Zach Selwyn is a Los Angeles-based hyphenate: actor, writer, comedian, singer, songwriter, podcaster, YouTuber and TV host.
On the side, he also writes and performs jingles for brands and is a popular performer at corporate meetings and events, where he improvises humorous freestyle raps about the occasion (as he did at Interbrand’s Best Global Brands summit in New York).
More than just an entertainer, Selwyn helps loosen up a corporate event, helping companies laugh at themselves and see the humor in what they do—a job he takes very seriously.
Selwyn chatted with Interbrand Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Sullivan after the event about what he’s learned from working with brands—and what brands might learn from what he does.
Zach, what are some of the brands you’ve worked with, whether as a songwriter or as a freestyle rapper at their events?
Some of the brands I’ve written and performed songs for are Levi’s, Friskies, Netgear, Coors, LaCroix… I did a very popular song and video for Stand Up 2 Cancer with Jim Parsons — some private parties, things like that. I’ve also performed at countless corporate events over the past five years.
You’ve worked in front of the camera and off-stage, in addition to the on-stage freestyle rap that you do. Which do you prefer, and what works best for your talents?
It’s a much different feeling when I perform a freestyle rap live than it is when I read a script on a TV show or even perform a song that I previously wrote. It’s somewhat tricky, but the freestyle works the best when it is live—and people see it in the room. It usually takes a second or two before they realize that I am rhyming off the top of my head. The energy grows. A lot of the time when people watch it on video, they tell me they don’t really believe it.
How do you engage the audience in what you’re doing?
The one thing I find in these situations is if I have enough material ahead of time, I try to make as many people as possible part of the performance. There’s that element people feel when they hear their names in a song. They say, “Wow! Did you hear that? He just rhymed my last name with Nancy’s from our HR Department!!” Also, I make a point of rapping about things happening in the moment—a person gets up to go to the bathroom, etc.—that kind of stuff always goes over well!
Brands are trying to create authentic moments and really engage the audience too, including through humor. How do you best do that as a performer?
A lot of brands know that they have to deliver information, which, let’s face it, can be boring at times. So by using someone like me to give them an experience they have never had before they create those “woah” moments when people feel a common bond with someone else in the room. That’s why performing live is my favorite thing. There’s a moment when a crowd feels like a unit. People tend to approach me afterwards and want to talk about process and how I rhymed certain things.
Do brands have much of a sense of humor these days?
Ha! Good question. I think that they have to be very careful nowadays. We all do. A lot of things that brands do are under more scrutiny than they were even six months ago—but ultimately, humor will never go away and neither will entertainment. So as long as brands find new ways to inject that into events and retreats and meetings, comedy and performance will always be necessary.
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