First, a warning:
This post contains NO spoilers at all.
Not one. I promise.
Ok, now that’s out of the way, how do you feel about it?
Relieved? Or maybe just a teeny bit… disappointed?
See, our ‘need to know’ is a powerful need.
Maybe not as powerful as the need for food, water, shelter, or a little of the old ‘horizontal tango’ from time to time, but it’s up there.
And that’s why spoilers matter.
Recently there’s been a lot of discussion around spoilers and ‘spoiler etiquette’…
Partly because the TV show Game of Thrones, which is about amazing-looking CGI dragons and inconsistently-accented real humans, has reached its forty-seventh and apparently final season…
And a lot of people – myself included, to be fair – have found themselves going to great length to avoid spoilers:
Like muting things on Twitter (tried it, doesn’t really work) and even avoiding actual conversation on Mondays altogether (not quite there yet), until they can catch up.
Although the term ‘spoiler’ itself has been around since the flare-flapping 70’s, these days the phrase is more widely used than ever…
It’s even become an important part of how we communicate – especially online.
The now-familiar phrases ‘Spoiler alert!’ or ‘Warning: contains spoilers’ appear at the start of a slew of new pop culture articles every day…
Nerd fan culture has its own rules – spoken and unspoken – around when and where people can discuss plotlines of certain shows…
And you can find yourself on the wrong end of an ear-bashing if you talk fast and loose about say, GoT, Line of Duty (one for the UK heads) or Avengers: Endgame around folks who haven’t seen them yet.
The Urban Dictionary defines a spoiler as “when someone reveals a previously unknown aspect of something which you likely would have rather learned on your own”.
And there’s the key:
You want the knowledge. But on YOUR terms.
It’s about spoiling an experience, NOT about changing the outcome
Knowing what happens next is the goal, but actually finding it out is the experience we care about.
Your experience of watching season 25? (I lost count years ago) of Game of Thrones and seeing the story come to its conclusion is obviously going to be vastly different than if someone simply told you who wins in the end.
But the outcome would be the same:
In both cases you would have the knowledge.
And in fact, in a world of shortcuts, impatient attention spans (allegedly) and where speed matters more than ever, wouldn’t it be better…
…or more ‘optimized’, to use digital marketing parlance…
…to just have the knowledge you seek right away, without having to invest the time watching 763 episodes of a show to gain it?
Of course not.
Because stories matter to us.
We want to be led, surprised, entertained – to let our emotions take over now and then.
Sure, we desire to know what happens in the end, but not enough that we want to miss out on the experience of finding out on our own terms.
Otherwise we’d just look up the ending of every movie, book or TV show we ever started right away.
(The only time I’ve ever ‘skipped to the end’ is with Wuthering Heights, twice in different school grades and once at university, because that damn book seemed to follow me around and appear in every student syllabus everywhere, and I couldn’t stand more than about 30 pages of its windy melodrama, and yeah I know it’s an unquestionable classic, and I love Kate Bush’s song, but seriously people in that book, just PULL YOURSELVES TOGETHER)
So as I talked about recently, stories are important to you, me and your customers because they’re more than just easy entertainment (though they can be that too)…
They’re tied to our sense of identity.
Stories are, technically, an illusion…
We all know that, but we desire them all the same.
When you really think hard about your favourite stories, it can be a bit of an eye-opener once you start to realise exactly what it is you love about them.
Because we don’t just fall in love with the stories we hear…
But also with the stories we tell, and what they reveal about ourselves.
Which means it’s possible your best clients and customers will love the story your product or service tells them about who they are, too…
Remember: “People don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.”
So your sales messaging should:
Tickle your audience’s ‘need to know’ gland (I’m not sure it’s an actual gland, but still)…
Clearly communicate how your product will change THEIR story…
And show that you can be trusted to help them rewrite their happy ending on their own terms, no ‘spoilers’ allowed.
(If it doesn’t, I can help with that.)
Keep dodging those spoilers!