I could imagine how they felt. They looked so still, yet uncomfortable. I sensed a look of embarrassment. Something made me focus all my attention on them. I couldn’t help it. As an addicted observer of human behavior, I felt compelled to watch.
Two minutes earlier we pulled into a rest stop on our way to a family event. I stopped to get some drinks and take a break from driving. This is a typical rest area in New Jersey. It consists of one large building with six or seven fast food shops, a convenience store and bathrooms.
I hate these places. Everyone is in a hurry. The lines move like molasses. You can measure the stress level with a Geiger counter. Standing in line at Starbucks I noticed a strange couple. In an instant, an image popped into my head.
Wall Street power couple from NYC, attending some fancy event in New Jersey.
I would guess the man to be in his late fifties. Every strand of his thinning hair sat in its assigned position. He wore a tuxedo without the jacket. The woman appeared younger, maybe in her late forties. She wore a stunning dress and high heel shoes.
I Must Stare
Most travelers passing through on the weekend sport casual wear. That difference made this couple stand out. Something else set them apart. They stood in line calm and composed. Next to them stood a guy wearing sweatpants with a wife beater t-shirt yelling into his phone.
On the other side of the couple stood a family of five. The parents of the family screamed at their kids to get control of themselves. Pull the cameras back a little further and you see all of them standing in line at a Cinnabon.
It made me laugh. A calm and composed power couple at an obscure rest area in New Jersey. They’re surrounded by all the chaos waiting in line. They really wanted their Cinnabon fix.
We call this phenomenon an incongruity. An incongruity is something that is out of place, lacking consistency or incompatible with our expectations. When we face one it forces us to pay attention. The obvious incongruity of this couple among the craziness made me stare.
The Power Of Incongruity
In persuasion, incongruities grab the attention of your audience. A strong incongruity compels your reader or audience to stick around and see how it all plays out. Finding that incongruent story in your brand, business or product generates curiosity. The audience looks at it and thinks
“No way. I must see what this is all about”
Once you draw them in, leave the mystery open until they click your call to action. You can do a great job of luring them in with an incongruency. Once you solve the mystery, curiosity dissolves.
Closing the loop on the incongruity should be the reward for clicking on the call to action.
How did things play out with our power couple? I saw them get their Cinnabon order. They seemed quite proud of themselves. Oh, how I wish I could have watched them eat it.Read More →