Clothing label Gant’s amusing and thought-provoking series sets a high bar in branded content.
The only time funny guy Craig Ferguson has made headlines in Australia was in 2012, when he described Canberra as “a f**king dump”. He soon apologised: “I meant no offence at all; I love Australia,” he told viewers of his Late, Late Show. “I’m a big fan of your animals that keep other animals in their pockets.”
Ferguson is a stand-up comedian and former US television host. He’s also Scottish, which means he suspects that most Aussies can take a joke. (Some locals might even have thought his comments about Canberra were pretty accurate.)
Still, Ferguson has never had a big following in Australia. Not when the former punk rocker and reformed alcoholic fronted his talk show, which aired in Australia on Channel 11, and not after it ended in 2014.
Lately, however, he’s been doing something interesting; something that doesn’t deserve to be in the f**king dump. He appears with his equally chatterbox wife Megan in a six-part series called Couple Thinkers, which features interviews with some of the world’s most fascinating people talking about the world’s biggest topics. And the show, interestingly enough, has been created by US sportswear brand Gant.
“So tell me, Neil deGrasse Tyson, do you think aliens would wear sweaters?”Craig Ferguson
Couple Thinkers is another marker on the road to branded content’s future. This is a witty, charming and extremely well-produced interview program that covers many topical, pressing issues. It isn’t controversial – not in the sense that it takes a political standpoint on matters – but it does talk about the future of the universe, the role of the media, the value of real food and the aging process. The likeable Fergusons, who both wear Gant throughout the series (of course), appear in the credits as executive producers.
“We reach our conclusions by getting our facts straight from the horse’s mouth,” Ferguson says in the intro of each 30-minute show. “And by horse’s mouth, I mean experts … not an actual horse, obviously.”
They travel around the globe and sit down with some of the world’s most interesting people. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, biologist Daisy Robinton, psychopath watcher Jon Ronson, real-food advocate Kimbal Musk, novelist Jo Nesbo and author Arianna Huffington is a talkshow line-up to kill for. Their contributions are matched with beautiful locations and the Fergusons’ easygoing banter.
Gant, a label founded in Connecticut in 1949 by Ukrainian immigrant Bernard Gantmacher, has an intriguing credo: “Never stop learning”. The Gant website explains: “Curiosity continues to drive us forwards. It unlocks creative thinking and has led to many of Gant’s shirtmaking innovations … We have learned that life is better when you keep on asking questions.” The brand is best known for its casual, “preppy”, button-down shirts, and Couple Thinkers helps drive home the company message.
“Our aim is that this show will increase long-term brand awareness globally, including in the US, which is a very important market for us,” Gant’s global marketing director Eleonore Sall told US Business Insider. “So, we wanted to create content that will have a life on its own, earn awareness and not be dependent only on media spend.”
The show was created by Gant’s in-house marketing team. Sall said the company wanted to make a program that would be “genuine”. “We hoped to create something that is of value and that people will actually seek out and enjoy watching,” she told US news and lifestyle title Observer. “It’s also a hint for competitors: if you have the space and the audience, why not make an effort to make content that is of use and can bring certain questions forward?”
According to Business Insider, the show has been supported by more than 150 forms of media – images, GIFs, pre-roll ads and video snippets – published on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
Craig Ferguson was a bit unsure if he should be involved in the series. “I turned them down a couple times but they were very persistent,” Ferguson told Observer. “I was like … ‘You don’t do this, you make pants and shirts and other attractive knitwear’. But they said they wanted to make a television show that reflects the ‘never stop learning’ motto of their brand. They talked me into it and I believed them.”
Ferguson said he never felt the series was a commercial venture while it was being made, and he believes this shines through in the final product. “I thought they wanted to make a commercial and they’re hiding it,” Ferguson said. “Actually, I never got the sense of that at all. No one is trying to hide the fact that Gant made it and paid for it and they’re interested in it. But there’s no one saying, ‘So tell me, Neil deGrasse Tyson, do you think aliens would wear sweaters?’”
Links & references
Brand Tales’ article on Hollywood’s influence on storytelling