The Power of Random for Marketers

Rohitblog_ipodshuffle_2 Random is the New Order — Welcome to a life less orderly. As official soundtrack to the random revolution, the iPod Shuffle takes you on a unique journey … Lose control. Love it.

If Seth Godin is right about every marketer needing to tell a story (to help consumers believe their own lies) – then the power of random is like a Choose-your-own-adventure.  You’re never quite sure where you’ll end up, but the anticipation of seeing the next thing propels your interest. Riding the front of this random curve is Apple with their ipod shuffle … but there are many more examples of the power of random.  Blogger has a popular feature where you can go to the "Next Blog" – www.amihotornot.com has an addictive quality, and even Subservient chicken used this idea of random (with an added element of control for users). 

What makes random such a powerful marketing tool?  Is it the promise of surprise?  Or the fact that it stands out from more traditional and predictable marketing messages?  Consumer attention is precious and most theories today focus on how attention can be driven by credibility, trust or brand authenticity.  While I agree with these theories, there is another force that works outside of any of these.  CuriosityRandomness drives curiosity, and curiosity drives attention.  Anyone who has worked with children knows this to be true.  Children are inherently curious – and this curiosity drives their attention.

Adults are no different.  John Bell (a colleague at Ogilvy and founder of the Digital Influence Mapping Project) had a great post several days ago about an interesting social computing site — www.justcurio.us.  The site offers an intriguing study into the power of random and how compelling it can really be when combined with anonymity and voice (definitely a tough combination).  On the site, it is the anonymity that drives honesty and a "what you always wanted to ask" confessional type of feeling.  Confessions are fun to read, as the award winning "Come Clean" interactive marketing campaign from Method Soap also illustrated.  Randomizing an experience can offer an unorganized, unsystematic means to the same end: driving curiosity and building a brief yet powerful emotional investment in what happens next.  For marketers, random can really be the new order.   

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