Turning off the Rothkos…
Sometimes information products feel like a faded, worn out Rothko to me…
Do you know about the Harvard Rothkos?
Every afternoon at four o’clock, people gather on the third floor of the Harvard Art Museums to watch them “turn off the Rothkos.”
You see, in 1964 Harvard commissioned famous painter, Mark Rothko, to paint something for them. It ended up being 5 separate canvases of work. Abstract Expressionism in all its glory.
Through the years of hanging on the walls opposite an amazing view of Boston, with curtains on the windows that were hardly ever closed, and being decorations for dinner guests in a working dining hall…
…these paintings grew faded and deteriorated, ripped and torn. This was, of course, a tragedy for a Rothko, being as his work was all about the color.
So they ended up in storage for a while. People assumed they were pretty much “dead.”
Eventually though, Harvard borrowed a solution known as “compensating illumination.”
Basically, they took five digital projectors that had been programmed to light the canvases so that the original colors reappeared.
At four o’clock every day, the projectors are turned off one by one, and the colors revert to muddy blacks and grays.
People gather to watch.
It’s interesting to me, and I wonder why…
They don’t gather to watch them turn the projectors’ on.
They don’t gather throughout the day to watch them in their “compensated illuminated” glory…
…no, they gather in the evening to watch them shut them down.
If I were to guess why, I would say it is because we as a society are still drawn to the truth.
It might not be as beautiful or as shiny, but it is real. We want to see things as they really are.
Now the glaring flipside of that is that as a society we are so fascinated with technology that sometimes it feels like things get lost. Ideas, disciplines, even entire techniques lost to the age of technology.
It has been proven that we are losing our very memories to it.
Scary. All in the name of convenience and ease.
So to swing this back around to marketing and what I had on my mind today though…
I feel like the realm of digital marketing is at a time when software rules the day. And right behind software comes DFY and PLR packages.
People don’t want to learn anymore…they want results.
Fast, cheap, and easy results.
I recently did a study of the platform I frequently launch information products from, WarriorPlus.
I found that 60% of their Deal Of The Day Awards over the last 3 months have been awarded to products that were software or had a large software component to them.
That’s a sign of the times in my opinion. The Deal of the Day Award is a reaction to the market. And although that is just a small microevent in the world of digital marketing, I feel it probably reflects the whole.
So if that is true…
…then where does that leave the solo “infopreneur?”
Where does it leave the guy (or girl) who makes a living off of education…
…when nobody wants to learn anymore?
Lou Holtz once said, “Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.”
I believe in that, and I feel strongly the “infopreneurs” that will survive in this climate will do so because they will find a way to adapt to the adversity of a market that doesn’t really want to learn anymore.
But the whole thing leaves me wondering…
…are Infopreneurs today creating works kind of like those Harvard Rothkos, lighting them with “compensating illumination,” in an effort to appeal to the market? Or…
…are the Infoprenuers today…the Harvard Rothkos themselves, with the market gathering at 4pm waiting for the lights to be turned off?
More ramblings from a solopreneur, still fighting the good fight in a world of robots and self driving autoresponders…
…but none of that really matters.
I didn’t write this because I wanted to know what I thought…I wrote it because I want to know what you think.
Is the era of the “infopreneur” almost over?
Do people really not want to learn anymore?
Will we all lose our ability to remember anything and instead delegate the task to a creepy cylindrical computer spy in our living room named Alexa?
Questions, questions, everywhere…and not an answer in sight.
Let me know what you think!
Want to know how to get people to remember your content way better and far longer than everyone else’s?
Better read this…(and don’t give me that tl:dr crap. Buckle up buttercup…it’s going to get weird.)
If you are a would-be-marketer, you should probably go watch the old television show LOST in its entirety, immediately, and take some notes…
First, I need to point out that this all comes back to a guy named Jack Shepherd (more on that in a minute.)
But in the effort of not dragging this out…
…let me start here.
Marketing legend, Frank Kern, once said that the most important money making skill that you can learn is bonding with your potential customers. Essentially, he was saying that building rapport with my audience is extremely important for a sustainable business.
So how do you do that?
In a world where every other marketer has an opinion, regularly dishes out amazing content, and people generally have the attention spans of bees (that’s about 2.5 seconds,) it can be challenging. No doubt about that.
And that brings us back to, what I consider to be the greatest show of fiction ever created.
Lost was a television series that originally aired on ABC back in 2004, ran for over six seasons, and ended with 121 mind bending episodes. The show contains both supernatural and science fiction elements, and follows the survivors of a plane that crashes on a mysterious tropical island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean.
LOST does a lot right as a television show and as a story. But I don’t want to talk about all that today…
…I want to speak about the best thing this show does. The real thing you need to know.
The thing that kept people coming back week after week, the thing that had everyone talking around the water cooler at work, the thing that got the show nominated for over 256 awards.
What is that thing? The fine art of open loops.
That is to say, “a rhetorical device to instill curiosity by creating anticipation for what will come next. The device is sometimes also called a tension loop for the tension and anticipation it creates.”
Example time. Let’s say you’re standing around in a park waiting on your dog to take a leak and directly in front of you a portal opens up… out of it steps…wait for it…
That’s right. It’s your future self.
So this future version of you tells you that he has come from the future to give you this cheap black casio watch. He can’t tell you what it’s for exactly, but only that it will be important eventually. Then he steps back into the portal and with a flash he is gone.
That is an open loop.
There are more things happening in your story.
Your dog pees, you go home, talk with the wife, watch tv, try to forget that you possibly just had a weird hallucination in the park, other things happen…
…but in the back of your mind, there is still that thing with the black casio watch.
Eventually the story would close that loop and the truth about the watch would be revealed. It would be amazing, I assure you…
Until that happens it will be nagging at everyone who is following the story. A perplexing little mystery that we can’t figure out.
Here’s the thing; Our minds are hardwired to want information. We seek it out. So when you present an open loop, that makes your content more memorable. Why?
The Zeigarnik Effect.
In psychology, the Zeigarnik effect states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.
But that’s not all.
On top of the Zeigarnik Effect, as humans we desire something called “Cognitive closure.” That is an individual’s’ desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion toward ambiguity,” a drive for certainty in the face of a less than certain world.
When faced with heightened ambiguity and a lack of clear-cut answers, we need to know—and as quickly as possible.
An open loop plays on both of those human qualities. It produces a Zeigarnik effect as well as a need for cognitive closure.
Lost, as a show, stacked up open loops. Open loop upon open loop, and with each one it closed it opened 3 more.
Sometimes it was so frustrating and perplexing, but they always revealed just enough to keep you guessing at what was really going on with that damn Island. As a result the show became very memorable, love it or hate it.
So why does this matter for you and building rapport with your target market?
The fact is, if you can master putting open loops in your content, you will inherently make your content more memorable. And in a world full of great to average content being puked on to the market daily…
…more memorable matters.
I want to point out here that open loops are not cliffhangers. Cliffhangers are like the ugly younger sister of the open loop. Much more obvious and clumsy.
With an open loop what you want to do is present something in your content that will tie into the content in a big way, but it is uncertain how.
Now about Jack Shepherd.
He was the main protagonist in Lost. He was the hero. In fact, you could argue that the whole damn thing was a hero’s journey centered around Jack.
As marketers, it’s important for us to remember that the hero of our story is always the customer.
Everything we do, every story we tell, is truly about them, not us. No matter how much it might sound like it’s about us…in truth, it’s always about them. That’s the true magic of marketing. It always comes back to the customer.
So even though I can teach you how to play around with the human psyche and be way more memorable in people’s minds because of it…just remember, at the end of the day…
…Jack needs to be the hero. We are here to help Jack win.
Do that, and you will see your business grow.
Betray Jack and you will probably spend a lot of time at the bottom wondering why everyone else is doing better than you.
Anyways, I hope you found this article helpful and got some value out of it. I’ll see you in the next one!