Earlier this month, we saw the greatly anticipated influx of Christmas adverts broadcast to our screens. As typical of the last year or so, there were mixed reviews of and reactions to usual contenders.

But, this year (2020) there was a newcomer on the scene. First appearing on my social media news feeds, and then in the press. It went viral.

Hafod Hardware is an independent and traditional DIY shop, based in Rhayader in mid-Wales.

Their festive advert “Be a kid this Christmas” – with its simple, uplifting message, an acoustic soundtrack and a cute lead-character, in this case, 2-year old Arthur, has won the hearts of many as the winner of this year’s Christmas compendium. No surprises there, hey? After all, this familiar winning formula alone is bound to capture an audience, whether it was the story of Monty/Buster/Moz/Edgar, Kevin the Carrot, or even Paddington Bear*.

(*brownie points if you can associate each character with the correct brand.)

What has really gained momentum though, and propelled its popularity across the internet and newspapers alike is the idea that this advert has been created on a budget of just £100.

What really struck the attention of journalists, bloggers and forums alike is the low cost, and that something so ‘cheap’ has achieved such success.

So, let’s break this down. Why has this advert gained favour this year, over all others? What makes it different? And did it really cost just £100?

Firstly, it’s a great ad. A story well-told, filmed, and edited. Without the hype, you’d never know this was a low-budget campaign. A little digging and you will learn that Tom Jones, current and second-generation owner of Hafod Hardware, briefly ventured to University to study art and photography before taking the reins of this little independent retailer, and this is evident in the quality of the finished product.

What makes this stand-out? Authenticity. Yep, I said it. If you’re in marketing, you’ve heard this word a lot this year. As much as the big creative agencies have been credited for their creativity and make-believe in previous years, this campaign is true to life – real happenings, real people. And that is the the element that hits it home: the story-telling. You knew that was next, right? It’s a tale as old as time; a good story travels. The advert itself conveys the true nature of the business, features four generations of the family that runs it – in the neighbourhood they run it in, and commissions a local vocalist to cover a classic track to accompany it.

So what is the £100 budget made up of? As much as the headline has gained traction, the specifics are less documented. Perhaps the investment went into a camera or some editing software. Perhaps it went into the music. It doesn’t matter really. Yes, there are ways and means to deliver a short film like this for a fairly modest sum. However, there is more to it than this.

What is much more difficult to put a price on, is the craft. The imagination and creativity to frame a simple concept in a relatable way. The vision to record and present it in an aesthetically appealing style.

What’s almost priceless, is the reputation Hafod Hardware has built, earned and conveyed over a much longer period of time. Haford Hardware has been in the family for four generations. Even longer, some reports say. And that’s part of what builds this story’s charm.

What’s also tricky to determine, is the return on investment. This is actually the third Christmas advert Hafod Hardware has shared. The third it’s crafted. For the last three years, each Hafod Hardware advert depicts the shop, the local town, the family, even some local faces.

So the audience that will have first seen this advert will recognise their street, their town, people they know, which makes the reveal each year very resonant, no doubt entertaining, and extremely shareable. The anticipation built year on year means that the local audience will have been looking forward to the 2019 rendition. Much like the John Lewis advert.

So perhaps this wasn’t the quick win the press have claimed, but a reward for the creativity and commitment that has been built over time.

Speaking of reward, lets finally look at what Hafod Hardware gain. Yes, this went viral, which of course, returns a valuable dose of exposure and awareness. But can this be measured? 13 thousand ‘likes’ you say? 17 thousand shares! Following the 2019 advert and its viral success, the Hafod Hardware Facebook page now has 8,343 Facebook followers. That’s brilliant!

But what does this mean, off-line? It’s worth noting that the population of Rhayader is approximately 2000 people. So let’s assume for one moment, everyone in the town is amongst those followers on social media. How many of the remaining supporters will realistically convert into customers? With the business predominately trading off-line, how many are likely to travel to a destination a village or more away to visit a small DIY shop to collect everyday wares?

Not to worry; people following or liking a Facebook page is effectively ‘opting-in’ to see more content. And surely, people loving your content is no bad thing, right? Of course not! But a significant proportion of your audience who like one piece of you content, once a year…? Well, that could be potentially problematic.

Fortunately for Hafod Hardware, their Christmas advert is in keeping with much of their output across other channels, and they have done well to build a community that is supportive, to which they deliver value to on an ongoing basis.

In fact, could it be, that this whole case is a great example of long-term marketing strategy, brand values, and clear purpose? Maybe.

So, if you were to spend 100 pounds on a short film for your business, you have several things to think about:

  • The authenticity of your message – and which values resonate with your customers
  • What you want to achieve, and how your business will gain, not just in the short term
  • How you’ll deliver on your brand promise consistently, and over time

Yes, you can put together a marketing campaign in one afternoon, for a few quid, but crafting your story and planning how this can be delivered in consistent ways to your customers and wider audience alike, across all your touch points, takes time, passion, years of hard work and good service.

Sure, pop £100 in your marketing budget for next year’s Christmas ad. But know that when putting your values, brand message and purpose into the big wide world, they should out-live the January sales.

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