The purpose should always be the core of whatever you do, says Will Smith to his audience at Cannes Lions session on Tuesday.
I had the honor of hearing this brilliant orator, a great actor and a forever marketer, Will Smith today morning at Cannes Lions festival. What encourages me to write this is that even now when the session has ended, I can’t get the talk out of my head. He was inspiring and relevant in everything he said. Back at my room now, reliving the moments of this session, I pen down what echoes in my mind.
He considers himself a true marketer and throwing his words in a roomful of advertising and marketing executives, he exclaims that his career has been strictly about being able to sell his products globally and leaving it in the hands of his fans. He has to be in tune with their needs. He’s got to give them what they need.
“I had so much success that I started to taste global blood and my focus shifted from my artistry to winning. I wanted to win and be the biggest movie star, and what happened was there was a lag – around Wild Wild West time – I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win versus promoting something because I believed in it.”
Elaborating on purpose, he took his younger son Jaden’s example of how he shared his concern about the environment and the plastic pollution in the oceans. This is what eventually led Smith to becoming involved in launching a company that produces re-cyclable paper and sugar cane-based bottles for packaged drinking water under a brand name- Just Water.
Fascinated, I listened to him about how the most important thing in life is to connect with other human beings. How any relationship becomes better when you touch someone emotionally. How a strong value system will always support your purpose. He kept pulling various examples and they were all so relatable. And then he throws the big one – “Relevance is the key”. The more universally relevant you are, the less chances you have of failure.
He led his talk with fun and humor. He held his audience tightly. He comprehended on how he learnt a new perspective about cheating from a conversation he had with his oldest son Trey, 23. Trey, and his girlfriend, while very much in love decided to take a break after being in a long relationship, to date others before they ultimately got married to each other. Smith was asked for his advice and he responded with shock: “Just cheat!” That’s been the only way so far.
But the son responded, “Dad, cheating is so over,” explaining that technology has made it impossible to go anywhere without being seen.
Smith revealed how that insight got translated to his work and how he thinks that Hollywood cannot cheat people any longer. He narrated, “That back in the 80s and 90s you had a piece of crap movie you put a trailer with a lot of explosions and it was Wednesday before people knew your movie was shit. But now what happens is 10 minutes into the movie, people are tweeting ‘Will’s movie is shit, go see Vin Diesel'.”
Adding to this he emphasized that technology, today, pushes you to be authentic. And authenticity requires a deeper comprehension of people. You can’t be successful with your audience, your customer or your relationship if you are not authentic. Fooling or cheating in today’s age is just not an option.
And then he validates it by talking about Muhammad Ali, whom I have followed and resonated with, all my life. Smith talks strongly about the rooted value system of Ali and how he was unwilling to compromise for money or accolades. He was living his values, his purpose his authenticity; rich or poor & all this, while touching deeply the lives of people around him.
Totally mesmerized and inspired, while I moved out of the Lumiere Theatre, one thought that allied with me was that there could have been no one else in the world that could have played Ali on screen. Will Smith lived Ali, always.
(The author is Vice President – Sales, ABP News Network)