New Faces, Familiar Messages: How the aesthetic aha relates to creating content

Now, if you have never heard of the aesthetic aha please be assured we are not discussing an 80s Scandinavian boy band tribute act. There will be no references to ‘Take On Me’ or the other hit from Morton Harket and his unfeasibly Aryan outfit of Norwegian heart throbs. No, what we are talking about is a concept which features in Derek Thompson’s excellent book Hit Makers: How Things Become Popular.

aha light bulb

So, let us first be clear what the aesthetic aha actually is before moving on to how it is one of the concepts which informs a constructive approach to creating content.

Thompson describes it as ‘well-disguised familiarity’ and uses the examples of film sequels and films made from popular books to illustrate the idea that people respond to and are comfortable with new ways to experience familiarity. Or as he says, ‘ a piece of art which dazzles with a new form and yet offers a jolt of meaning’ or ‘the moment of anxiety of confronting something new and the satisfying click of understanding.’

I would interpret this using the example of David Bowie’s 2013 comeback with the album ‘The Next Day‘. Here was an artist who had all but disappeared beneath his extensive back catalogue. When the first single, Where Are We Now, was released globally to radio stations at 6am (GMT) on the 8th of January of that year it was a new track from a legend. Bowie sounded different, somehow vulnerable and full of pathos. But it was Bowie, it was a different version of a familiar voice. The album cover for ‘The Next Day‘ used the cover from Bowie’s 1977 LP Heroes as its basis. The new was again underpinned by the familiar.

As a content writer and creator who writes for a diverse range of clients it is important that any piece of written content, be it blog post, article, feature or product review offers that aesthetic aha moment in order to ensure engagement. If any call to action is to succeed and if any future relationship with the reader is to remain positive then key points have to be considered in any of the content created.

  • Is there something new to entice and encourage a reaction and engagement?

  • Is there something recognisable to encourage and foster a feeling of understanding and familiarity?

  • Does the ‘story’ weave between the new and the familiar in a way which promotes both attention and interest?

If the sweet spot of the right balance of these three things is achieved then engagement is more likely to be a success and so is the desired and planned call to action. Rather like in a previous article when I spoke about the Venn Diagaram of Putting on an Event it is where all three intersect in the consciousness of the reader/listener/viewer that content becomes an invaluable resource.

Robert Hill is a freelance content creator, radio show producer & presenter and creative director at ReddSugarBlack Creative Content

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