Taking a Page From Donald Glover's Playbook During Covid-19
"A place that evolves and reacts to culture."
This was part of the description Donald Glover gave to Vanity Fair in 2018 when discussing the return of Pharos, his immersive multi-sensory concert experience, as a further extension of his world—a world that blurs the lines between disciplines, channels and genres.
Since dominating multiple strands of pop culture in early 2018, Glover has never been far from connecting through culture at the right times and in the right ways. His global smash "This Is America" resulted in 655 million views on YouTube, and probably as many column inches. More recently, his Covid-19 release 3.15.20 proved to be a slower, deeper, sensory experience that's in tune with what's needed by a world in self-isolation. It goes to show how the multi-hyphenate artist is always, as he himself says, "dancing with the audience."
This is Glover-speak for identifying what his audience wants and needs: "You're playing off the vibes, wavelengths, the algorithms that your audience is giving you." And this is key to where we find ourselves during the global crisis. Covid-19 hasn't changed who we communicate with. But it has changed how we communicate. Like Glover, we need to create content and experiences that act as a device to travel back through culture, while still putting the audience at the heart. Still dancing with them.
This is something that we, as an industry, constantly need to inform our thinking: Who are we talking to? How do they want to be spoken to? And where do we speak to them? The audience is constantly giving off algorithms and responses. And we need to take that insight and information to ensure we're giving them what they want.
Right now, we aren't physically able to connect with our audiences. So how do we ensure we're using alternative channels while also continuing to blur the lines between our own disciplines? During this extraordinary time, as we look to adapt and innovate at speed, we need brand experiences to pivot into content, events to merge with broadcast, and OOH to lean into social. And this is where we can draw inspiration from how Glover has built his world.
Whether as writer, comedian and actor Donald Glover, or as global music artist Childish Gambino, he is an artist who blurs the lines between art forms and even his own persona to build a truly multimedia offering. One moment, he's breaking the fourth wall and blurring the lines between performance and performer by wearing the same clothes IRL as his 2013 Because the Internet music videos. The next, he's combining CG set design, motion capture, VR, apps and a stunning IRL performance in the desert to create his Pharos concerts. This shows us how Glover is constantly challenging what consistency in an artist—or brand—should look like.
In my opinion, there are many ways to experience a brand, whether it's in the room or on the screen. But knowing what your audience wants and needs gives you the confidence and creative bravery that's needed to grow the world of a brand, to explore how it lives in a way that is true to them.
So as Covid-19 continues to paint our industry into new and challenging corners, we'd do well to take a leaf out of Glover's playbook by embracing creativity, blurring the lines, and building worlds for brands to populate … creating opportunities to dance with our audiences once again.