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Far from a Tolkien gesture

13th May 2020 by Barry Begg | Content, Uncategorised

You’re a brand owner. You’re in this crisis. You feel the need to get some “caring content” out there. Stop. Listen. Read On. Some are getting it properly right.

Allow me to tell you a story…

I love The Hobbit and not because I’m short with hairy feet but being treated to a marathon reading of The Hobbit on bank holiday Friday, by Gollum of all people, was just wonderful. It made me smile, just the notion of it.

If someone announced a 10+ hour armchair marathon reading of The Hobbit, a Hobbitathon, three months ago, we’d have asked them to cut it down to 280 characters and put out a tweet a day, for the next 20 years or so (don’t do the maths) because there’s no way our sho(r)t attention spans would handle it.

I know it’s enforced and we would normally have been charging around on a bank holiday Friday, a million miles an hour, doing nothing that important but doing it all the same – and then complaining how tired we are from all that running about.

Not everyone would have listened all the way through but just having the option was enough for me. I’m getting good at doing proper Micky Flanagan fuck all, in my down time. Doing nothing takes practise. Listening to The Hobbit for 10+ hours is not in fact doing nothing. It is time well spent and for a good cause.

More than 650,000 people worldwide tuned in and at time of writing this, Andy Serkis had raised over £290k – and yes, Yard donated and rightly so. It’s all for a good cause and it’s brilliant content. You can still donate and support those who are really making a difference.

Okay, it’s nothing new

Marathon book readings, slow radio and TV, audio books have been kicking about for ages, children authors have been reading stories online forever so it’s not new. What is new is our situation and our need for content – good content. We have a deep desire to be entertained and entertained we are.

We’re adapting and we’re being treated by a wealth of good content and inspiration.

When content is done for a good cause, driven by emotion, it has an even bigger impact. Some brands are nailing it – some personalities are just entertaining us and doing a really good job at it. I’ll be honest, I respect what Lady Gaga did for Covid-19 Relief – huge respect but I could only watch a few minutes on the BBC. They properly fluffed it.

It’s hard for brands just now but some brands get it without having to try. They’re not selling anything (sort of) they’re just doing a good thing and doing it with emotion.

Some brands (and people) that get it

I’m a huge fan of the brand Finisterre and they have just delivered a very inspiring Swallows & Rainbows campaign to get their community to design an NHS t-shirt, where 100% of the sale proceeds go to the NHS – and yes, Yard has put its hand in its pocket and rightly so.

They had over 700 entries and the designs were inspiring, sweet, cute, lovely, cool and full of hope. One of the best examples for me came from Molly Kerr aged 9:

The t-shirt is available to buy on Finisterre website and yes, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

Moving on and a slightly different brand in terms of scale and offering. It seems strange to jump from an organic clothing brand to Nationwide building society but they clearly get it too. Their campaign is full of honest emotion – truth. I need truth right now and so do we all.

Such a simple question: “How are you? We actually mean it at the minute.”

Yes, yes, we do and as the campaign nails – we actually care about the answer.

I’ve had more honest, direct and real conversations with friends, family and colleagues than I probably ever will and Nationwide have summed it up in this simple video.

It’s everywhere, it’s all around us but just now it feels even more important. The ability to connect – however we do it.

Book readings, random gifts, clapping the NHS and all of the other key workers, podcasts to keep our spirits up, the radio is still, in my opinion, the best form of content that exists and that has been a huge source of comfort for many.

So much content in so many forms. We’re incredibly lucky to have it – I’d be lost without music and we’re still being treated to live performances.

Paul Weller has been sharing delightful acoustic sessions from his home on Instagram – and those adidas trainers he’s sporting in them. Oh my! I’d kicked my addiction and bought Crocs (I know) but they still haven’t turned up so I’m going to go back to my trusted stylish adidas Original’s collection in all the colours you can think of. Thanks, Paul Weller for bringing me to my senses. Great tunes too.

Listen up

Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess launched #timstwitterlisteningparty, a near-nightly event where bands live tweet their way through the most famous albums of their careers. That’s cool. A listening party is a good way to spend a few hours.

Lockdown has given us the chance to rediscover The Art of Listening.

When we do return to normal, I won’t be returning to mundane content just to pass the time. Time will pass without it. I will commit all of my time, energy and drive to creating inspiring, emotional, genuine, honest and real content for all of our clients. I will work harder at listening and if that involves listening to more Hobbitathons then it’s a solid argument.

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