I went to see a christmas show.
Or rather to participate in a show: Punchdrunk's Masque of the Red Death.
I posted about their last show back here and the latest follows the same format:
1. loosely based around a text/set of texts, it takes a building and dresses the whole thing (rather than a separate stage area) as a set
2. the audience are both given anonymity (by wearing odd plastic masks) and encouraged to wander around the building to follow the show as they please: they become active participants
3. the show itself is continuous and spreads about the building so that at anyone time 3-4 strands maybe running concurrently in different parts of the space. There is no simple narrative structure but overtime, you piece together something like a narrative as the storylines loop and interact (giving you new angles on everything)
4. the style is a mix of physical theatre and experience (and text-light, at that)
The net effect is really engaging and memorable in a way most theatre isn't (although some in the bloggersphere hate it and all who like it).
And it has stayed with me strongly - my dreams last night were vivid to say the least and I feel the range of emotions I experienced last night: in summary, I feel like I really lived through something important.
Now I don't want to belittle the value of the work but a number of points occur to me that us marketing folk could take from this and re-apply:
1. The idea of uber narrative is really unneccessary: in fact it just shows how much we want to control/manage folk and is incompatible with the complexities of the real world (good examples here are "big ideas" which are designed to transmit messages to punters - or rather control what folk take out. Russell pointed out the online executions of Orange's Good Things should Never End work - it's all trying to look the same as the admittedly lovely TV)
2. People will make sense of stuff in their own way whether you like it or not; help them by making all their contact with the brand extraordinary so that they want to go on.
3. It's not messages or image that matter, it's experiences; when was the last time you thought about how the different usage experiences - maybe long after purchase - and how you could make all of them extraordinary?
4. Think how you can distort their interaction with each other around your brand (like the masks) to heighten their shared experience or aspects of it
5. Not everyone's going to like what you do and you're going to hear it (and that's fine). Do what stems from your deepest and most profoundly held beliefs...
But perhaps most important of all (hat-tip to Sair):
6. Think about what happens even when nobody is looking - when there's no big deal, no transaction to be had, no "strategic" touchpoint, no plot point : the smallest things must still be great.
So please don't use advertising to cover up the true dullness of your product: that way true mediocrity lies