Exploiting your innate desire to find motive and meaning in everything
We want to create stories about the things we see, and are more likely to believe what we see if there is a story attached to it…no matter how improbable it may at first appear.
The photograph below has been the subject of many viral campaigns and has been circulating across the internet since at least 2006.
One of the earliest postings was labelled ‘Monkey Puppy thief’, leading many to spread the image and speculate what the dog was being abducted and used for.
Other ‘Like-Farmers’ subsequently used the image attaching a more positive interpretation – claiming that the monkey is saving the puppy following an accident or disaster. Some claim it is the aftermath of a factory explosion in China – others that it is after the Japanese tsunami. The ‘animalitarian’ message ultimately proved to be the more successful.
What is interesting is how a single image can fuel – and virally spread – such a range of extreme stories. To some it is shocking proof of animal-trained kidnapping for a ‘puppy meat’ ring. To others it is heartwarming evidence of one animal’s instinct to help another in a time of crisis.
The truth is rather more mundane. The original image can be tracked to the blog of a photographer called Dani Weiss from Seattle.
“This image was taken in a village in the Hilltribe county in Thailand. The monkey was tied up around the waist. He basically was carrying around the puppy and playing with him. Not much more. It looks bizarre but nothing awful seemed to be happening. Never understood why the monkey was tied up. Can’t believe how many places I keep seeing it.”
Another image of the monkey and puppy is included, which is perhaps less open to the more fanciful interpretation – unless you assume the monkey is sizing up the puppy’s hind legs for meat content – or perhaps checking for injuries.
The original monkey/puppy image is interesting enough in itself, but by attaching a more extreme motive to the monkey’s actions the post becomes a viral sensation.
The lesson for brands is that a clear purpose and motive will add so much more to the power of your communications. And judging from the success of the ‘monkeytarian’ version of the viral post, a heartwarming act of altruism or a simple attachment to a good cause may help to spread your message further and wider.