When the ‘new’ can be the ‘old’ with a technology-fuelled spin
‘Why are your ears pointed, Mr Spock?’
‘To heat up butter popcorn, Captain.’
People will always be a bit interested when someone takes the very familiar, gives it a tweak, and makes you see it in a different way.
The appeal is probably due to the child-like excitement that comes when ‘What if…’ and ‘Why not!?’ prevail over sound reasons not to. It’s fun. It’s unexpected. It pushes the boundaries. It’s precarious, and there’s a bit of jeopardy involved. Throw some innovative technology into the mix and the result is an interesting trend for reinventing the familiar, using digital means.
Take this film for Japanese band Androp, in which 250 camera flashes were used to create a unique pixel of light. All the different flashes are then sequenced to act in unison in accordance with the track. It’s cool to watch, and looks fantastic, the interest coming from the fact that they are using something completely familiar (the camera flash bulb) in a new and interesting way.
It reinvents a product’s purpose to alter emotions. It’s playing around with the very energy of a product. We think we know everything about a camera flash bulb and then it’s turned on its head. Suddenly there’s a whole different energy about the thing, and we perceive it differently.
It reminds me of that great film made a couple of years ago by AKQA, which showed loads of microwaves all stacked on top of each other, which collectively play a Christmas tune as their timers go off.
Here’s another example. A human-powered vending machine for drinks brand Activate. Pedal for 30 seconds to be rewarded with a free bottle of Activate. It’s interesting and attention-grabbing because it’s sampling, but not as we know it, Jimmington. The whole logic is illogical. Isn’t it? Sampling is meant to be about giving away free stuff to people. Who’s going to be made to work for free stuff? Well in this case the consumer, who, if they’re the kind of people who will buy into this brand, might be willing to participate to have the point made to them about what the brand stands for and how it makes you feel.
The ‘Mere Exposure Effect’ – which is the psychological phenomenon of people developing a preference for things because they are familiar (also called the ‘Familiarity Principle’) – has long been leveraged in advertising. Indeed, the old model of run the message and repeat until consumer submits was pretty much based on it.
The accepted way of doing things these days is much more anchored in the new, the different, the immediately inspiring and fascinating. People need to be inspired to want to engage with your brand. But work such as the Androp video or the Activate vending machine show that the ‘new’ can often mean the ‘old’ – just with a totally different, technology-fuelled spin.
So, back to your ears Mr Spock. What’s all this about them heating up butter popcorn? Please enlighten us, do tell. ‘Well I can still use them to listen to you, Captain, but thanks to a bit of technical wizardry from the nice creative technologists at my agency, I can also connect them up to a microwave oven and use them to heat up sachets of delicious butter popcorn which I can hear popping in real-time, each pop generating an individual audio file which I can broadcast on my Twitter stream.
Yeeessssssss. It’s life. But not as we know it, Jimmington.