Yeti, Parenthood, and Townes Van Zandt

My thought was to write a blog about brands that are doing interesting things with storytelling and video. There are a lot of great examples out there, and I’ll probably get back to that blog idea soon. But recently, I was on a photo shoot that required a great deal of driving around. During these drives, our photographer, Eric, and I passed the time chatting about everything from bad neighbors and daycares to great podcasts and videos. When I mentioned my love of american songwriter Townes Van Zandt, Eric told me that I had to watch an online video that Yeti (the manufacturer of premium coolers) had produced about Townes’ son.

I did. And I loved it.

If you’re unfamiliar, Townes Van Zandt was an acclaimed singer/songwriter from Texas who was most prominent in the 70s and 80s. His songs were covered by the likes of Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, and most famously, Willie Nelson. Supposedly, Steve Earle once said, “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” He was, and is, considered by many to be one of the quintessential American writers of his time.

But, his personal life was nothing less than a shambles. He battled depression, addiction, and life long side effects of insulin shock therapy that he received when he was younger which erased much of his long term-memory. He had three troubled marriages, and, as you might imagine, a very strained relationship with his children.

I’m not exactly sure why Yeti decided make a video about Townes’ son, JT, but the results are beautiful. In the video, which has absolutely nothing specifically to do with Yeti or its products, we get to know JT as he gives us insight into his relationship with his father, how that’s shaped him as a parent, and how his past experiences have given him a special appreciation for fishing. The focus on fishing might seem like an odd choice, but JT talks about it with such reverence that you quickly understand the importance of his time on the water and what it means to him and his family.

Yeti’s decision to produce and release a video that is tangentially (at best) related to their products is one of the best examples yet of brands embracing video in a way that will appeal to their audience, while not actively selling something. They’re building their brand, increasing their audience, and it never once feels like an ad. In the modern advertising landscape of DVRs and skippable digital ads, this kind of storytelling is going to be more and more important. The days of buying ad time and knowing you’ll have a certain number of eyes viewing your video is over. Brands now have to find ways to keep their audience’s attention and to build brand loyalty by being compelling enough to keep viewers from fast forwarding or clicking the skip button.

I’ll eventually get back to that blog where we provide several other great examples of this kind of video, but I loved this film and I really wanted to share it on it’s own.

Please let us know your thoughts on this video, or any of your favorite examples of this type of marketing.

Jason CooperComment