Open to Interpretation

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I saw the Nutcracker this past weekend with my Daughter and her Cousin AND my Mom. (Wife was home with the baby, listening to him cry. Good times!) It was an eventful day as I had no cash to PREPAY for parking. Prepay? For parking . . . What!?!?!?! So I had to drop them off and then go park the car. By the time I got back to the theater I had missed the opening curtain and was not allowed to sit in my seat until intermission. Good times!

As I was shown to my unassigned seat (also known as being in timeout for you parents out there), I noticed a small display that lit up and displayed explanatory text about the Nutcracker. Not history mind you but more about describing the story that was being enacted on stage.

Now, the Nutcracker is relatively easy to figure out what is going on. (Maybe because I have seen it 25+ times . . . ) Anyway I was hypnotized by this little bit of technology in front of me. The screen was black and the description was a maximum of two sentences written in green text. It lit up every time the scene changed or something dramatic happened.

After a very short while, I became annoyed with it. (You can turn it off and I did.) It wasn’t the flickering of the screen or distraction that it created per se. It was the fact that I was being told how to interpret the play. Now if I’m watching something a little more complex or in another language, it may prove to be useful. Unfortunately in the end it, what it did was take my interpretation (my creativity) and render it useless. I would watch the scene and put my conceptual stamp on it and then read the screen to see what it said. Invariably it was always different, which is of course fine. It should be. I just don’t want someone else’s interpretation of something right in front of me and that is why I turned it off.

As marketers we need to think about creating online campaigns/materials (aka stories) that don’t answer all of the questions and allow for users to interpret how our products/services can be used in their lives. This is especially possible with online campaigns as, you guessed it, it’s an interactive medium. (The NIN “campaign” is a perfect example.) I have posted about companies creating tools for their customers/potential customers to help market their business and this is an essential element to those tools. Let them tell the story.

By Michael Myers

I’m an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I’m currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, cycling, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive + surf. I’m passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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