Coleridge, Kyrie, and Content’s ‘Suspension of Disbelief’

Posts by Anthony

What are you willing to believe?  When it comes to entertainment, does it even matter?  Don’t we get ‘lost’ in the story, where reality and fiction may blur into one ball of can’t-turn-your-eyes away goodness?

If a creator can implement a modicum of ‘believe-ability,’ mirroring accepted truths, could the reader immediately dismiss outrageous notions, holding on for dear entertainment to the backend of the writer’s wild ride?  I think so.  We do it all the time regarding books, articles, movies, and other types of media.

Even when we are Sherlock-sure to dismiss something for ‘reality,’ we still appreciate the that-could-of-happened nature of a story.

Samuel Coleridge, Romantic-aged poet and philosopher thought about and employed such truthful fiction or fictitious truths into his writings.  His term was ‘suspension of disbelief.’  He published his thoughts in the early 1800s, in regard to writing and studying poetry.

Poetry often delivers truths in fantastical ways.  It intrigues, inspires, entertains, and invokes further thought.  Wouldn’t you like your brand’s content to do so?

“…my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Marketing seeks to make connections with consumers as poetry does with readers.  As Coleridge references above, poetry transfers our inward interests and nature, shows us a reflection of reality, of truths, to make an impact.

Marketing can do the same.  However, marketing does not always have to directly center upon a brand’s good or service, does it?  I don’t think so.  But don’t take my word for it.  Take Chris Winfield’s, a guy who is CMO of Blue Glass, a brand that pretty much kicks marketing ass on the reg.

Let me borrow Chris’ thoughts to support my point.  This is taken from a recent Marketing Land guest post of Winfield’s.

“Your CEO probably won’t understand how creating content that’s not about your company can be effective.”

Right, Chris, so let’s not be so focused on the immediate product/service.  Let’s be smart and focus wholeheartedly on the receivers of the content, the intended reader, consumer, brand advocate, etc.

My father sent me an email earlier of an ‘Uncle Drew’ skit, produced by Pepsi Max.

Ultimately, it’s a ruse performed by 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year, Kyrie Irving.

It’s quite amusing and what I believe to be a good piece of marketing content by Pepsi Max.  I celebrate that it’s aligned with Winfield’s above sentiment of not focusing on the product necessarily (though some pretty ladies are holding Pepsi beverages in hand for a few seconds of the video I believe), as well as features basketball and the younger generation (two elements often associated to the Pepsi brand, keeping branding consistency).

If you didn’t watch the video, the synopsis is as follows:  Kyrie, professionally ‘done up’ as an elderly man, strolls into an urban, New Jersey basketball court.  Soon after, a man is down and another player is needed.  In White Men Can’t Jump fashion, Kyrie posing as ‘Uncle Drew,’ somehow finds opportunity to show ‘his game.’

His play is completely horrendous at first…which would be expected from an old man twice or three times the age of the players on the court.  However, let’s not forget it’s really Kyrie under there; he soon ‘schools’ defenders with ease as the crowd looks on in delighted consternation.

I celebrate the marketing video because I know my father well (and can reckon why he liked it so much), it reminded me of Coleridge’s ‘suspension of disbelief,’ and inspired me to relate the sentiments in this post.

Here are a few reasons why it was well received by my father as well as others who are likely to enjoy and share the video:

There’s action:  There are some phenom posts out there, which prove creativity wedgies boredom like a boss.

Hannah Smith  Hannah Smith‏@hannah_bo_banna

So @content_muse tweets “Creativity wedgies boredom like a boss” – I spit coffee over my keyboard and screen :)‪#besttweetever

Pepsi is likely to understand the product, a soft drink, in and of itself is not entirely exciting.  It’s a good thing they think like Chris Winfield and Hannah Smith, knowing they don’t necessarily have to focus the content on the soft drink, but need to be creative and entertain.  Done and done.  The content is active, hosting a video of basketball play.  Would you normally watch a five-minute commercial?  I know I wouldn’t…I mean if Marisa Miller was in it I’d make an exception….

Underdog is protagonist:  In Rocky Balboa fashion, Pepsi decides to make this featured star an underdog, not the superstar you normally see taking commercial stage.  People like the underdog.  We want to see that Hoosiers element in the story.  We know the star quarterback usually gets the head cheerleader; there’s not much a story in that.  Now, a nerd getting the cheerleader, that’s a story, and 80’s cinematic masterpiece.

Reversal of Fortune:  Pepsi and the at-first defunct ‘Uncle Drew’ set the stage for a reversal of fortune.  At first, Uncle Drew’s play is laughable, almost pitiable.  The ad infuses a glimpse of reality, as Coleridge would observe, into the ‘story.’  We abide the ‘suspension of disbelief’ because the reversal is aligned with our favor.  We want the ‘Napoleon’ to kick ass because ‘voting for Pedro’ is in our human nature, even if it seems somewhat unbelievable.  We want a reversal of fortune to occur, upsetting the normally-scheduled, all-too-believable ‘tale.’

The Revelation:  Pepsi stuck to the ‘story.’  As consumers of the story, we get into it.  We want to know the story behind ‘Uncle Drew.’  We get intrigued.  I mean, what’s with this dude?  He’s like seventy-years old and repeatedly took people to the hole!  Ah!  We get it!  Ha ha, Pepsi, it was Kyrie the whole time!

I’m being a bit facetious.  We could tell something was a bit peculiar from the very beginning.  I mean, why are cameras recording this person to begin with, right? But Pepsi dressed the content…like a story.  The history behind how Uncle Ray was necessary to close the tale and make good on the ruse.  Pepsi Max kept its story-teller hat on the entire time.

In conclusion, take heed to Coleridge’s observation of the ‘suspension of disbelief.’ Observe the story-driven content achievement of Pepsi and Kyrie.  Care enough about your brand’s consumers to weave unbelievably real stories.  I’ll see you out there in the trenches, story spinners.

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5 thoughts on “Coleridge, Kyrie, and Content’s ‘Suspension of Disbelief’

  1. The first commercial that I thought of was the most recent Target commercial that came out. They started out with a catchy rendition of “Alouette”, which evolved into a city wide dance production of people in colorful clothing. I know I’ve never seen a yellow suit for sale at Target, or a 3.5 min commercial I wanted to watch all the way through. Only until the end, do you know its a Target commercial, with a shot of the Bullseye. It was interesting to see how a song can ‘narrate’ a colorful story of a mans trip through a city.

  2. I love ads like this – makes it seem worth sitting through an ad break! Have you got any examples of this at work in writing? Can think of lots of examples of this entertainment to sell in videos, but surely it’s harder to do and include enough of a brand link without detracting from the story in writing?

    1. Thanks for your read and thoughtful comment, Katie. I see your point. Written content of this variety could be harder to achieve.

      Off the top of my head, I can’t immediately think of any examples. I remember doing some copywriting work for a brand when I first started out, creating a ‘mascot’ who was engaged in ‘mysteries.’ The process allowed me to discuss the client’s children’s museum with some flavor.

      There’s also blog posts that combine pop culture with the material at hand. For instance, I recently wrote a guest post for a peer, infusing Twitter tips with Citizen Kane.

      I will try to track down some written examples. Thanks again for the read.

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