6 Key Lessons for Your Personal Brand Strategy From the Depp vs Heard Defamation Trial

I’m not generally interested in other people’s lives. Seriously, I loved Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow since I was 17 but I was never interested in personal life.

As the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard defamation trial unfolded, I started watching the trial to enrich my vocabulary. Then a strange thing happened, My interest grew on.

One thing I was always wondering about such trials is how can you prove anything if it’s one word against another. What if someone framed you? Somehow it felt like a very personal story.

Another thing is, as someone who’s obsessed with marketing tactics, I couldn’t help but wonder, why the whole world sided with Depp and rejected Heard pretty much unanimously.

I’m not going to look deep into evidence here since I think it’s quite clear that there was enough evidence of not only Amber being the abuser in this relationship, but also her being a horrible person who was recoding all Johnny’s lows.

The question I had comes down to this: how the behavior of both former partners in the court, including their testimony and reactions, influenced our judgement?

Even more to the point, what exactly makes us like and dislike people and how we can leverage the key takeaways from that trial for a personal brand’s strategy?

So off I went to find that answer.

Be honest

The court was about to start and Amber took the stand. None of the people who watched the trial online were sure what to believe. Most were actually biased against Johnny as, for one, he had already lost the UK trial against the Sun outlet. Then again being a white male star in Hollywood in our days isn’t the strongest hand.

Amber was a clean canvas and she could’ve painted any picture she liked.

Yet as soon as she started, it just fell apart.

While claiming to be a victim of domestic violence, she told the jury and the whole world that it’s the current trial that was the worst and most terrible thing she’s ever been through, which is at least bizarre. From the outset, she tried to look upset with her voice shaking, still something was very wrong.

Being emotional isn’t a crime. It’s just didn’t add up. She didn’t look like a frightened victim at all. Instead, she was seemingly trying to hold back anger during most of her testimony.

Another thing that made her testimony so incredibly repulsive is her was speaking so fast about what happened 10 years ago, giving out way too many unnecessary details to seem persuasive, which eventually backfired on her. She didn’t even pause as if she practiced the speech a million times. As a result, people found her unstable and annoying, rehearsed, phony and forced.

On the opposite, Johnny’s testimony came across as extremely honest, deep and genuine. He testified with his head down. He was choosing each word carefully and it seemed that each time he was recalled an actual memory. His words were relatable.

As a result, the difference in authenticity was astonishing. So was the difference in their credibility.

Be humble

Since her first testimony, Amber acted to be far more superior than everyone else.

However, any words also have implied emotional meaning. And emotions always prevail.

Her wordsTranslation
‘I’m from a little town near Austin, Texas, that you probably have never heard of, no one has’‘You are not intelligent enough to know such things, I won’t even give you a chance’
‘He wasn’t there. He certainly doesn’t know what happened behind the closed doors’‘He’s lying and I’m right’
‘If I wanted to leak information I could’ve done that in much more effective way’‘I am so witty and powerful, superior to everyone’

Every time she told something, she looked bitter. That’s something you do when you develop a superiority complex. She started to brag about her misfortunes.

If only that was it.

Amber also belittled Johnny through her testimony (‘He was doing cocaine’, ‘It’s weird to see a grown man cry’, ‘His tatoo looked like a blob’) and evidence (calling him a baby on the recording) and it was hard to not see her showing her contempt for him at such moments. She didn’t even stop there and continued to provide remarks even regarding her sister (‘At that time she did cocaine, but I didn’t’).

JD, on the other hand, spoke kindly and respectfully about his ex. He has chosen to keep his distance by referring to her as ‘Ms. Heard’ and avoiding eye contact with her throughout the entire trial, while she was staring at him with an intimidating look.

Embrace your imperfections. It’s what makes you unique.

Admit mistakes

Whether we like it or not, blaming others is a part of human nature. When something goes wrong, what our brain tends to do is create an emotion of anger and find who’s guilty to direct this anger to.

Problem is, we can’t fix those around you.

Her being a bad act alone wouldn’t be a problem.

Her being bitter towards everyone and putting herself on top of everyone certainly would.

She never admitted being wrong. Not even once.

Did Amber think at some point to come out and apologize? Probably. But that’s the problem with lies. When they pile on, it’s hard to unwind. It was important for her to win this trial as she doesn’t possess even $10 million, let alone the initial $50.000.000. Her coming out would also mean she lied in a TV show and under oath while giving deposition for the UK trial.

Yet I believe she always had choice.

That said, she lacked any accountability for her words and actions, while Johnny spoke nothing but highly of the woman who tried to destroy him.

Her audacity to get up on the stand, in front of a judge and jury, and blatantly insinuate that every witness that has been called to testify against you is lying under oath was beyond delusional.

Johnny, on the contrary, admitted alcohol and drugs, as well as many controversial behavior that in other circumstances would’ve put him under a different light.

So don’t be afraid to admit mistakes. It’s mistakes, not victories, that make your story relatable. While we’re struggling with being perfect (or even seeming to be perfect), it turns out, no one likes perfect.

Add humor

Constant objections from the Heard’s legal team were probably to entice JD to act aggressively so that this reaction was used as ‘proof ’ for the alleged claim. Her attorneys didn’t succeed though. The easy-going attitude they revealed spoke volumes about him as a vulnerable soul being abused.

He turned his cross-examination into a canvas for hilarious comebacks.

Amber’s attorney: ‘And you were drinking pretty heavily’

JD: ‘Were you there?’

A portion of humor levies pressure in the most stressful situations. Make people laugh, and they will like you.

Amber’s attorney: ‘We’re gonna fast-forward in time a little bit’

JD: ‘Yes, I can feel it’.

As opposed to JD, miss Heard was all about wining and crying. Unlike JD’s cross examination, Amber’s cross examination exposed her anger and aggression, exactly what the JD legal team needed. Hearing her saying ‘If I wanted to leak it [the video], I could’ve done that in much more effective way’ was precious.

Whenever there’s too much pressure, just use humor as your sidekick. Don’t overdose it though.

Build rapport

As the trial went on, I couldn’t help but wonder, how it might be on Earth that Depp’s witnesses are so likeable and Heard’s seemed to be either defensive or downright repulsive.

The videos when they both parties arrive to the court show the same difference in their attitude.

Body language is one part of the equation, however Johnny did even a better job. He was building rapport with everyone in the room.

With Depp took time to stop and acknowledge everyone out there, including his fans, throwing a joke to the operator and handshaking all the police officers, Heard was his absolute antipode. She seemed to be full of herself, arriving to the court with her head up high ignoring all the rest.

Depp was just down to earth and extremely humble. Amber always acted like she was above everyone in the room.

It’s astonishing how their witnesses just repeated the same pattern.

Turns out, Depp is a magnet for light-hearted truthful people, many recognized in their industry. Heard’s witnesses were defensive and often straightforwardly strange. It’s like birds of a feather flock together. They have built rapport with people similar to them.

It’s hard to feel sympathy for a reserved who ignores you. So be open and build horizontal relationships instead of showing off.

Be consistent

If you ask me to state why Amber lost in this case in one word, here you go.


There were just too many of them. How could that be that…

…you say he’s violent and you present him s knife as a Christmas gift with ‘hasta la muerte’ engraving?

…you get a restraining order and then tell him how much you miss him?

…you pretend to be a victim of domestic abuse and then the jury hears you just mock your husband with horrendous voice on the recordings?

…you state he wanted to kill you sister like Kate Moss, and then Kate Moss refutes the statement?

…you say in a TV show that you have donated money to charity, then it turns out you haven’t donated even 10% of it, then you justify it by saying you use ‘donate’ and ‘pledge’ as synonyms?

I wonder what would parents of dying children who didn’t get their financial help say to this last one.

As her previous statements were losing consistency, so was her whole story. It just fell apart.

Depp’s behavior was consistent to his testimony to a T. Even further that that, the way he gave his testimony was consistent with his roles. The characters he embodied were mostly quirky yet good-hearted, likeable and downright humble. And yes, his characters are never perfect. Captain Jack Sparrow does have a little bit of a rum addiction too much but that doesn’t stop the whole world from admiring him, does it?

That’s what he was in the court. Watching him pulling out comebacks on the stand was like watching one of his movies. He never lacked integrity. And people are still able to see the integrity.


There’s nothing new except what has been forgotten.

In a world where we see everything through smartphone’s spectacles, it seemed that it’s almost impossible anymore to see what’s real and what is not. We got too accustomed to Instagram’s filters and masks. And fact-checking is unbelievable tedious so we tend to skip this step being busy with our lives.

We missed truth, honesty and consistency.

In a strange way, we also missed seeing people being not perfect.

I most certainly did.

So the key lessons to learn from the trial are to repeat something we learned in childhood. Be honest. Stand up to your bullies. Admit mistakes. Build rapport.

Never afraid truth.

And you’ll be surprised to see how many people will side with you.

What’s your take on the trial? I’m interested to know.


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