I get it. You’re sitting there reading that title thinking “Why would I want to hide my content? I want people to see it!” Of course, that comment is perfectly justifiable and understandable. However, it’s also predictable, which leads nicely into my first point...
Surprising the unexpected
You’re at the magic show. The magician has a one of those traditional black top hats. He takes it off and does a little dance with his fingers hovering just above the rim. Suddenly - he shoves his hand in the top hat. After a bit of remerging around he pulls out a full English breakfast….in the shape of a bunny.
You sit there amazed, and confused, but mostly amazed. You were expecting to see a bunny come out of the hat. But instead you were shown a full English breakfast in the shape of a bunny. Why an English breakfast? How did the English Breakfast fit in there? How is his hat not messy with all the table top condiments all over said breakfast?
Dissecting the example
Schemas. A funny looking word that can be used to describe the ‘mental structure’ of preconceived ideas. As a child for example, we were most likely taught with thousands of schemas because it gives us a ‘concrete’ and a ‘known’ groundwork for an idea that we are already familiar with. For example, visual examples of maths equations using scenarios involving buying fruit.
However, we rely on schemas so much so that if they're broken, they become instantly more memorable. Why? Well if you were told a lie your whole life, then suddenly told the truth, you'd remember it! The magician pulling out a rabbit of a hat is a preconceived idea. It’s been done before and it’s something not at all that surprising anymore. However, pulling a full English breakfast out of a hat is breaking that schema.
Taking it one step further, it’s breaking that schema, but still hooking onto the original schema by making the English breakfast in the shape of a rabbit. The hook clings onto the existing schema making it familiar and memorable, then shatters it with a bizarre adaptation. This sort of unpredictability becomes so memorable that the audience will probably be asking themselves how the table top condiments hadn’t made a mess in the hat for a long time after the show.
Top of mind – Tip of tongue
These nagging questions will mean the thought is more likely to be on the tip of the viewers tongue for longer than other ideas that haven’t broken schemas and stayed comfortably predictable. Imagine you were standing at the work office water cooler. Would you rather tell a story that is dull, predictable and boring, or a story that is unpredictable and exciting? Which story is going to improve your social status as the guy that is fun to talk to? Obviously the latter option.
If it’s on the tip of their tongue, you can bet that they will talk to their friends and family about it.
And just like that, you have generated word of mouth. Happy days!
The issue with staying predictable
It’s like a great joke that your friend Dave keeps on telling. At first it’s hilarious as your belly hurts rolling around on the floor. But after some time, your ‘laughter’ has devolved to a semi-strong exhale of air out of your nose. Your attention isn’t there, your interest is lost and your enthusiasm to share the joke with someone else has also dwindled beyond the point of no return.
This is exactly the same as your audience engaging with your content. At first they might think it's borderline genius, and proceed to like, share, comment and talk to their friends and family about it. But make the same content again and again, then the enthusiasm dies and your audience won't want to talk about it anymore, mainly because they don't want to bore their friends and family with the same old stuff.
A look at the content on social media
It’s gotten to the point in modern society that it’s more time efficient to ask who ISN’T on social media, rather than who IS. Marketers have been catching on to this ideology for a while now, increasing their social media marketing budgets substantially over recent years. But are we beginning to see a shift in how marketers use social media to advertise their products/services/public messages? Possibly.
Why? Like, any potential shift, it’s most likely due to staleness and as we’ve already explored, predictability. Schemas in advertising themselves might have begun to be formed. Not a good thing at all!
Now before we get into analysing the main example of how a national campaign has managed to disguise their message in a unique way, we need to look at the state of the social media content right now.
Since the launch of online content creation tools such as Vine and Snapchat, there has formed a form of comical schema in online content. Take these videos for examples:
Time to disguise?
THINK! is a national campaign that has a simple aim. To encourage people to stop drink driving.
First let’s take a quick look at some of their past adverts.
A few quick points to make in these adverts.
- They both display various degrees of graphic content.
- They both form juxtaposition between happiness/comedy and tragedy
- They both communicate the message about drink driving with such force that you feel awful after watching them.
Now let’s look at the latest social media advert from Think!
Bit different, right? Personally, when I first watched the latter video, I thought it was another one of the silly Vine style videos of some friends just messing around. At first it was amusing to see the friends teasing the main guy by spilling his drinks over. After the 3rd of 4th knock, it did start to feel like bullying, but comparing this to other bits of content on social media, it is quite tame.
The beauty of this ad campaign is not only has THINK! understood the current trends of social media content created by the masses but shattered a schema at the very last second by including a drink driving message. Similar to the English Breakfast out-of-the-hat trick, the last second twist makes this advert more believable and memorable.
This is not to mention the incredible amount of money they would have saved doing this type of advert. Instead of hiring hundreds of actors, recreating car crashes, showing the story of the victim rushed to hospital and losing their life etc…instead you grab 5 friends, a couple of costume changes, a few pints and a promise to the owners to clean up your mess when they’re done, and you could film it all in one evening.
This advert has cleverly broken the schemas of social media advertising. Similar to the English Breakfast magic trick, it has surprised the audience at the very last second and made the whole experience far more memorable. It is important to remember that sometimes the simple ideas are the ones with the most potential. But a simple idea that disguises itself and then starts to break all the preconceived ‘rules’, becomes a completely different beast.