The misdirect has been a staple in marketing storytelling because it helps elevate brand recall, if done correctly. In recent years, this tactic has been readily used with stunts because the authentic reactions you get from the “victims” is not only priceless, but captivating because there is emotional empathy by the viewer. Now that stunts have become omni-present parts of the marketing mix, achieving true entertainment power and thus social power with this tactic is increasingly difficult.
The Brands that are able to leverage this tactic best lean into cultural topics where there is a universal and passionate societal stance, and then provocatively take the opposite stance. Doing so forces viewer engagement. However, the reveal has to be well connected to the cultural topic so that the viewer feels intellectually provoked versus intellectually manipulated.
A fantastic example of a Brand that has done this well is Uncle Ben’s with their recent Homework Direct stunt (see below). They lean into parent’s conviction around the importance of academic education to serve up the importance of teaching kids to cook. The realisation of parents that the parallels are obvious yet their actions do not reflect this, generated truly remarkable and arresting moments. Have a look.
Many Brands do not use this tactic well, where the viewer feels manipulated and not inspired. An example is the Techo Pop-Up Slum stunt. With this initiative, the NGO Techo decks out a Manhattan apartment like a slum found in many cities across Latin America and have a fake “showing” to force people to see what the less fortunate just south of the border deal with. While the subject matter definitely deserves attention, this initiative didn’t provoke a new perspective. Rather it just showed the same tragic visualisation that people tend to tune out. Have a look.