One of the basic premises of all marketing (a fancy word for selling) is the USP. This stands for Unique Selling Proposition. For instance Avis "Tries Harder," or Pepsi "Hits the Spot."
I like to promote an idea to actors, called the UCP or Unique Character Presentation.
Beat the casting directors to the punch - decide on your "type" yourself. Learn the basic types - and how they are sold - and then choose what fits you best.
Pay particular attention to that word "unique." It means that the product must be differentiated from other, similar, products.
Here are the types - and the components used to sell them - in hopes that this list will help you develop your own Unique Character Presentation. (I'll also give a few examples of actors who have used each type in building their career. Take particular note of how widely varied two actors in the same UCP can be):
THE INNOCENT - A person whose goal and core desire is happiness, who fears being punished for doing something wrong. This person's strategy is to do things the "right" way. This approach requires faith and optimism -- so THE INNOCENT is expected to reflect goodness, morality, simplicity, nostalgia -- the child.
Selling this image generally requires a romantic, traditional approach. Or in some cases, mystical, saintly or dreamy. (David Schwimmer, Meg Ryan)
REGULAR GUY (GAL) - This is person whose goal and core desire is belonging and connecting with others. The strategy is to have a "common touch," be a "down to earth" person with solid virtues. This type is known for his realism, empathy and lack of pretense. This is the "good ol' boy," the girl next door, the working stiff, the solid citizen, the good neighbor and the regular Joe.
Selling this image requires differentiating from elitist, powerful people and stressing the everyday functionality of this sort of person. (Ray Romano, Sandra Bullock)
THE EXPLORER - This sort of person wants to experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life. Conformity and the feeling of being trapped are what THE EXPLORER is avoiding. The strategy is seeking new things, escape from the everyday, autonomy, ambition and being true to one's inner life.
Selling an image like this is done with individuality, differentiation, 'new and exciting' are words to keep in mind. This is the seeker, the wanderer, the pilgrim. A Pioneering spirit. (Ellen DeGeneres, Johnny Depp)
THE SAGE - This is the type of person whose goal and desire are to use intelligence and analysis to find the truth and understand the world. Not wanting to be duped, misled or ignored, THE SAGE uses information, knowledge and self-reflection to reach the goal of the truth.
Selling the sage is mostly a matter of projecting expertise, philosophy, good planning, solidity, a professional image. The mentor, the teacher, the guru. (Leonard Nimoy, Oprah Winfrey)
THE HERO - A constant in the telling of stories, THE HERO is the person who believes to their core that where there's a will, there's a way. The goal and main desire is to prove one's worth through courage. The strategy here is strength and competence. From the superhero to the team player -- the warrior to the winner -- this person wants to improve the world with his mastery of fear.
Selling this image is somewhat complicated as several of the other types can cross over to this role. But, straightforwardness is a mainstay. Clear-eyed and capable. No reluctance to go into the unknown. This is someone we can depend on. (Sylvester Stallone, Linda Hamilton)
THE OUTLAW - This type wants to change what doesn't work for themselves, generally through revenge or revolution. This person is a misfit, a wild man (or woman) who rebels against the norm. The strategy here is to disrupt, destroy or shock.
Selling THE OUTLAW is mostly a matter of breaking with convention. Words to keep in mind are radical, outrageous, the "dark side." Social outcast. Reactionary. Rebellious. (Al Pacino, Kathy Bates)
THE MAGICIAN - This person's goal is to make dreams come true through a fundamental laws of how the universe works. The main strategy is to develop a vision and live by it. Always looking for the "win-win" situation. Appearing as the visionary, the inventor, shaman, medicine man, or charismatic.
Selling this image is projecting a transformative nature. Specialness, spirituality, and ability to effect the outcome. This can be a "new age" approach. (Lucy Liu, Jon Voight)
THE LOVER - People of this type have a goal of relationships through intimacy and experience. The strategy of THE LOVER is to be passionate, grateful, appreciative and committed -- to become more emotionally or physically attractive. This person can be a spouse, a friend, a partner or a team builder.
Selling this image is a matter of being outer directed and able to please others. A comfortable "belonging" -- differentiates THE LOVER from other types. (Aaron Eckhart, Drew Barrymore)
THE JESTER - With a goal of having a good time and "kidding" the world, THE JESTER plays, makes jokes, can be the trickster. Never wants to be boring or to be bored. A strategy of puncturing self importance, creating fun and live in the moment is what differentiates this person from the "herd."
Selling this image requires a welcoming, trustworthy, friendly approach. Truthful, open to change, easy to know are ideas that important to being this person. (Adam Sandler, Queen Latifah)
THE RULER - The goal of 'the boss' is to create a prosperous family, community or team. Success is a result of this person's core desire to control the situation. The strategy is to exercise power, leadership, responsibility and authority to achieve a greater end.
Selling this image is all in the areas of confidence, stability and trust. Differentiate from "regular" people. (Judi Dench, Alan Alda)
THE CAREGIVER - This type cares and protects other selflessly. The strategy of THE CAREGIVER is doing things for others with compassion and generosity. The parent, helper and supporter are people that fall into this category.
Selling this image is about family, team, health, education -- helping. Differentiate from selfish people. (Frances McDormand, Keanu Reeves)
THE CREATOR - This is a person who wants to give form to a vision and to create enduing value. The strategy here is to develop artistic control, culture, skills and to express her own vision using creativity and imagination.
Selling this image requires innovation, self expression, and artistry. Differentiate from unimaginative, banal and usual. (Steve Martin, Bette Midler)
As you can see, there are many types and even more strategies for projecting the image that sells. Add to that, the ability of some actors to combine some types and you have, literally, thousands of choices.
For instance, Harrison Ford is the regular guy hero, Robin Williams is the jester creator, Julia Roberts is the innocent explorer, and Sarah Jessica Parker is the lover caregiver.
In fact one of the transitions every actor makes in a career is the expansion of their basic type - to include elements of other types - which, in turn, extends their staying power.
So the question is not "What type are you" as much as it is, "What's your Unique Character Presentation?"
Now all you have to do is look at yourself in an objective way and align your marketing efforts with your natural tendencies.