at Ryan’s Twitter or Instagram accounts and you’ll immediately see how he uses his natural charm and sense of humor to craft engaging and authentic stories people can relate to. Take this example that rings humorously true to most parents.
Father’s Day coming up. Can’t wait to be served Norovirus in bed.
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) June 11, 2018
His comedic instincts serve him well as a content marketer, but Ryan brings more to the table than a gift for glib gab. Driven by his curiosity, passion, and relentless entrepreneurial spirit, his work promoting the brand he owns – as well as the movies he appears in – has earned the attention of the marketing community.
What can B2C marketers learn from a Hollywood actor turned part-time businessperson? Plenty.
You can come back from the Dead(pool)
Long before buying into Aviation Gin, Ryan cut his marketing teeth on creative campaigns for Deadpool, a limited-budget (by superhero-movie standards), profanity-laced comic book flick that only earned the greenlight with a well-timed (and well-received) leak of test footage.
Ryan teamed up with 20th Century Fox marketing chief Marc Weinstock to develop an unconventional marketing approach that made the most of the conservative budget and complemented the anti-hero narrative.
The marketing campaign goal was to produce content that would not only be authentic to the character but would also create an experience that felt like it was driven by Deadpool. Unlike most actors, Weinstock told Hollywood Reporter, Ryan was heavily involved, developing ideas as well as creating content, including iPhone-shot videos featuring his character that went viral. The campaign they produced earned two Grand Clio awards in 2016. And, of course, the star’s in-character response earned plenty of headlines and views.
Ryan never does anything halfway, says George Dewey, president of Ryan’s aptly named Maximum Effort Productions, who first worked with Ryan on Deadpool’s digital marketing at Fox.
In fact, Ryan worked 11 years to bring Deadpool to the screen, overcoming hurdles such as poor reviews of the character’s first outing in X-Men Wolverine and the bit of tarnish that briefly dimmed Ryan’s superhero star status after Green Lantern didn’t perform at the box office. In the end, Deadpool grossed over $775 million worldwide and Deadpool 2 grossed slightly more than that, and became the highest grossing X-Men movie.
Aim higher than #ad influencer endorsements
As Ryan says in a recent video, “After falling in love with Aviation Gin, I didn’t just buy another bottle, I bought the company.”
Of course, he also says, he’s committed to blowing and etching the glass to create every single signature bottle. Despite the video’s tongue-in-cheek humor, there’s little reason to doubt him when he answers his question, “Can you ever really go too far for your brand?” with “I just don’t think it’s possible.”
A passionate gin lover and now gin brand owner, Ryan not only runs the content and marketing side of things, he is directly involved with outreach and distribution. He wants everyone who interacts with Aviation Gin to feel – and know – he is behind the brand.
An entertainer at heart, Ryan produces content that travels. One of his first videos for the company features Ryan being interviewed by his fictional twin, Gordon, about fatherhood, Deadpool 2, and his purchase of Aviation Gin. It’s been watched more than a million times on YouTube.
The brand continues to deliver engaging and original content that easily goes viral. The shareable nature of the content helps Aviation Gin deliver its messages to millions of people without the typical alcohol brand promotion.
A video created with actor Hugh Jackman, a friend Ryan loves to troll on social media, embodies the brand’s lighthearted and spontaneous creativity. Ryan had the idea of creating content to market Hugh’s charitably oriented Laughing Man Coffee and wanted Hugh to do the same for Aviation Gin. They set up everything in a few minutes. But instead of going traditional – creating individual ads where each man promoted the other’s brand – they created a video called Truce, which Ryan hosted on his personal YouTube channel. Since its February launch, the video has generated over 7.1 million views and over 8,200 comments.
Ryan initiates ideas and a small team helps him define and execute them. The team consists of George Dewey, an executive producer from their Maximum Effort Production team, and two members from the brand team at Davos (another owner of Aviation Gin).
The process has a natural flow driven by Ryan’s creative intuition, where content is produced when the team feels like it’s time to put out something new or for specific seasons. The success of their campaigns is mainly measured by brand reach, social interaction, digital media coverage, and views.
Members of the team often ask themselves whether they enjoy the content and if they are putting out material that accurately represents their values and core brand personality. Although analytics are important, the team tries to balance the art and science of the content. They see data as directional, not determinative.
Ryan wants to make sure people understand that his involvement is more than a celebrity endorsement deal. And what better way to show you’re part of a company than having a company email address? Maybe sharing that address with millions of avid fans.
When Ryan revealed his new email address on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, he received 20,000 emails in one day, which crashed the company’s servers. And that made for great earned media coverage, with stories about the crash in Adweek, Inc., Food and Wine, and more.
He was ready with a snappy response on Twitter:
.@AviationGin has had a lot of attention lately. 20,000 daily emails crashed our servers. I had no idea we had an IT Department until an hour ago. They seem super sober.
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) August 15, 2018
Anyone who emails [email protected] is guaranteed a personal, often in-depth, out-of-office response like this recent example:
Surprise makes delight
Ryan and his team are forever coming up with new ideas to disrupt the industry and delight their audience.
One recent surprise: A funny fake Amazon review of Aviation Gin that Ryan wrote under the pseudonym Champ Nightengale (and immediately confessed his authorship on Twitter and Instagram).
I loved this review of Aviation Gin someone sent me after I wrote it. pic.twitter.com/YZN4KI0ATD
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) June 22, 2019
The post has been retweeted more than 12,000 times, has nearly 800 comments, and 130,000 “likes” on Twitter, plus another 800,000 “likes” on Instagram. And the stunt led to articles on CNN.com, Business Insider, Delish.com, People.com, and many other sites.
Always pushing boundaries, Ryan says he and the team are uncertain of what exactly comes next, but he hopes to continue to surprise audiences.
Now that people think they know what to expect from the Aviation Gin experience, it will be fun to subvert that, and see how far they can push the brand personality through the content they create.
Learn who will win B2B and B2C Content Marketer of the Year at Content Marketing World Sept. 3-6. And while you’re at it, learn skills and tools to expand your own content marketing success. Register today using code CMIBLOG100 to save $100.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute