In this Ted Talk about J.J. Abrams Mystery Box, a magic box Abrams got from his grandfather, young Abrams finds an early moment of eureka which he builds much of his career off of. He discovers that not knowing what is in the box, is more valuable (or powerful) than whatever could be in the box.
J.J. Abrams goes on to explain movies he grew up loving in terms of the mystery box …
J.J. Abrams is not saying the mystery box can be more engaging. Abrams is saying it IS much more engaging. Those are two very different things. To understand what I mean let’s switch over to another classic story about a mystery box.
In the story of Pandora’s Box, Zeus provides Pandora to be married to Prometheus, and in doing so provides a box as a wedding gift of sorts to Prometheus. It is locked and he tells him never to open the box. Well in true Adam and Eve fashion, Pandora wants to know what is in the box, but he won’t let her open it. She starts thinking about it more and more, but he still says no. Finally she is so worked up over what could possibly be in the box that she waits until Prometheus is asleep, steals the key, and goes to open the mystery box.
Now at this point, it does not matter what is in this box. Pandora is so worked up on curiosity, that almost anything that can be in the box will not live up to the anticipation and creativity of her imagination.
Of course Pandora opens the box, and releases every known evil upon the world. Much like the 6th season of J.J. Abrams “Lost” TV Series, which could never meet the years of anticipation users had been dreaming up what was in the box, or in this case island.
When we lead people with mystery to follow our messaging, and not level set expectations, it can easily turn into a nightmare of undesired outcomes. Things like this can lead to unrealistic product expectations, lower end funnel conversion rates, and swarms of angry user reviews.
In conclusion, the J.J. Abrams Mystery Box technic is fun, and when done right, can be very affective. However, use with caution, as it could release evils into your world.
Have you used the mystery box technic to market your product or service? I would love to hear about successes or issues you have had with it.