An Uncommon Journey – The Benefits of Fear


[ the brief ]

As in most projects, there was an informal chat about ideas. There was a lot to discuss – a new range of ski-specific clothing launching, a new brand direction, and the usual gamut of innovation or halo pieces in the collection. How do you tie all those into one creative strategy?

The new collection of ski-wear would, in other circumstances, be considered at risk of disillusioning our core audience. With the refinement of the brand direction there was another risk. The strategy had to incorporate core values, be product-led and explain the new brand values. No mean feat.

Ideally with such a beast, a brief could be drawn up and provide the roadmap onto which the journey could be mapped. But like a good road trip, you sometimes end up chasing the sun. Theory and good practice don't always account for how dynamic the outdoor industry forces the Creative to be.

[ the development ]

The solution to the communication levitation was to centre the season launch around a key element of content – a film. How else could we tackle communicating so many different aspects to the audience? After all, we had just spent 18 months building the foundations of a content-marketing strategy. Our audience was primed for film.

Through ever-changing objectives and elusive answers, a tentative brief was drawn up and handed over to the film makers.

Every Creative and Marketeer should cringe at this point. It’s okay, you’re allowed.

The filmmakers came back with a valiant effort. The treatment would probably work – but the project was akin to trying to stop a flood with one sand bag.

[ fear ]

In my experience fear has always had an overwhelmingly negative effect on projects, decision-making and creativity. The basis of good creative work is not having fear of failure, right?

This project is the one and only exception. An intense and paralysing fear came over the decision-makers.

It was understandable, considering this was an expensive endeavour. Could we actually communicate everything we needed to? How would this one film be the backbone of a campaign? Was it worth the risk? What if the weather didn’t cooperate?

Time waits for no man. The winter was coming and production had to be advanced quickly. With that pressure, the fear of NOT having content outweighed the fear of having meaningless content. In essence, the shackles came off.

[ the plot twist ]

During this confusion I decided to hand in my notice and pursue setting up my own. Although this would normally have scuttled the project it did, in fact, have two major benefits.

One, my fear of failure in the company was no longer an issue. I could do as I thought appropriate to achieve the creative aim. Two, my now-reduced workload meant I had the time and attention to properly focus on the film.

The filmmakers and I reworked the treatment. They added playfulness and passion. They reworked the concept to be more reliable – they too had lost their fear.

[ the delivery ]

The result was overwhelming. The passion and dedication put into its creation oozed out of the edit. Little touches of humour carried the film through to an enlightening end. Moreover, the film achieved something bigger than its parts – it became a manifesto.

[ roll out ]

A year later we get to bask in the feeling of a completed brief. The film has been launched and has done spectacularly well, getting well over 100K views in one week.

But it’s not the number of views that ultimately matter. They are a good indicator that people are enjoying the content, but the film has a larger legacy than that.

The film widens the audience of the outdoor sector – you don’t have to know your prussiks from your protection in order to enjoy the film. A non-climber can watch and be completely satisfied that they haven’t missed any significant point. The characters are relatable, showing that anyone can participate. And most importantly, the film encourages and enables people to go out and explore new things – and to have fun while doing it.

Through a helpful application of fear, the film was reframed into something that would ultimately have a much wider and more significant impact.

Carefully treading the line between being cautious and careless has proved enlightening. Although ideally every brief should challenge your creative skill, you must always be watchful of the objectives – and make sure they are delivered first and foremost. But being overly cautious will lead you to prioritising objectives over impact.

Oh and in case you’re interested, the film is here. 

A big thanks to all those involved. In particular Emma, Matt Hardy and Steve Hazlehurst. 

Do you have thoughts on fear in creativity? Leave them below and let's start a conversation.