Monday, 8 September 2008

What's in the mystery box...?

Image courtesy

On Saturday I went to pick up a parcel from Post Office HQ and whilst standing in the enormous queue and watching people come out with parcels/packages/not enough ID I got thinking. Receiving a parcel taps into a very raw human emotion that I don't think anyone can avoid and is so powerful it takes you through a whole range of emotions before plonking you back where you started, but hopefully slightly changed for the better.

What I'm talking about is the power of anticipation. That encompassing feeling when you get delivered a parcel which you weren't expecting and you have no idea what's in it. It brings back all those very early memories of trying to sit patiently before opening your presents at Christmas or knowing that your new bike is being picked up by Dad on his way home from work and will be there when you get in from school (not sure why I was doing longer hours than Dad, but it was a memory that stuck).

More recently I think it's still possible to re-create this feeling, but I think we all suffer that pessimism that is so rife in London where everything is not quite good enough. Nobody seems to get stupidly excited like you did as a kid, even for the briefest of moments when you suddenly remember you've got the night of nights planned and the day off the next day. Suddenly everything can go to hell and you are fully consumed in your own world, untouchable and indestructible.

I used to feel this a lot about the most stupid of stuff like knowing I was having steak for dinner that night and having a giggle on the way to work. The Americans seem to have it right and whilst they can sometimes sound insincere they certainly know how how to get excited by things. Ok, this exuberance might jar with a lot of us but it’s also strangely infectious if you’re a part of it rather than from it.

I believe there are four main stages to finding out 'what's in the mystery box'.

1) expectation/surprise - both as powerful as each other, although the former can lead to a much greater anti-climax.

2) reveal-ation - not a word I know, but it's the moment when you open the box/rip off the wrapping paper/undress the girl and what you've been waiting for (for however long) is revealed.

3) the hug and roll – i.e. does the feeling last? Is it the gift that keeps on giving? Does it matter?

4) the love in – does the surprise excite you so much that you can’t help but brag to your friends about it? I know the first thing I did on my bike was cycle it straight next door and refuse to give my mate Rich a go until tea time.

I hope that you’ve already drawn upon your own experiences of opening the mystery box to understand my viewpoint on this but what I also hope is that there is the understanding that this emotion is currently a bit lacking in both the way we interact with brands and their communications with us as well as the way we connect with one another.

There are exceptions of course, just look at the hysteria around the iPhone, and I hope there is a way that brand communications can be developed to make people feel the same way they did aged five, sat under the Christmas tree.

In this day of mass communication and greater consumer understanding this is an increasingly tough remit and I think the answer will come through technology and continued re-invention. Even if what’s in the mystery box is fantastic and the person you’re giving it to knows what’s inside, it’s the barrier of the box that must be utilised to it’s fullest. Timing and scant details lead to the best type of intrigue, just look at Cloverfield. Talking of which JJ Abrams, makes a fantastic TED speech on this very topic. It's all about getting your potential recipients talking about the box in their own language, making up their own theories about what's inside.

And because you can never have enough Family Guy in your life and there always appears to be a clip you can refer to I leave you with this. (good throughout but 2min 40sec is where it gets relevant)...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I heart the monkey puzzler

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