If you haven’t yet heard “The Last Goodbye,” the ending credits theme for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, don’t listen to it now. It’s not the kind of song to be listened to while reading, driving, at work or in any situation where you don’t want to be reduced to a quivering emotional wreck. Granted, maybe not everyone would become a quivering emotional wreck—but my friends and the denizens of the Internet seem to have reached a consensus that it’s a high risk. When the song was released, my Facebook feed immediately blew up. Even my friends who didn’t like the previous two entries in The Hobbit film trilogy loved the song, and that is part of what makes “The Last Goodbye” so effective. The secret is that it’s not selling The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. It’s selling something much bigger—an experience, the end of a film saga that took some of its audience members from elementary school to college graduation.
So how do you create content that connects with people that deeply, that moves them so much that they’re dying to tell their friends about it, share it on social media, anything to help other people have the same emotional experience they’ve just had? Part of the secret is knowing where the emotional connection lies for your audience. There may be some people going to see The Hobbit movies who have never seen The Lord of the Rings films, but they aren’t the majority, and they aren’t the ones who are going to pack theaters on opening weekend and see it two or three times. “The Last Goodbye” was specifically conceived as a farewell to all six films, not just Battle of the Five Armies, and every aspect of its marketing makes that clear. The song is performed and partially written by Billy Boyd, who played Pippin in The Lord of the Rings, and sang as Pippin during one of the most iconic and emotional scenes in The Return of the King. The music video for “The Last Goodbye” embraces the connections between The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by integrating clips from all six movies, weaving them together to show how they become a whole, a narrative of Middle-earth with its brightest and darkest moments.
The music video also showcases another powerful feature of the song. It’s about the world of Middle-earth, yes, but it’s also about the world of the people who created the films and the people who saw them. Mixed in with the clips of all six films are shots of the actors, directors and crew members, in costume or their regular clothes, in front of green screens or cameras or backstage, talking to each other, laughing and hugging. Boyd spoke about the song not only as a chance to say goodbye to Middle-earth but as a chance for those who created the films to say a final goodbye, to each other and to the audience. The impressive thing about the song is that it works on all of these levels—that its lyrics at once apply to the experiences of the characters in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and to the experiences of the audience watching the film.
But I think the most critical reason “The Last Goodbye” works, as a beautiful song and as a viral marketing force, is that it feels sincere. I hate having my emotions cheaply exploited for the sake of marketing, and since I am more emotionally invested in The Lord of the Rings than any other films, I’m always on guard when the movies are brought up. But the song and the music video exude love—love of the films, of Middle-earth, of the characters, of what the writers and director and crew and actors created together. Listen to the song, or watch the video. It’s hard not to feel it.
Of course, not everyone gets to do the marketing for the final Hobbit film (alas.) But the lesson of “The Last Goodbye” isn’t that you have to love everything you produce content for. It’s that you need to know what will connect with your audience, whether that’s a link to a larger story, to other content or to their life experiences, and that you need to be sincere when creating that connection. It’s amazing what genuine emotion can do.
What do you think of “The Last Goodbye,” and the marketing for The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies? I’d love to hear in the comments!
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Taylor Davidson – Content Marketing Writer