When it comes to content, you have approximately three seconds to grab a viewer’s attention. But once you have their attention, you have to make sure you keep it, too. One of the best tools at your disposal is pattern interruption — noticing a larger trend in content, and then deliberately going against that.
Today, I’d like to look at this video (https://www.instagram.com/reel/CXbsfSMF2bC/) that utilized a pattern interruption to great effect.
The video starts with a very powerful emotional hook point. Over some very somber music, the narrator says, “two years ago, I had only $74 in my bank account.” This kind of financial struggle is something that most people can easily sympathize with and relate to. Immediately, we feel compelled to hear about this person’s journey. But whether we realize it or not, we are getting primed for an inspirational story of someone turning their life around, going from rags to riches, blah blah blah. That’s what naturally follows in these types of stories. We’ve seen a million of these before, right?
Wrong! The next line of dialogue completely subverts expectations and keeps us from scrolling away. “Today, I have $25 dollars.” As viewers, we can’t help but be taken aback. Less than what he started with?! That’s not at all how this kind of content typically goes. What kind of story is this?!
The narrator then calls out our confusion directly, breaking the fourth wall and poking fun at people who expected this was going to be yet another motivational video. The video finishes with the punchline, “I’m still broke,” and now we finally get the full picture — this is comedy. We’re not supposed to feel inspired — we’re supposed to laugh.
While I get that nothing makes a joke less funny than explaining it, this video is a great example of how to use pattern interruption to help your content stand out. The video uses familiar language and structure, so we think we already understand this video and where it’s going. But just as we’re about to scroll away… it breaks the formula, and goes in a completely unexpected direction.
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