As the influence and importance of social media stars expands, it's becoming commonplace for companies to hire faces to represent them.
Simon Miller takes us back to a simpler time. A time where companies could just create or hire a fictional character to be their mascot instead. Tony The Tiger? The Michelin Man? Brian Cranst? Marketing legends.
Miller is already a fairly established and trusted name in the gaming sector. But who is Brian Cranst, and why is he representing Curve Digital instead? We sat down with journalism’s favourite buff boy, to discuss his new position at Curve, and get his solid, honest takes on some key developments in the influencer scene.
Influencerupdate.biz: First off, introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do.
Simon Miller: My name is Simon Miller and I’ve got loads of products on the go, because I like to not sleep. My latest one is that I have indeed joined Curve Digital to create video content, which is essentially what I do anyway. I make videos about video games, wrestling, whatever comes at my feet. Somehow, that’s how I make my living. I’m not sure how it happened, but I feel very blessed that I’m able to do it.
So you’ve just joined Curve as their video content producer, under the pseudonym ‘Brian Cranst’. Can you give us some context?
Curve are wonderful people in the sense that they have the same sense of humour (and nonsense) as I do. I said ‘look, there no point doing what everybody else is doing.' I thought that creating a character was a good way to have fun with it and show that we’re irreverent; I can only give so much, but a fictional character has no bounds.
Brian Cranst is a fictional character I created a few years ago when I worked at videogamer.com, and he’s essentially a parody of indie developers. Obviously I don’t think ALL indie developers are like Brian Cranst - he’s very up his own ass and thinks all his games are amazing. He sees a poignancy in things that no one else can see. I just thought bringing Cranst to Curve would be funny, given that they publish indie games I felt like it’d add a bit of personality to the company.
I like to describe Brian Cranst as the greatest indie developer that nobody knows about.
What’s your favourite Curve title?
My favourite one is actually The Swapper, and I didn’t even initially realise that Curve did it. The Swapper is a weird one - I’ll be the first to admit I would never have played that game ever, but I got it free as a Playstation Plus game and I loved it. The premise is that you’re stranded on this ship and you have to make clones of yourself to solve puzzles. It’s incredibly hard, but the atmosphere and the satisfaction of solving a puzzle was amazing. The Swapper is my jam.
I'm curious as to how much you think comedy and characters affect real points that you’re trying to make. Is there a worry that people won’t take you seriously?
I do think that’s a worry, but I’m a huge supporter of this. I do sometimes (emphasis on the sometimes) think people take video games a bit too seriously. Now there are times when things do need to be taken seriously, and points and arguments need to made, like all forms of entertainment. But within that, I think a lot of people tend to forget that they ARE video games.
For example, the current problems with microtransactions and loot boxes in games is a discussion that needs to be had. But I also think there needs to be a balance of fun. I hope the people that see it get it, and they understand the comedy. If people don’t get it then that’s also cool, they don’t need to watch my stuff. I just want to keep video games as fun as I can.
What do you think it means to BE an influencer? Would you agree that you have a certain responsibility to inspire and stand up for the right things, even if you don’t want to?
Well firstly, I’ve never seen myself as an influencer, but I agree with you in the sense that making statements about things isn’t always a good thing.
You can’t be one to everybody.
I do also think it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of your followers might children. You might not like that and feel prohibited by that, but if you do have growing minds that are looking up to you, then it’s important to be aware of that. You don’t want to be influencing people in the wrong way; that can be really dangerous.
Youtube is still in its infancy and a lot of people that are finding success are just thrown into it, and they have no idea how to manage it.
How do you think the Influencer scene is performing currently? How do you think you’d fare if you started a Youtube channel right now, as opposed to 5 years ago?
Well, it’s getting oversaturated but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means more people are giving it a go. I think 5 years ago it would have been easier because it wasn’t as big as it is now. The influencer scene now is crazy; so many people pop up that I’ve never heard of - you click on them and they’ve got millions of followers!
It goes to show how entertainment has changed; if someone has a TV program that had 15 million viewers then everyone would know it, just because of TV works. But YouTube is so far-reaching that you can just completely miss someone.
What are some of your main do’s and don’ts when it comes to video game PR, or marketing yourself as an entertainer?
Personally, my big 'don't' is to not be negative. I don't think negativity helps anything. I'm not saying you can't BE negative about stuff you don't like, but there's no need to bring other people down for the sake of it.
If you're trying to sell yourself, or a video game, I think people would rather receive a positive, happy message than a sad one. I try to make sure my social media and videos have merit of positivity to them; why would you want to inject sadness into other people's lives?
Remember that social media IS marketing. Nobody posts anything without the hope of it getting some kind of engagement. Even if it's just an individual trying to gain more followers, that's still an attempt to sell yourself. Putting yourself out there on social media as you would like to be perceived is really important, and I think people forget that from time to time.
This isn’t something I’ve seen personally - but something I’m curious about. The first influencers to be snapped up by businesses for campaigns are generally YouTubers, musicians, vloggers etc. Do you think there’s a missing gap for wrestling influencers?
Absolutely. I probably would have thought otherwise if we didn't have massive evidence to the contrary. Like you say; musicians, vloggers etc. with big followings have all moved on to help out companies, but I can't think of a wrestling company off the top of my head that's done that. I'm surprised that the WWE hasn't tried to tap into that market yet.
I do think it'll come to wrestling eventually, but I'm not sure how. However, we're finally starting to see brands like WrestleCircus streaming events on Twitch and embracing these ideas. There are so many people out there making wrestling orientated content on YouTube as well - that area is massive.
If we take everything too seriously, we’ll be lost in a hole of misery.
What are your plans for the future?
My main goal is I wanna be a wrestler. I absolutely love it. In all seriousness though - I'm not sure. I have a five-year plan like everyone else; the Curve thing came up and it was nice to jump on the back of that.
Success is very hard to measure in 2017. Is it about making loads of money? Is it about having millions of followers? Is it just about being proud of your work? I'm very lucky that I have a load of projects I can throw myself into each day, and ultimately as long as they keep progressing each day. As long as I'm getting to create and be passionate about things - I'm happy.
But I still want to become a professional wrestler. I really do.
Anything you wanna add before we part ways?
Going back to a question we mentioned earlier; if you are sat there thinking you want to start a YouTube channel or build some kind of social following, just tap into what you think you'd enjoy doing. I don't see myself as super successful but I am proud of what I've done, and most of it was because I found something that made me laugh and I enjoyed doing it.
Don't feel like you need to copy what anyone else is doing, don't feel like what you're doing is wrong. If it makes sense in your head, there's a strong chance you'll get something out of it.