In January 1991, Brian Eno appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.
Isolated on an imaginary island, Brian selected his eight songs, chose his book and decided on a luxury item.
As usual though, it was the connecting conversation that was the most interesting.
During one segment, Brian explained that as a young musician he had imposed a rule on his song writing. The rule simply stipulated that he was not allowed to use the words I, us or we.
He said that 96% of pop songs were written in the first person and addressed to the second person. And because they all followed the same formula they all sounded the same.
I will always love you. I want to hold your hand. I want to dance with somebody. That kind of thing.
For Brian, this wouldn’t do. He wanted to be different. So he set himself parameters. He avoided words like I, us and we, because that meant he avoided the first person. And by avoiding the first person he would avoid the 96%. He knew it would lead to different. He knew it would lead to interesting.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Brian wore make-up and feather boas before androgyny became a hallmark of rock-and-roll. He used recordings of tribal chants and American pastors before sampling became commonplace. For Brian different is a philosophy. And interesting is a way of life.
I think advertising and marketing could learn a thing or two from this.
Every year we read the same reports and devour the same decks.
Best-in-class this and best-practice that.
We anchor ourself in the existing rather than the exciting. We discuss disruption and deliver dull. We reduce risk and serve safe. We aim for original and create typical.
We can do so much better.
Rather than create campaigns that compete with the 96%, let’s avoid it.
Let’s set some stipulations.
Let’s produce some parameters.
Insist on interesting.
Be the 4%.