Lessons from Ben-Hur on refreshing your brand.

Before it even hit the screens all I heard about the remake of Ben-Hur was what a complete flop it was.  With reviews like “The new Ben-Hur is an oddly lackluster affair: sludgy and plodding … an epic that feels like a mini-series served up in bits and pieces,” by Variety and a score of just 28% by Rotten Tomatoes its fate was sealed before it even had a chance.

The movie is clearly suffering from an identity crisis:  what exactly is it trying to be, a more stylized version of the original or an action packed historical drama akin to Gladiator?  And who is it trying to attract – Boomer fans of the original…action-loving 18-35s…bible-belt residents?  With an expected loss of $75 million it appears old fashioned biblical epics aren’t as in vogue as they used to be. 

In July we wrote about the formula for success in Hollywood. If you’re going to make a sequel or a re-make, stick to the values of the original , but refresh the model so that it’s enough to keep original fans happy while attracting new ones.  

So marketers, when you’re revisiting your brand strategy or launching a new innovation do you have an identity crisis?  Do you know who exactly wants what you have to offer and why?  Are you bringing something new that’s relevant and meaningful but still connects with your DNA?

Well, maybe Ben-Hur will be resurrected when released on video, giving new meaning to the lines:

Simonides: “Judah Ben Hur! You’ve come back to us like a returning faith! I want to laugh again, Judah.”

Judah Ben-Hur: “We will laugh.”

Simonides: “Laugh, amidst the dust and cobwebs…”