Unexpectations

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If you want to change (or even reset) the way people think about your brand and what you offer, you won’t do it by telling stories that are expected.  Communicating the same idea as always doesn’t change behaviour, invite new actions, craft positive experiences or create deeper engagement.

At all.

You need unexpectations to do that.

I got a late call up to goal-umpire my son’s under 13 AFL match at the weekend.  I’ve never done it before (it’s a high pressure job and I like to keep Saturdays a bit calmer) but, ever the willing helper, I jumped in there with my white flags and did the job.  It didn’t take long for the controversy to follow.

The goal umpire’s job (expectedly) is to call if the ball goes through for a goal or a behind.  When a goal is scored in AFL, the goal umpire is supposed to get quickly to a spot exactly in between the posts, stand very straight, leave a little pause for suspense and then shoot both cuffs with elbows bent, followed by a choreographed waving of both white flags.  This tells the opposing goal umpire that a goal’s been scored and both cards are compared at the end of the game to make sure the scores match.

It’s expected that this will all be done with an impressive level of sequence, poise and steely seriousness.

During this particular under 13′s game, where there’s no salary cap and all the players have day-jobs (i.e. school), I concentrated on getting the main thing right and was less worried about the formalities, which is to say calling the goal, casually shooting the cuffs and waving the flags without necessarily thinking about whether it was the right way (which I didn’t know anyway), just that it was seen.

As a result my actions invited the attention of the officials and evoked a response.  It wasn’t positive but it was a response all the same (elbows bent).  I’d raised their unexpectations.

The goals (and behinds) were still scored and recorded.  The opposing goal umpire’s tally matched mine.  I wasn’t less professional than the other umpire though I certainly had more fun.  It was the expectation that I’d act like all the other goal umpires that attracted the attention and response of the officials (and one or two of the crowd).  I’d cut through by being unexpected.

The next time you’re crafting or telling a story about your brand, wanting to cut through and attract attention, you could probably do a lot worse than bringing an unexpectation or three into the mix.

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