‘Open/closed loops of learning’ is one of the many concepts of brain functionality and drivers for behaviour change explored through the meta-programs that impact the way we think, assess information and drive behaviours. The feeling of something being unresolved or building intrigue is created by an open loop and the feeling of a resolution comes from a closed loop in communications, including content development. Using the same method across media channels no longer works and we need to tailor content by channel.
Open loops can be achieved through the open-ended stories that build some intrigue and often are the narrative that builds the entertainment factor in creative works (often as a linear journey). For TVC content this is often sustained right to the last 5 seconds of the commercial where a resolution is tied up and the brand involved revealed.
Over the years having asked hundreds of marketers what is their favourite TV commercial, it is 100% of them that proposed a commercial that had this exact format of 25 seconds of entertainment with an open loop until the last 5 seconds. Ironically, most of the marketers confessed that they would be unlikely to approve a concept of this format for various justifications despite the overwhelming performance results on TV!
This concept of open loops also plays into the concept of ‘The Law of Consistency’ where once we have started something we are more compelled to complete it, so we are remaining consistent with our initial decisions.
Open loops also build intrigue and curiosity which feeds one of our core needs (as identified by world leading life coach Tony Robbins) – for variety. A recent study by @Twitter and @NeuroInsight reveals that a ‘processing pause’ is created when the loop is closed, described as a ‘conceptual closure’ at this point. Essentially this wraps up nicely that we need a closed loop in order to engage fully with the content we create. The trick now is in determining the duration of this closure, as a standard 30 second or 60 second duration works effectively on TV but not always on social media.
Content that is more information-based is more effective on @Twitter, which may be because the loops are closed sooner, or in chapters, or we establish the outcome up front with the ‘how to’ as that driver that builds an open loop to engage us sooner, and leads us on a longer path to close the loop fully and finally at the end. This same study by @Twitter and @NeuroInsight also acknowledges the resolution point is the real driver of entertainment.
Further studies by @NeuroInsight with @Adnews shows award winning work by CocaCola has the strongest engagement once the storyline concept is established (part way through the TVC) and is aligned visually with the reveal of the brand/product and not necessarily at the end. In other words the loop is closed on the story mid way through the TVC and the story is still rolling with the final loop to close on how this is resolved (a double loop close of sorts). This potentially validates the success and recall of the campaign work and explains why we need some kind of closure and understanding at the right time in the video to be able to fully engage and stick to the end.
Anne Miles is founder and Executive Producer of International Creative Services, an integrated production house ensuring content is produced to deliver on strategy and to engage audiences more deeply.