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Still under the impression of my vacation in London, this issue is inspired by a great band and a mind-blowing show: ABBA Voyage.
Whether ABBA’s music is your cup of tea or not, if you were around in the late 70s and early 80s, you know ABBA was quite a phenomenon. It’s not common for musicians not based in the UK or US to make a global impact. For a Swedish pop group to find themselves on the list of top-selling artists of all time is nothing less than remarkable. ABBA’s compilation album, ABBA Gold, was on the UK Top 100 chart for over 1000 weeks. Most of this momentum was based, until recently, on the work ABBA had done until 1982 when the band broke up and stopped performing and recording new material. But on May 2022, something happened: ABBA reinvented itself, and they did so using the same great material created more than 40 years ago.
The ABBA Voyage show is one of the most expensive music show ever produced because it is a show like no other. ABBA is the first band that managed to create an immersive, realistic experience, even though none of the four band members is live on stage. Until recently, ABBA was that band from the 70s. Their music is timeless, but nobody expected them to do anything as groundbreaking as that. If you are a cynic, you might say this is a pure marketing stunt — just a new wrapping of reused material. I’m willing to bet most people who have seen the show will beg to differ. For them, the show had real value, even if (and maybe because) all the songs were the expected, familiar ones.
Reusing previous material will take you only that far. Not everyone can be ABBA and enjoy a 40-year momentum without releasing new material. But building new content based on existing ideas can be highly effective if it has value for your audience. Using existing ideas to create different kinds of content, let alone innovative content, works. The packaging is not more important than the ideas you try to communicate, but how you deliver these ideas can revamp them and create a new level of impact on your audience.
Create an Experience
The content you create could be more than merely some pieces of information. In fact, it better be. Your content should create an experience for your audience.
Listening to music is more impactful than reading notes, chords, and lyrics. Seeing a show with thousands of people around you is often a more powerful experience than just listening to an album on Spotify. ABBA Voyage has managed to take that further by creating a new kind of experience that few people in the audience will forget. The music is obviously an essential part of it, but no less critical is the state-of-the-art technology, the attention to details, and the way the space (the ABBA Arena) was designed and built to blur the lines between the stage and the audience. Everyone involved in creating and executing the show had one clear goal: to create an experience. And they manage to achieve that big time.
If you put your mind to it, your content can create an experience too. Many think the ultimate content-creation goal is capturing the audience’s attention. An equally important goal is to stay in the audience’s mind long after they have moved on to another attention-capturing piece. You don’t have to do grand, out-of-this-world stuff like ABBA did to achieve that. But you have to put your mind to it and craft the experience and its details with that goal in mind.
Blur the Lines
One way to create an impactful experience is to blur the lines between your content and the audience — to let your audience live your ideas, not just consume them.
What makes ABBA Voyage so effective and impressive is how this experience blurs the lines of what happens on stage (which is not even a stage in the usual sense of the word) and what happens in your mind as an audience. Every person in the audience knew they were looking at digital representations of ABBA members and that every one of the millions of pixels flashing in front of them had been pre-programmed. And yet, we all believed in the illusion. We forgot all the technical details, and the lines between the live audience, the live musicians, and the digital stage and performers dissolved in a matter of seconds. We were part of the illusion, and this was no longer an illusion for us, the audience.
Your content can blur the lines when you find ways to resonate with your audience’s mind. It is more than a call for action. You can hook into experiences your audience had and will have. Think of something you have experienced that made you think about an article you’d read before. Think of a book you’ve read that made you recall something you experienced. These are examples of blurring the lines between content and what happens in the audience’s mind.
Blurring the lines between your content and your audience brings your content to life. It is no longer words, sounds, or pixels but rather part of your audience’s experience.