Holidays, Hardware Stores and Bank Marketing

By John Oxford

By now you’ve probably heard of Hafod Hardware—a locally-owned store in Wales—because of its viral commercial, which many in the media have dubbed the “best Christmas ad of year.”

It’s a homespun content piece featuring a two-year-old living out his day as the owner of an old-fashioned hardware store. It’s super cute, and many in the community banking space can relate to its wholesome message of small town values and hard work. I’ve even had a few of my fellow bankers ask me how our brand could put together an ad like this.

In addition, the media reported that it cost Hafod only $130 to make the video. With millions of views, that is a ridiculous return for their brand even before the cash register has rung up any sales. The mere fact that I’m writing about a small town hardware store in Wales is a tribute to the virality of this content.

How does this translate to what you do?

As marketers, we need to step back, take a look at this digital content and think about what’s behind the curtain. If we feel a little defensive when a banker asks us why we can’t do that ad—well, that’s to be expected. But here is your response:

That ad is great and we love it, however it is dangerous as a content piece for a few obvious reason that any marketer should be able to quickly see.

Before we start dissecting the content piece, let me assure you I am super jealous of the attention it received. It was beautifully done and I hold the production value of the spot in high regard. Now, let’s squeeze those sour grapes.

The song, which really makes the ad, is a cover of Alphaville’s 1984 hit, “Forever Young.” The artist who covered it, Andrea von Kampen, gave away her terrific cover at no cost other than the $130 to produce the track in a studio. While we have no idea whether Hafod Hardware had permission to use the music from Alphaville—and they very well might—it would have to cost more than $130 to license it, unless Alphaville generously gave it away as von Kampen did. As much as we applaud von Kampen, and potentially Alphaville, for giving away a great song to help a small-town mom-and-pop business with its Christmas advertising, don’t expect your bank to receive free music licensing anytime soon.

Even more concerning: at 1:08 in the video, there is a container with Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, Spiderman, Captain America, Simba and a few other characters in the shot. It’s a cute picture of children’s toys and it plays well with the story.

What we’re uncertain of here is how well Disney would play along with the use of its IP and characters being used in an advertisement for a non-Disney business. Disney is probably willing to let this go and not be a big bad corporation picking on a little beloved small-town store. But we wouldn’t count on that for your bank. The mouse paid a lot of money for those properties. Letting them be used for free was probably not the plan in mind when buying the likes of Marvel’s cartoon and character catalogue.

Beyond the IP issues, the production value of the piece is just too good to be a $130 video. Someone had already sunk the hard cost of what appears to be Red camera footage and great lighting, as well as the expertise to set it properly—along with some really great editing. My four year old, who is two years older than the child in the video, cannot sit still to take even one family photo, much less act for a two-minute-and-two-second content piece. That two-year old is either an incredible young actor or someone is a great editor. And I think it’s more likely the latter. Either way, someone edited this for free. Plus, the family business didn’t have to pay for actors because they played the parts themselves.

The point is, this ad reflects a lot of donated labor and equipment if it really only cost $130. That’s a great deal for Hafod Hardware. But it’s a bad deal for us marketers trying to convince our bosses for more production and content dollars for 2020.

One could say that relationships matter, and in the case of this Christmas spot for Hafod Hardware, their relationships—and someone’s videography skills—paid off in a deeply-discounted content win.

As much as relationships matter, however, so do IP protections. I love the ad and hope it makes millions for Hafod Hardware. But there is plenty here that should give pause to bank marketers wanting to compare this effort to their own content marketing. It’s my bah-humbug message wrapped in a Merry Christmas story, but it’s one you need to know.

To hear more about this topic, check out this week’s edition of the Marketing Money Podcast as I join Josh Mabus of the Mabus Agency to take a closer look.

John Oxford is director of marketing at Renasant Bank and co-host of the Marketing Money Podcast.