One of the major catalysts I had in creating exponential publicity was the “cringe factor.” Or the “ick factor.”
Other than my stunt being obviously bizarre, many people had a visceral reaction that something was just off, when they saw it. And there’s actually a scientific hypothesis why.
It’s called the uncanny valley. Here’s how it works:
Think of a teddy bear.
They’re nice, they’re cute, they’re cuddly
And they’re purposefully designed to look very different from a real bear. Instead they often share some human traits – which is endearing.
Many dolls look like people too. Much more so. And a problem was discovered with this. Because if you create an object that looks very close to a person… but isn’t quite 100%… it’s freaky-looking. The fascinating part is, this effect only kicks into gear when the percentage is very high. Which is why a realistic doll can be off-putting, but not an obviously-simple doll or even a smiley face. The same effect occurs with a robot’s appearance.
Some advertisers have felt the wrath of this effect, when testing out a new mascot idea.
I believe something similar happened with Should You Date Nate.
The website was just weird enough that people couldn’t tell if it were real
On top of that, my professionally-made video added to the realness (that’s why it was included). But there was still some doubt. The icing on the cake was that I was reading from a script, and did so smoothly. But there was still a script.
As a result, there was a lingering “is this real? Something’s off about this” effect which – if it’s small enough (yes, small enough) can be unsettling.
And before any haters pile on, yeah I know that people are also put-off by narcissism but that’s not true in this case. Arrogant prick? Sure! But not narcissism.
Another factor that made this cringe-worthy was the twist that, just by putting on a big show to get a date, I’m automatically signaling that I have trouble getting dates, which can be unattractive.
I thought about that while creating this project, and that’s why I included a bunch of disqualification selling. But I knew it wouldn’t be enough, and I’d have to deal with the cringe-factor. Any normal, rational person would probably have scrapped the project.
Of course, I chose to move forward and test it anyway 🙂
The cringe factor aided in the free publicity, and severely skewed the ratio of the public reaction. It became almost 100% negative. However, it also increased the website’s exposure, and increased the private reaction, which was much more balanced towards the positive.
I’ll have much more to say on this soon, but I’ve been busy prepping for travelling, which I’ll begin in a few days.