Since the inevitable split of Dawson's Creek golden girl Katie Holmes and everyone's favorite Top Gun Tom Cruise, there has been the inevitable chatter about how the decoupling will damage the individual star's brands.
It is true that both Tom and Katie benefited from becoming TomKat. For Tom, Katie added a patina of youth that no plastic surgery can accomplish for a man of 50. She made him seem younger, somewhat hipper. If he occasionally seemed unhinged, even that was all right. An audience loves to love love. And most importantly, Katie gave Tom Suri. In the age of the celebrity baby boom, when spawning is what drives the celebrity brand-building machine, Suri was something the American consumer could truly get behind. For Katie, Tom provided gravitas. Sure, being a stay-at-home mom and full-time keeper of Cruise kept her from appearing in too many movies, but what a celebrity does for work doesn't actually matter anymore. Kate Holmes is one of the few celebrities we can truly call A-list today because of her association with Tom. She could land any magazine cover of her choice tomorrow and her endorsements potential is through the roof. Tom is a star maker. Ask Nicole Kidman.
Now that the pair have dissolved their mutually beneficial union, where do they go from here? Nowhere but up. One of the things the American consumer of celebrity loves even more than a love story is a reinvention.
To ensure their stocks rise, there are a couple things Tom and Katie can do to prevent a backslide of their brands in the wake of the split.
1. Act your age. No one wants to see 50-year-old Tom Cruise have a mid-life crisis and flounce about with women less than half his age. If Tom were to, say, steal Selena Gomez from Justin Bieber, that would be very, very bad for his brand. Cruise needs to date a woman who is age appropriate. It should be someone in her forties, maybe with a couple of kids. The cougars will simply eat that up.
2. Play your age. Mission Impossible is great. Rock of Ages was less great. Tom needs to take on some roles with depth where he isn't swinging from the rafters or taking off his shirt (his abs are weird). Playing the hero is less savory in your fifth decade.
For Katie: 1. Act your age. Didn't it seem like Katie went from 27 to 47 in just five years? Now is the time for Katie to live it up a little, spend time with girlfriends, maybe get a little drunk and ask Jennifer Aniston and Chelsea Handler if she can join them for a Cabo weekend. The 33-year-old should date someone completely inappropriate. John Mayer is single again. Katie needs to remind everyone that she still has at least a decade of marketability at the box office.
2. Make us love you. Give us the one-two punch of a nice sleeper indie coupled with a big romantic comedy. Be adorable.
For Tom and Kat:
1. Don't trash one another. As bizarre as it seemed, folks liked that fairy-tale love story. Let them remember it fondly without allowing reality to seep through the castle walls.
2. Keep Suri happy. This is really all America wants. Keep her smiling in her high heels and both of you will continue to enjoy the fruit of your loins.