My short definition of interesting is “worth thinking about.” Something is interesting to the extent that, even in its absence, you continue to replay it, develop it, compare it, communicate it, translate it, share stories about it, laugh at jokes about it, use it to understand other things, have an opinion about it, imagine variations on it, seek further information about it, want to communicate with it and with others who also find it interesting.
That’s not a complete list. But there are some things that are definitely not on it. Interesting ads and brands may have some of these qualities, but they aren’t necessary:
- It doesn’t say you approve of it, positively identify with it or even like it. Plenty of very valuable brands and effective ads are actively disliked by significant (though not overwhelming) numbers of people. That’s evidence that they’re interesting to a lot of people and will help both to attract new converts and to further solidify the loyalty of adherents.
Of course, it would be ideal to be both interesting and universally adored, but I can’t think of a brand that’s pulled that off (not even iPod). Let me know if you can. In general, the relationship seems to become antagonistic once both qualities get above a certain level.
- It doesn’t say that you find it entertaining. Entertainment is a much bigger category which includes lots of things that aren’t necessarily interesting. For example, there are plenty of ads that are well-liked in focus groups but just aren’t worth thinking about afterwards. These are truly funny, aesthetically spectacular, warmly emotional ads, but once they’re over, they’re off the clock, extinct, because they didn’t stimulate enough thought.
And then there’s Microsoft. Massively interesting brand, but about as entertaining as waiting for Windows to boot, with ads that are neither interesting nor entertaining. Why, Microsoft? Oh, why?
- It doesn’t say that you understand it. Often, the more you understand something, the less interesting it is. There are no questions to consider. No inconsistencies to explain. No mystery. No surprise. No tension. No energy. No life. You know that you love someone long before you come to understand them (if you ever do). This is why simplicity and consistency are not the unalloyed goods that so many marketing people think they are. Complexity is a strong signal that conscious life is nearby.
But complexity is a cardinal sin in the Keep It Simple Stupid church of marketing. Complexity leadeth unto Confusion and surely we will die. But even confusion can be, not just tolerable, but fascinating when it comes from the right source, in the right dose and context. As a younger, more rational planner, I used to try mightily to get people to explain why they loved Sega ads. The best explanation I ever got was, “Because…they’re just so random!” Yep.
Applied to brands, K.I.S.S. thinking leads to an expensive, wasteful melee for the limited number of obvious, simple positions in a category. All those fragrance brands battling it out to own “sexy”. Can anyone tell them apart?
Plus, I just don’t like being called stupid by a stupid meme. It’s a pretty rude way to greet a potential host.
One other thing: When I say that the Pink Air campaign is interesting, I mean interesting to me. Which sounds like a copout, but I don’t see any way around the fact that “being interesting” always means “being interesting to someone”.
That doesn’t, however, make interestingness purely subjective or unmeasurable. It just means that you have to identify the someones you want to interest before you start measuring its interestingness.